FEATURE: Jon McGovern, Young Landscape Photographer of the Year

The brainchild of acclaimed landscape photographer Charlie Waite, the  Take a view Landscape Photographer of the Year Award has already become become one of Great Britain’s most prestigious annual photographic awards. The main award (and £10,000 prize money) was awarded to Parisian born Emmanuel Coupe for capturing The Old Man Of Storr, Isle of Skye. However, the competition, which is now in its third year, also runs an equally celebrated Young Landscape Photographer of the Year Award competition.  This year’s prize was awarded to Jon McGovern for his vibrant image of Derby (see above).

Still at school, Derby’s own McGovern is a modest winner. “I didn’t expect to win really — just to be on the shortlist was a great success. I suppose maybe because it is different. There are so many landscape photos out there that look almost identical. Very nice, but not original. OK, now I’m starting to sound like a sage of photography. I’ve still got a lot to learn too.”  At just 16, McGovern realises that in terms of photography he is still very much a beginner.

As with many budding photographers, McGovern is reliant on the internet to seek advice and garner feedback for his work. His Flickr account is overwhelmed with imagery (‘Time For Tea’ –  above left).  However, when it came to choosing those suitable for entry, the elimination process was far from complicated. “I entered the photos that I thought to be the most compositionally strong, and with the highest quality of light. I tried to think like a judge; think which ones I would have chosen, and why. It must have worked.”

“I’d been taking snaps for years but only really got interested in it about two years ago, when my ICT teacher, Barry Thomas (now retired, so I can refer to him by his first name), encouraged us to take photos for our coursework. Since then I’ve read every scrap of information about photography I can, and tried to soak up as much as possible.”  A spark of interest encouraged at school prompted a flurry of experimentation.  McGovern soon learnt that practice made perfect, but admits that it is post production which defines his style (‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ – right).  “People have to realise that it’s not cheating — even in the days of the darkroom photographers could edit their photos (although very slowly). Computers just make it easier. Having said that, it is important to get the image as best as it can be in-camera, because no amount of editing can fix a bad photo (usually).”

“Photography-wise, I’ve noticed that a lot of photographers imitate the style of the superstar photographers. Although I’m guilty of this sometimes, I feel it’s important to develop your own style instead of feeding off the popularity of others.”  Though McGovern seeks inspiration in the work of others, notably Dave Hill, Chris Clor, Charlie Waite and Steve Coleman, he is equally aware that to make a career of photography in his own right, then he has to find and stay true to his own voice.  Whilst it would appear that landscape photography is something which he has already mastered in his tender years, he assures me that “he will never (in the foreseeable future) stop trying my hand in other areas. My portraiture needs a lot of work, so I’ll be doing some of that soon. Landscapes are one of the most rewarding of genres in my opinion, though, especially if a lot of planning and effort has paid off in a great shot.”

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