AOP Student Awards

Entries opens on Monday 12th October and close at 5:00pm Sunday 14th February.

People: covers any form of people-photography from portraiture to street photography , photojournalism and beyond. It is an opportunity to make visual comments about the human race and its ways. In Previous ‘Portrait’ categories, animal pictures have been featured but the originators of this category feel that entries this year should feature the human race.

Places: Rather than duplicate possible locations such as landscapes and architecture, we offer this category which provides unlimited opportunities. We promise that we will be as flexible as you need us to be.

 Things: Covers almost everything else. Think Irving Penn’s gutters, Mapplethorpes flowers, Ori Gersht’s explosions; cats, dogs, bats and monkeys by Tim Flach, and sublime still-lifes by Richard Maxted then make something unique and sensational of your own. We can’t wait to see your work.

Childhood Lost

When I was a 12/13 I had a short boys hair cut, rarely wore shoes and always wore shorts growing up in Australia. And I don’t mean the thigh high kind – I mean second hand old khaki shorts from the army depot where my parents thought it was good to collect items to up-cycle.

I guess this is in part due to the fact that we lived on 27 acres of bush-land on theEast Coast of Australia next to a rainforest. Cow tipping and chasing cane toads were more normal than going for a manicure or having your hair done.

I have now lived in Edinburgh for over 12 years and it fascinates me the difference of city kids to how I remember growing up. I have friends here who have teenage girls and I am shocked by the level of ‘adult-hood’ which they experience at such a young age.

Justyna Neryng

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 16.14.08

When typing in ‘childhood lost, photography’ in to Google I came across the above photographer, Justyna Neryng. These images are particularly individual and not something I have came across before. I love the idea of mixing old with new, costume with fashion childhood with adulthood.

These images are perhaps a little too ‘designed’ in terms of my initial idea for this project – I really would like to (for once) go down a more natural and documentary imagery style road.

I do think that choosing the more natural photographic direction rather than something overly designed and fashion/narrative based will also lead to my images being more successful in terms of considering the ‘client’ – the AOP.

24 Models who started their Careers Under 18

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Lauren Greenfield – Girl Culture

Sally Mann

This image by Sally Mann ignites in me a feeling of sadness. Sadness of a childhood lost. Young girls are always in such a hurry to grow up and be adults. Shot on film the image appears to be burnt around the edges drawing your eye straight in to the subject who is wearing  light coloured dress symbolising her youthful innocence. Her pose is mature and her face expressionless, like that of an adult and the action of smoking a toy cigarette suggests her desire to grow up far too quickly.

After investigating Sally Mann’s images of her children from the 70’s further, they are always naturally lit and surrounded by darkened backgrounds, drawing your eye in to the shot and the subject. The natural light is usually set in a way that is rembrandt lighting/side lighting dependent on the mood she sis looking to achieve.

Ilona Swarc

‘American Girls’

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A few years back I visited the National Portrait Gallery where I saw the ‘Taylor Wessing Portrait’ Prize finalists, here is where I discovered Ilona Szwarc’s ‘American Girls’.

Over two years, Ilona Szwarc documented over a hundred girls and their American Girl dolls. She first encountered the American Girl phenomenon while photographing the streets of New York.

“I kept noticing girls walking around with their look-alike dolls. Initially, I was very drawn to this beautiful image of a little girl with her mini-twin.”

The franchise began with a handful of dolls styled after different periods of American history.

“I was really struck by the fact that these dolls are called American girls. It felt really exclusive—only for Americans and about Americans, I realized that this could be a window into American culture”

She put out a call for models on Facebook and American Girl fan pages, to an overwhelming response.

Much of Szwarc’s work deals with gender identity the way the ‘American Girls’ series does.  Other examples include ‘Rodeo Girls’

‘Rodeo Girls’

Helen Van Meene

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Seeing Hellen Van Meene’s talk at the National Gallery made me contemplate my own work thoroughly – how I like to design and control images, but her’s have a certain feeling of being captured in the moment with far less control than I would normally allow. Perhaps this is an opportunity for me to let go a little and allow the image to make itself – but with the controls that I initially set in place of course…

Rineke Dijkstra

One of my favourite portrait photographers. Focussing primarily on typologies mixed with an underlying meaning, DiJkstra’s work allows the viewer to become a voyeur and examine each subject, much like the work’s of August Sander.

Whilst I don’t want to do a project that is set within the ‘typologyy’ category for this project, I guess by selecting a ‘type’ of subject it could also fit within this format.

