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The Great British Photography Challenge interview: Tyrone Williams

Great British Photography Challenge
Tyrone Williams (second from right) and the rest of The Great British Photography Challenge contestants: Ali Lewis, Jackson Moyles, Paul Williams, Georgie Peel and Chelsea Nawanga (Image credit: BBC)

BBC4’s Great British Photography Challenge concludes on Monday 14 June at 9pm. 

We’ve enjoyed the series so far and are looking forward to seeing who comes out on top in the fourth and final episode. 

There are no weekly eliminations in the GBPC format, so each one of the six photographers is very much in the game. 

Who wins will all come down to each contestant’s strongest 15 images, curated from the hundreds they have photographed in response to the various creative briefs and assignments. 

These will be exhibited in a gallery show, and Rankin and his creative team will judge which portfolio forms the best work. 

We caught up with all the contestants to discover what it was really like to be a participant on a prime-time photography show. 

So here are 5 quick questions with Tyrone Williams, the abstract photographer of the GBPC group… 

Great British Photography Challenge contestants on location

Tyrone (second from left) and four of the other Great British Photography Challenge contestants in Brighton for the beach assignment in episode 1 (Image credit: BBC)

What did you know of Rankin and his work before you applied to go on the show – were you a fan? 

He was a past lecturer of my favourite photographer, I knew he was a very praised photographer in the fashion and portrait world, and he has photographed some of my favourite musicians. 

So it was definitely a big deal to me!

Great British Photography Challenge Rankin image

Great British Photography Challenge tutor and taskmaster, Rankin (Image credit: BBC)

How did you find being a model in the studio shoot with Rankin? And what was your photographic takeaway from that session? 

I’m so used to being behind the camera so being in front is something I’m not used to at all! 

But of course, with Rankin holding the camera he knows exactly what he’s doing so I had full trust! 

It was very cool to be in the environment of Rankin’s studio to see at first-hand how he operates the lighting and techniques.

Great British Photography Challenge image 22

Flower seller, Birmingham Wholesale Market; Documentary assignment, episode 2 (Image credit: Tyrone Williams/BBC)

Did you ever receive any criticism from Rankin and his team that you didn’t agree with? Or was it all very constructive, and food for thought that you successfully applied to your subsequent photography on the show? 

There were a few times I disagreed with their opinion but with photography I think you're always going to get challenged on your perspective. 

It’s how you respond and hold on to your opinions and vision that counts. 

It’s good to hear how else your photography can be perceived, so you can adjust if you feel it resonates with you or not whilst improving your work.

Can you really be taught how to become a better photographer, or is this something that is innate and just needs to be brought out?

Everyone has a story and a distinct perspective; this can’t be taught but I believe you can teach or help someone express themselves through the lens by guiding them to find their own style that comes naturally to their own preference. 

You can help someone believe in their own perspective. 

Bringing that all out is the challenge as it’s something that doesn’t necessarily end as we are always learning and developing. But getting onto a certain path with your style is the first step. 

Don’t miss the series finale on 14 June

Great British Photography Challenge

If you have enjoyed the Great British Photography Challenge, then you can also catch Rankin on the Super Stage at The Photography Show 2021, 18 to 21 September at the NEC Birmingham (Image credit: BBC)

The Great British Photography Challenge concludes on Monday 14 June at 9pm BST on BBC4. All four episodes will be available on catch-up via the BBC iPlayer (international details are TBC, but the show is likely to land on one of the best streaming services outside the UK). 

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“This has been an incredible opportunity to nurture the next generation of photographers,” said Rankin. “All the contestants had such unique and varied backgrounds, but what brought them together was their love for photography. The contestants have exceptional promise and I’m excited for the UK to see their talent.”

If you‘d like to hear more from Rankin about portraiture, make sure you catch his talk from the Super Stage at The Photography Show 2021, which welcomes back visitors to the NEC in Birmingham from 18 to 21 September. 

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Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera magazine and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for two decades, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 


Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens, and these days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, plus dabbling with studio still life.