Earlier this month at the 2022 AP Awards we celebrated a fantastic year in photography. Including the best kit from cameras and lenses to accessories, through to the people in our industry who have inspired so many and been making a difference.
Below, we share the winners of our Power of Photography, Exceptional Achievement, Hero of Photography and Chris Cheesman Memorial Awards.
AP Awards 2022: Power of Photography
The recipient of our Power of Photography Award this year is the social documentary photographer and photojournalist Sebastião Salgado
This year’s Power of Photography award goes to a legend of photojournalism: Sebastião Salgado. Salgado grew up in Brazil and earned a PhD in Economics from the University of Paris before getting a job as an economist, but by 1974 he was freelancing as a photojournalist at the Sygma agency. In 1979 he joined Magnum Photos.
He first came to global attention with his now iconic images that he took at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil in 1986 – the astonishing sight of 50,000 men digging for gold in the mud of the Amazon, like a scene from Dante’s Inferno. Salgado spent four weeks living and working alongside the men, and when his prints arrived at the Magnum Photos office in London, then-director Neil Burgess took them straight to the art editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, and charged them double the highest price they had ever got for a story.
‘I realised later that if I’d asked ten times the amount, they’d have still bought it,’ Burgess later recalled in an article about the pictures in the BJP. ‘The editor told me weeks later that he had never in a very long career had so many letters from the public about a single story.’
Serra Pelada would be the first in a collection of 42 stories that Salgado shot over six years in 26 countries for his landmark 1993 exhibition Workers: An Archaelogy of the Industrial Age at the Royal Festival Hall. It was a monumental tribute to manual labour, mostly in the developing world: oil workers, miners, ship-breakers, fishermen, farmers, tea pickers, sympathetically but beautifully photographed like the heroes of an epic visual poem.
After Workers, Salgado spent six years visiting over 40 countries for his next epic project, Migrations, released in 2000, which focused on the global movement of populations – migrants, refugees and displaced people worldwide, fleeing conflict or natural disasters, or abandoning the countryside for ever more crowded cities.
For his next work, Genesis, he spent eight years photographing the world’s wilderness areas – unspoilt landscapes, and the wildlife and indigenous peoples who live in harmony with it.
For his most recent masterpiece, Salgado returned to his country of birth, Brazil. Amazonia was published last year and accompanied by a stunning exhibition at the Science Museum, which has only just ended. Salgado made 48 separate expeditions to the Amazon to document the changes taking place there caused by deforestation, farming and climate change, but also to record the lives of some of the 188 indigenous tribes that call it home – 115 of whom have no contact with the outside world.
Salgado worked closely with FUNAI, the foundation that looks after the interests of these people and acts as an intermediary with the outside world.
Salgado, who is 78, spent from one to four months with each tribe, taking ten to 15 people – specialist boat pilots, guides, translators, field craft experts – and it could take up to ten days of trekking through the jungle to even reach them, sleeping in hammocks under tarpaulins. They had to take all their own food and supplies to sustain them for weeks at a time – full medical kits, solar panels to charge the batteries for the cameras, GPS, and satellite phone – as they were not allowed to rely on the tribes for anything.
But perhaps Salgado’s greatest achievement is not his photographs but the Instituto Terra, a non-profit organisation founded by Salgado and his wife Lélia in 1998 dedicated to restoring a previously deforested area of Brazil and returning it to its original state. They have planted over six million native trees to restore over 5,000 acres of forest. An area that was barren is now teeming with biodiversity.
Salgado’s award was collected on his behalf by his friend and UK agent Neil Burgess.
See our interview with Salgado here: AP talks to Sebastiao Salgado on Amazonia
This award is kindly sponsored by Grays of Westminster
AP Awards 2022: Exceptional Achievement
This year’s Exceptional Achievement Award goes to Michael Putland, one of the greats of music photography, who passed away in 2019
Michael Putland had a long and storied career, photographing such stellar names as Queen, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Madonna and Michael Jackson.
When he was starting out, the young Michael was so shy about approaching the staff of NME and Melody Maker that he’d hide next door in the offices of Cage and Aviary Birds and wait till no one was around before dropping his photos on their desk. But after a couple of years of mounting debts and no work, he decided to quit photography.
Then he got a phone call. ‘Can you go and photograph Mick Jagger?’ So began a 17-year relationship with the Stones; he toured the world with them and shot some of their best performances.
The building housing the studio that Michael had occupied in those early days became the home of Grays of Westminster. Owner Gray Levett had no idea until a tall, distinguished-looking chap came in and introduced himself. ‘I had to come and buy my Nikon from you, because between 1969 and 1973 I was the struggling photographer in the basement of this building!’ They became great friends.
