The Man behind the British Photography Awards

There are new photography awards in the world tonight, awards with a difference. We catch up with the man behind this new competition concept which directly helps the world, Hugo Donnithorne-Tait whose own stunning work can be seen here 

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself 

I’m a wildlife photographer who is content to know that I’m never going to stop learning. Photography fascinates me, and I find it very therapeutic as a means of dealing with life’s stresses. I guess I’ve been going for over twenty years now, with various levels of camera, from point and shoot 35mm on family holidays aged 7,  through to my OM system days (ongoing) until shifting to DSLR for a time, and now working mostly with mirrorless and IR spectrum work. A long road! I’m also a a member of the Royal Photographic Society and fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. Currently, I’m studying an MA in Photography at ARU’s Cambridge School of Art, which is a fascinating course exploring the theoretical, the practical and the possible all in one module-set. My hope is that further studying of ‘the craft’ will help me get better at message making and increase the amount of impact my private work has.


You are launching a new photography competition.

The British Photography Awards has certainly been a labour of love, no bones made about that. It was borne from a desire to use photography to do more to help the world. From my private work, I found there was only so much that ethically minded photographers could do to actually impact on the tragic decline of our natural world. Donating pictures to those charities doing the work seemed nowhere near ‘enough’ to me. I looked at how photo competitions worked, and tried to design one that actually directly helped the world. While, obviously my motivations were grounded in preserving the natural world, I realised the potential the model held for wider change. So, I approached a wide range of charities to come on board, to better represent everyone who might share this idea that photography itself could be used as a fundraising tool.

The end result (for this year at least) is a regionally based, grass roots, UK-wide photography prize that raises money for charity. It accepts only pictures taken in the UK (although you don’t have to be resident) and does not seek to name a diluted global ‘best’, but instead focuses more on community and the charities that support our society.


Why are you setting up this new competition? What compelled you to do this?

Aside from wanting to help the charities we work with, I wanted to create a model that encouraged local thinking. So much valuable, charitable work is done on local level, and by small groups of people in small communities. These communities might also contain like minded photographers who would want to use their work for good in the world. I had envisaged harking back to the traditional model of local camera clubs, local engagement and regional identity that the internet has (to a  greater or lesser extent,) bypassed.

 Our Ambassador’s scheme is all about unifying these local, like-minded people and giving them developing social platform to share ideas, collaborate, and seek mutual support from. Next year it will be completely self-directed, so the community can best determine how the infrastructure develops. This organic development is in line with our ethically centred, grass-roots model for the whole venture.

There are loads out there, the charitable aspect of yours is noteworthy, can you tell us how it works?

In year one, we encountered a few issues. Chief among which was that it was an untested concept. We had nothing to directly compare it to. Thankfully, the entire process has been so collaborative, and the community support has been immense.

We settled on a model where people pay to enter, with half the money going to charity, and half into the prizes system for the awards. This way we could found a self-sustaining source of fundraising. We settled on the name ‘Awards’ as we award prizes to photographers and also awarded money to charity.

 Each year, we hope to build up a comprehensive record of life in the UK, on a regional level and help emerging talent find recognition, as well as maintain a sense of real progress with our charitable affiliations.

 Our UK-based photo industry Judges are kindly donating their time to the project, and they have my deepest thanks for this.

What do you hope will be the best outcome of running this competition?

The main aims of the BPA are twofold. Firstly, I want it to be a source for tangible betterment in the world through charity support. Secondly, I want to foster a sense of UK-wide ‘team spirit’ in our photography. I think this kind of re-localisation can really benefit British Photography as whole.

Which charities are you supporting?

Courting our charities was a long process. Months were spent in dialogue with some very understanding and supportive teams of people. As the model was new, it took, in some cases, a lot of convincing. There were ethical requirements to add to our Terms of Entry, copyright considerations and fundraising ethics to consider.

We capped our roster at 12 charities, from across a range of sectors to keep it manageable, but also provide the breadth of support to suit everyone. We support foreign & domestic animal welfare, habitat protection, humanitarian causes, homeless welfare, veteran care, disability and illness research, green energy education, international medical programmes, anti-deforestation & anti-poaching alliances, and underprivileged children to name a few causes.


Why do you think photography is important?

Aside from our appreciation of aesthetics, and the satisfaction we find (as image makers) in creating a lasting, tangible record of a single moment; it is also a tool. Photography has so much power to affect change. Not only as a visual statement that triggers our imagination, but also as a vehicle of transition in the world. I have always, and still do, find it enormously exciting. This is one of the reasons I don’t think photographers ever stop learning, because photography always informs you as you progress.

And a personal question, if you could go anywhere with your camera, where would it be and why?

Last year, I would have said Columbia. Mostly for the extreme biodiversity and verdant landscapes. However, at the moment, I’d have to be boring and say: bed. Doing a full-time MA, and full time BPA in one year seemed like such a good idea at the outset. I’ve learnt a great deal and met some fantastic people, but it has left me somewhat sleep deprived and with a pretty serious coffee problem. Wouldn’t have traded it for anything though – such a satisfying year!

If you would like to apply to the British Photography Awards, you can enter here:

Ambassadors programme:

Twitter:  @GBPhotoAwards

Instagram :   britishphotographyawards

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