Modern Portraiture: New Entries + Photography 2020 Winners

While snapping a photo of a person may seem simple, capturing an image that illustrates the very essence of a person can be a challenging task for a photographer to master. This week’s award winners and new entries give us insight into how to take photos that embody the beauty and personality of an individual. 

Michael Schoenfeld is a Utah-based photographer specializing in people’s portraits and lifestyles, healthcare, architecture, and food images. He won Gold with his series “Studio Portraits, 2019” (above), a collection of photographs that include some of Schoenfeld’s best work from the year. Featuring people from all walks of life, each photo is a testament to Schoenfeld’s love for people and his ability to capture the personalities of each subject, leaving the viewer curious to know more about their story. Utilizing vibrant color hues and textured backgrounds that compliment the subject, each portrait highlights a unique characteristic of the person in front of the camera, making it impossible for one photograph to be like another.

Next up is a series of photos taken by Sophy Holland, an award-winning photographer and director based in the fashion and entertainment industries. “Variety – Natalie Portman” (above, left) chronicles the actress’s rise from playing the supporting character Jane Foster in the Thor movies, allowing her to step into Thor’s shoes in the franchise’s newest film, Thor: Love and Thunder. Aiming to embody Portman’s goddess-warrior character, Holland and Variety‘s team styled the actress in clothing that emulates the character’s armor, which featured detailed line patterns and designs and a Viking-inspired helmet. To translate this theme into modern fashion, the team chose dresses constructed with metal material, regal silhouettes, and intricate designs, along with a diamond-encrusted headband, earrings, and elegant knuckle rings. Captured under intense studio lighting, the photos evoke a sense of majestic authority that reflects the power wielded by Portman’s character. 

Internationally recognized for his portrait, fashion, and fine art photography, Donald Graham‘s work has been displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the International Center of Photography. For his latest portrait series, “One Of A Kind” (above, right), Graham partnered with German book publisher Hatje Cantz to produce a book of powerful black and white portraits of people from around the world. A believer in capturing authenticity through his photography, Graham often takes photos of people in a way that allows them to express themselves directly and honestly. This approach has allowed him to find the unexpected beauty and unique qualities of each of his subjects, encouraging vulnerable emotions to be caught on camera. Each of Graham’s photos was taken with a minimalist background, utilizing both natural and soft studio lighting with half of the photographs taken in the studio and half outside. Having each subject gaze directly at the camera breaks down any perceived barriers between them and the audience, offering a genuine glimpse into what the person may have felt in the moment in a raw and unfiltered composition. 

You can check out more Photography 2020 Annual winners here. To submit your professional photography to our Photography 2023 Awards competition, click here!

Author: Graphis