Michael was renowned for his kindness, modesty and generosity in helping other young photographers. ‘I couldn’t get over how incredibly humble he was,’ recalls Gray. ‘He was a gentleman of the old school with talent to burn and everybody in the shop adored him.’
Michael went on to found Retna Pictures, which fast became one of the most respected photo libraries in the world, and he expanded into fashion and lifestyle photography.
Lorraine Milligan, hair and make-up artist in the TV, film and music industry, met Michael after she was hired for a photo shoot at Pinewood Studios and they hit it off. ‘We shared the same artistic eye,’ she recalls, ‘and we worked together for 15 years from the Hebrides to Miami.’
When Michael passed away it was Lorraine who told his story in our tribute to him in AP 20 November.
But the final word should go to his partner, Sophie Putland: ‘During our 40-year friendship prior to becoming life partners I knew only a fraction of Michael’s extraordinary career, mainly from amusingly told, self-effacing stories of his experiences and travels. This is perhaps a testament to Michael’s humility and overriding interest in others rather than himself.
Michael always had the utmost respect for everyone he photographed and keenly felt the privilege not only of the opportunities he was given, but the trust he was offered which, needless to say, was completely mutual.’
This award is kindly sponsored by Grays of Westminster
AP Awards 2022: Hero of Photography
We created our Hero of Photography Award in 2020 to recognise people who have done something great within the world of photography for the benefit of others. This year’s recipient is Jemella Ukaegbu.
The UKBFTOG community that she founded started out as a social group for black female photographers in the UK to connect with each other and share their experiences, ask questions, run training workshops and go to events together. ‘Being the only black female photographer in a room of your peers can feel very lonely,’ she told AP in our Christmas 2021 issue. ‘I wanted to hang out with other photographers like me who I could connect with and relate to and go out shooting with.’
The community grew quickly on social media and when Covid-19 arrived it evolved into a support group to help its members stay motivated and help keep their spirits up. But UKBFTOG isn’t just a friendship and social group. One of its primary aims is to raise the profile of black women in photography, help them get their work seen and published and to build successful businesses. And it is working.
They have already had exhibitions – including one at the Photography Show. And their increased visibility has made it easier for brands, potential clients and publishers like AP to notice them. As a result members have been more easily able to contribute to AP. Thankfully Jemella now has a team of volunteer helpers to share the load of running it, but as the founder she is a deserving recipient of this year’s Hero of Photography Award.
Jemella speaks about her award here: Hero of Photography Award – Jemella Ukaegbu Interview – AP Awards 2022
AP Awards 2022: Chris Cheesman Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Photography Industry
This award was created in memory of our former news editor, Chris Cheesman who died in 2016. It is given to someone who has dedicated their life to the industry that he reported on for AP for 17 years.
This year’s winner is Colin Wilkinson, founder of Bluecoat Press, who is retiring this year after a 50-year career in which he has helped to nurture the careers of some of Britain’s finest photographers.
Colin founded the Merseyside Visual Communications Unit in 1973 to promote ‘the positive ways in which film, photography, video and sound recording could be used in a social, cultural and educational context’. In 1977 he acquired a derelict public house in the centre of Liverpool and turned it into the prestigious Open Eye Gallery – one of the UK’s first galleries entirely dedicated to photography.
In 1992 he started Bluecoat Press, initially specialising in local visual history, before re-evaluating his focus to concentrate solely on books on British social documentary photography and photojournalism.
‘My intent,’ he told us, ‘has been to create an archive of books documenting Britain as it was, and as it is now, as seen through the lens of photographers, balancing contemporary issues with important historic bodies of work.’
Bluecoat has published the work of great British photojournalists and social documentary photographers like Bert Hardy, John Bulmer, Jim Mortram, Tish Murtha, Patrick Ward, Carolyn Mendelsohn, regular AP contributor Peter Dench and, most recently, Marilyn Stafford.
‘Bluecoat’s books have been big, affordable and outstanding since the beginning,’ says Peter Dench.
‘Colin has arguably done more to recognise the work of British photojournalists and social documentary photographers than anyone in the industry. He is always a privilege to work with, considerate, driven and dedicated.’
Carolyn Mendelsohn, whose award-winning work Being Inbetween was published in 2020, told us, ‘Colin fully supported me in the realisation of my dream to publish a book of my portrait series. He believed in the work, and to have a publisher of Colin’s repute backing me was just incredible. Colin is a truly ethical photo book publisher, bringing to the world photographic work that is at once significant, stunning and socially important.’
Finally, Jim Mortram, whose prize-winning work, Small Town Inertia, was published by Bluecoat in 2017 says, ‘Colin’s a believer, he believes in people, in their dreams, in their photographs. He believes in a better world and few have worked as hard as he to bring stories to the people.’
Colin Wilkinson speaks about his award here: Chris Cheesman Memorial Award – Colin Wilkinson Interview AP Awards 2022