CR Photo Annual judge Josie Gealer on what makes a great image

Josie Gealer, Senior Art Director at Getty Images, talks about her favourite recent images, and the photographers and brands she thinks are making outstanding work right now

From the series New Mods for Getty Images, which follows a group of friends out and about in West London during Ramadan. Image: Nina Manandhar

The entry deadline to the Creative Review Photography Annual 2019 is coming up this Friday, and to help inspire you, we’ve asked our judges about what they think makes a great image. Next up is Josie Gealer, Senior Art Director at Getty Images.

The CR Photography Annual is renowned for showcasing the year’s greatest work in imagemaking, and the 2019 edition is no different. This year we’ve also introduced a new category, focusing on work by students or recent photography grads. Alongside Josie Gealer, this year’s judges are Kaia Charles, NOW Gallery Curator and Cultural Projects Manager at Greenwich Peninsula, Stephen Ledger-Lomas, Head of Production & Partner at BBH London, Jaki Jo Hannan, Integrated Producer at adam&eveDDB and Founder of Equal Lens, and Eliza Williams, CR’s Editor.

Taking their pick from personal, professional, commercial photography and more, our judges will carefully select the most evocative, engaging and exciting work from photographers the world over. Keep an eye out for more interviews with this year’s judges, and read on to find out what images, photographers and brands have stood out to Gealer lately.

Creative Review: Has any particular image or series stood out to you recently?
Josie Gealer: I don’t have one particular image that has stood out per se, but the series I have found myself most drawn to are those that focus on and explore conceptions of community.

I love Enda Bowe’s recent portrait series Clapton Blossom for example, which is a collection of portraits captured within one particular housing estate in East London. All images within the series are set underneath a single cherry tree, which serves to unify each and every frame. To me it celebrates a diverse community in a time when we are facing a stream of political discourse which constantly creates divisions.

Clapton Blossom connotes and creates a positive narrative surrounding community housing – something which is often portrayed in a stigmatised light through the media, with the characters and collective human experience absent from the story. Through his work, Enda Bowe explores a much more nuanced view.

CR: Which photographers do you think are doing great work at the moment?
JG: Myles Loftin, a young photographer from New York, is doing really great work, tackling hard subjects through positive imagery. I loved his multimedia project Hooded in which he seeks to humanise and decriminalise the societal image of black boys and black men dressed in hoodies. He also just won second place in the Getty Images Creative Bursary to depict visual stories that celebrate the narratives of the LGBTQ+ community, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what he produces in response to this.

I also love a series captured by photographer Clémentine Schneidermann and Creative Director Charlotte James – titled It’s Called Ffasiwn, it is a project born out of collaborative workshops they ran for youths in the Welsh Valleys. The pair taught skills like pattern-cutting and sewing, to in turn create eclectic outfits that the students then posed in. The result is a series of beautifully expressive and surreal images which speak of self-confidence and supersede stereotypes of working-class towns.

From the series Narratives within the older LGBTQ+ community for Getty Images. Image: Trisha Ward

CR: What brands or companies are making good use of photography in your opinion?
JG: A standout campaign for me this year was the Mothercare Beautiful, isn’t she campaign. It featured 10 new mothers and celebrated the beauty of the post-birth body –a part of motherhood that is rarely portrayed in the media. As a mother myself, this campaign connected with me on both a professional, as well as a personal level. The campaign was photographed by Sophie Mayanne and very much aligns with the aesthetic of an ongoing project of hers, Behind the Scars, which – as the name suggests – is an authentic, raw and moving portrait series depicting people with scars and the incredible stories behind them.

It’s a great example of a brand moving with the times and recognising its audience’s wish to see more authentic imagery in the portrayal of women’s bodies. The campaign also illustrates the success of collaborating with new photographic talent, and how the right photographer can totally refresh a brand. It celebrates positivity, self-acceptance and defiance in the face of adversity – I love all that her work represents.

Of course, I’m biased, but I also really love a campaign we at Getty Images worked on in partnership with Dove, titled Project #ShowUs. Inspired by a survey initiated by Dove that concluded that 70% of women still don’t feel represented in media and advertising, we created a library of over 5,000 photographs, with many more to come, aimed at breaking beauty stereotypes by showing female-identifying and non-binary individuals as they are – not as others believe they should be.

The images were created by a global community of 116 female photographers from 39 countries, driven by the belief that diversity is important both within the frame, as well as behind the lens.

CR: What, to you, makes a great image?
JG: A great image is one that tells a story and helps an audience better understand the times in which we are living. A truly great image will stand the test of time, helping future generations better understand how we have ended up where we are. To me, the photographs that do this most successfully are those in which there is a real connection between photographer and subject – the invisible link between the pair seems to enable the image to transcend time and remain relevant and fresh for the years to come.

Entry for CR Photography Annual 2019 has been extended to Friday October 11. Click here for more information, including further details on how to enter