We created our Hero of Photography Award award to shine a light on people doing great things in photography for the benefit of other people.

This year’s winner is Tom Oldham, a photographer best known for his superb celebrity portraits from the worlds of music, film and sports, as well as his multi-award winning documentary projects.

Tom Oldham Creative Corners project

Students enjoy looking through art and photography books donated via Tom’s project

However, this year’s award is for Tom’s Creative Corners project, which began when he did a talk at a school in Dorset. Tom learned to his horror that the school had a budget of just £1.85 per student per year for art supplies.

When he got home he emptied his shelves of the books that were just sat there, and then asked on social media if anyone else wanted to chuck in some books. He got over 500 of them.

Word spread and the books poured in. Tom was frequently making trips to Kings Cross to meet people off the train with a big bag. Schools started getting in touch. Tom keeps a list of them and waits till he has enough books so he can drive there and make a day of it.

Tom Oldham Creative Corners project

Tom (left) and a trusty book donor

‘It’s wonderful when we spread the books out and there’s this hush as the kids silently flick through the pages,’ he told AP editor Nigel Atherton. ‘Some of these kids have never seen a photography book before.’

Since the project started in 2018 Creative Corners has donated over 5000 books to schools all over the country. They come from individuals but also from book publishers, and places like The Photographers’ Gallery bookshop, and the BJP. Tom has now started putting shout outs on social media, ‘This school needs books, can anyone help’ and getting people to send the books directly to the schools.

Tom is passionate about the benefits these books can bring. ‘When mental health among kids is absolutely crashing through the floor, why aren’t we giving them the tools to enable them to express themselves, and the knowledge that there is this vehicle of photography that they can use to lift their spirits and share how they feel.’

Tom Oldham Creative Corners project

Donors with their books, all destined for schools and colleges

Creative Corners has also expanded beyond books. He has teamed up with Sony to donate cameras to school art departments to help them to teach photography and this initiative, inspired by Tom, is now being rolled out across Europe. Tom concludes: ‘This is my small attempt at trying to provide these kids with just that little bit of inspiration that might light a fire in them, and I can’t tell you how much pleasure that brings me.’

Tom Oldham AP Awards 2023

Tom Oldham – this year’s Hero of Photography

Make sure you have a look at the other AP Award winners!

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