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The flat lighting and slightly off white background in this image really work for me as a viewer and could work with this project – allowing the viewer to make a decision for themselves based on the appearance of the subject alone rather than the surroundings. However, in saying that, the body position leads in to the face and draws you in to the eyes of the subject, making this image, although including the body – about the ability for us us to be allowed to feel connected to the subject.


Tips & Tricks for entering the Student Awards

Here are some really useful tips to make entering this years a piece of cake (yum)!

  1. It is SO important to read the Terms & Conditions whenever you are entering your work into any competition; by entering a competition you are accepting them so why would you not read it?! It includes the tech specs, rules and more importantly will cover usage and copyright of your image; make sure to have a read of ours.

  2. Don’t enter the same image twice!! Seriously, you can’t do it, (as per the terms & conditions) one category per image! There is no limit to the number of images you can enter mind 🙂

  3.  Sometimes that pesky thing called technology lets you down, and you just cant work out why. Make sure you check tech specs in the event of an upload emergency. You’ll be surprised how many times it has been down to the size of the image exceeding 1920 pixels wide by 1280 pixels high.

  4. Those of you who use Colour Management processes on your image files, to make sure they display just as you made them, you should use the sRGB colour space (Note: NOT AdobeRGB, as this does not display correctly in all web browsers).

  5. If you are ‘umming and ahhing’ about which category to enter, this year we broadened & simplified them; People, Places and Things. Pretty self-explanatory, but to see just how flexible they are, have a read of the descriptions here.

  6. Student members of the AOP get discount of £2.75 per image. If you are not a member of the AOP and would like to become one, check to see if your course is Affiliated because you can join for free! If it isn’t, don’t worry, its only £25 to join as a non-affiliated course student, and you get a ton of benefits! Check them out & join up here.


Job idea’s & Solutions:

Shoot: A series of portraits of young teenagers who are on the verge of becoming adults and moving closer to independence from their parents.

Location: These will be environmental portraits and will be shot on various locations including Portobello Pier, Colinton Dell, referencing a childhood past and lost. Alternatively the shoots will take place in the subjects bedrooms symbolising the body that they find themselves trapped in which continues to change.



  • Robyn
  • Betty
  • Ruby
  • Harry

All based in Portobello Edinburgh and will be accompanied by a parent.

  • 1x Assistant required
  • Person of transport – Lisa Scott

Styling:  The styling will be retro and vintage referencing a childhood lost. The models/subject are all between the ages of 11 and 16

Lighting: Will be mostly natural lighting and if necessary will useful flash to lighten any dark areas and gain control.

Post: The images will be soft and minimalist with a nostalgic colour palette.

New idea’s and fresh thoughts…

For this project I would like to shoot on Portobelo beach and promenade. I had the notion that a pathway could represent the journey which the teenager is about to embark on however the beach idea brought up memories of a project I did photographing waves last year. In my research I found that in dream representation theory waves and water represent emotion. As we are shooting on the beach it would be an opportunity missed to not use this idea again as symbolism of the emotions one goes through as a teenager.



This type of idea could be useful is depicting feeling alone – the world bustles around you whilst you are alone and still in the emotion and the payer on your own stage…

Phillip Lorca Di Corcia & thoughts on lighting…

 Phillip Lorca Di Corcia 2003 Interview

I had originally thought that I would like to do this project using only natural lighting – however I don’t think that that is dramatic enough to show what I am aiming for – my characters are the centre of this image and the lighting should be dramatic, bold and like a spotlight on them as if they are part of a play – standing out from the rest of the shot and drawing your eye in to the character…

I would like the images to be dramatic, theatrical and with a touch of cinematic toning (how unusual for me!)…

The lighting styles of Phillip Lorca Di Corcia are a good example of the type of dram and highlighting that I would like to have in my images. With the use of only one light we can focus in on a specific character in the frame. Although the shot above is a candid shot the use of the hidden single flash adds drama and cinema to the image.


“13& Over”

Final Image


I am pleased with my final image over all – however there were a number of shots which weren’t as successful as they had no ‘punctum’ or symbolism to really send the message that the image was about youth and growing up too fast.

The image above is titled ’13 and Over’.

I feel that it is the most successful because of small symbols such as the ice-cream and play park as these are small representations of childhood. Other images which were set on the beach and promenade lacked these symbols and became more of a fashion style portrait rather than about anything deeper.

I am still uncertain that the dramatic lighting style and cinematic colour grading I have chosen in post are particularly ‘AOP’ however these were creative decisions which I feel strongly about for this image and made the executive decision to leave them s they are.





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