People are a constant source of inspiration and subject matter for photographers, with the range of different looks and personalities out there that are asking to be captured. Some of these interesting people and their portraits won big in our Photography 2021 Awards competition, and we want to share the stories behind each of them with you!
Geoff Story is an American documentary filmmaker and photographer. While he usually photographs strangers and people he meets on the streets, he had the opportunity to get to know his subject Gene while making a self-initiated documentary about his life. During their time together, Gene shared many stories, both on camera and off, talking about the struggles and sometimes thrills of living between worlds as a trans woman in the 1940s and 50s.
He wanted to capture the essence of Gene/Miss Gina Dawson’s story in a single frame, and arguably does so. In the Gold-winning “Gene/Miss Gina“, an 88 year-old Gene faces the camera while sitting in an easy chair. Around him hangs various types of pictures, and a football game plays out on the holds a photo of himself as a young Miss Gina. But the picture that the viewer mainly focuses on is the picture Gene proudly holds of himself as Miss Gina. Story’s portrait reflects Gene’s fortitude, both in his lifelong fight for equality and in the face of a terminal illness, and the light, the color, the drapery across Gene’s lap, and the formality of the pose are inspired bring a feeling of an Old Masters painting, bringing a timeless quality to the image. The photograph is currently published in Gene’s self-published memoir, “Farm Boy, City Girl,” and though Gene passed away in September 2020, his portrait will live on as a part of LGBTQ+ history.
Scott Lowden, a photographer who’s also from the US, jumped at the chance with this Silver-winning photo series “Subway” (above). A self-assigned project, Lowden was in New York City when he discovered Manuela Tatjana, a model he frequently photographs, was also in town. Their shared photo shots mostly happen in Hawaii, surrounded by green, lush locations, so the opportunity to shoot in an urban environment was too good to pass up.
Ultimately, Lowden and Tatjana decided to focus on one part of New York City: the subway system. Over seven images, Lowden captures Tatjana watching the train pass, leaning on sign boards while waiting to jump on, and posing in the train cars. Tatjana neat appearance, with her clean hair, makeup, and simple black and white attire, contrast with the grime and grittiness of the subway system, making her stand out even more and drawing all our attention to her.