Potato getting a lockdown haircut wins Potato Photographer of the Year 2020!

Potato getting a lockdown haircut wins Potato Photographer of the Year 2020!
The winning shot, 'End of Lockdown' (Image credit: Ray Spence)

The winner of the first ever Potato Photographer of the Year has been crowned – and, fittingly enough, it's a celebration of lockdown coming to an end, featuring a potato getting a long overdue haircut.

Titled 'End of Lockdown', the winning shot scored photographer Ray Spence over £1,000 in prizes, including a Fujifilm X-A7, a year’s membership to the Royal Photographic Society, a one-to-one workshop with award-winning photographer Benedict Brain and a three-year master subscription to Photocrowd.

"This picture manages to introduce a topical lockdown obsession to the brief of photographing a potato," said Nigel Atherton, one of the panel of judges. "It takes a great imagination to see a sprouting potato as a head covered with hair, and there is a lot of humor in the way the picture has been executed." 

"This is delightful, imaginative, and a good laugh. And again, a bit bonkers," added fellow judge Paul Hill. "What we all need at this grim time. Love it!"

Potato Photographer of the Year is the creation of Benedict Brain, professional photographer and Digital Camera columnist, and features a panel of judges including luminaries like Martin Parr.  

It was partly inspired by a 2016 photograph of a spud by Kevin Abosch, which sold for a $1 million, and all proceeds go towards the Trussell Trust – a registered charity which supports a nationwide network of food banks in the United Kingdom.

“We didn’t quite raise a million bucks I had secretly hoped for,” says Brain, “but the few grand we did raise will go a long way to help provide much-needed food for the Trussell Trust. And there seems to be a healthy interest in running another competition next year.” 

It certainly provided a colorful and much-needed creative outlet over the lockdown period, and inspired some fantastic entries – a few highlights of which are below. We can't wait to see what photographers pull out of the potato sack next year!

More information and a full gallery can be found on the official Potato Photographer of the Year website.

(Image credit: David "Spud" White)

Second Place: 'A Potato' by David "Spud" White

Judge’s comment:
"This looks like an alien lifeform, photographed on the surface on a barren planet by a NASA robot." - Nigel Atherton

(Image credit: Amy D'Agorne)

Third Place: 'Tight Market Specifications' by Amy D'Agorne

"I was simultaneously reading about the history of agriculture and the development of large agribusiness, specifically about the corporation Bayer, now one of four major agrichemical business in the world, a company that owns 80% of all commercial seeds on the planet. The report that I was reading was released by the CIA in 2001 and discloses information about Bayer (then known as IG Farben) and their despicable involvement in Nazi Germany.

I rang up the Crop Science branch of Bayer that is based in the U.K. and was shocked to hear that the company still uses and promotes the use of glyphosate on British potatoes. Glyphosate, a chemical that the company Monsanto, which was bought up by Bayer in 2011), sold in their 'Round-Up' product, a product they, and now Bayer is being sued by consumers for giving the users of the product various cancers and autoimmune diseases.

I was fascinated by the obvious dichotomies and differences that there are when looking at the relationship that indigenous peoples have with their food and the relationship that western ‘developed’ countries and companies share with their food."

Judge’s comment:
"This image looks at the politics of the potato from two angles - its indigenous origins and the current domination of agriculture by a single company – and cleverly combines them is a thoughtfully conceived and well-executed composite image." - Nigel Atherton

(Image credit: Laure Gibault)

04: 'Potato Slug' by Laure Gibault
"A straight shot of a sweet potato"

Judge’s comment:
“I like the fact that this spud looks like a cross between a seal and a unicorn.” Martin Parr

(Image credit: Peter Hubert)

05: 'Planting Jersey Royals' by Peter Hubert

"Every winter the fields in Jersey are ploughed in preparation for the planting of the Island's main cash crop, Jersey Royals. As a Jerseyman I have been endeavoring to determine and photograph some of the things that we take for granted but are intrinsically and distinctly part of the fabric of Jersey life, cultural reference points that fellow Islanders would instantly recognize and instinctively understand. 

"The planting of potatoes by migrant workers has been a feature of the farming community since the 19th century. Over the years some have stayed and many families include forebears who originally arrived as seasonal farm laborers."

Judge’s comment:
"A very well arranged image showing potato pickers. Looks like back-breaking work." - Martin Parr

(Image credit: Tova Krentzman)

06: 'Untitled' by Tova Krentzman

"A portrait of individuals, together yet very much alone....and the unifying task of the mundane that is also beautiful....much like the character of the potato (mundane and glorious in its basic state and potential). Together, alone, under a mundane task of peeling potatoes. During these past months of lockdown, the story of individuals; each from a different country, with their own interests and commentary...sharing space. In this depiction, they are united by the potato."

Judge’s comment:
"This carefully arranged tableau is a work that stayed most in my mind when I went back and forth through the excellent contributions to the competition. The photographer has creatively used what looks like available light in an empty kitchen, and the image also reflects effectively the claustrophobic side of the lockdown. It is engagingly surreal and a bit bonkers too." Paul Hill

(Image credit: William Richardson)

07: 'Frites in Bruges' by William Richardson
"Frites in Bruges with dollop of mayonnaise."

Judge’s comment:
"How reassuring to see a helping of chips and mayonnaise." - Martin Parr

(Image credit: Justin Quinnell)

08: 'Eating a "potato face" - from inside of my mouth' by Justin Quinnell

"'Smileycam', 110 cartridge pinhole camera image taken from inside of my mouth. using two flashguns to illuminate subject and teeth (not in mouth)"

(Image credit: Amy D'Agorne)

09: '2030' by Amy D'Agorne

"The year; 2030. Climate change and a rise in food shortages have prompted the UK Government to encourage all citizens to start growing food within their back yards. Gripped by the mass hysteria, the protagonist, with a colander on her head to protect herself from her own erratic fears of 5G, tries to plant potatoes in her concrete-lined back yard. As one of the hardiest food crops, they may be her only chance of survival."

Judge’s comment:
"I like the humor in this image and have nothing but admiration for the effort the photographer went to in order to create it." - Nigel Atherton

(Image credit: Jodie Krause)

10: 'Apple of the Earth' by Jodie Krause

"This photograph depicts an interpretation of Adam and Eve. Subsequent to COVID-19, humans have been denied many temptations such as contact and intimacy. However, it has also provided an opportunity for the world to ‘reset’ and renew. The potato is a staple food enjoyed around the world and therefore epitomizes the fundamentals of life. 

"Moreover, potato in French, ‘Pomme de Terre’, directly translates to ‘Apple of the Earth,’ highlighting the importance of the potato since it is likened to a fruit associated with re-birth. Therefore, my photograph is focused around the creation of Adam and Eve, who herald the start of a new world by holding a potato."

Read more: 

The best lenses for food photography: make your supper the star
The best books on food photography: whet your appetite for photography
10 food photography tips for getting tasty shots every time

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.