CR Photo Annual judge Stephen Ledger-Lomas on what makes a great image

Stephen Ledger-Lomas, Head of Production & Partner at BBH London, talks about his favourite recent images, and the photographers and brands he thinks are making outstanding work right now

Photograph by Nwako Okparaeke, who was included in this year’s BBH Unsigned showcase

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 Stephen Ledger-Lomas, Head of Production & Partner at BBH London.

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 Stephen Ledger-Lomas, this year’s judges are Kaia Charles, NOW Gallery Curator and Cultural Projects Manager at Greenwich Peninsula, Josie Gealer, Senior Art Director at Getty Images, 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 Ledger-Lomas lately.

Creative Review: Has any particular image or series stood out to you recently?
Stephen Ledger-Lomas: Jack Davison’s recent book Photographs with the publisher Loose Joints was a highlight for me. Davison is a restless magpie of a photographer; he seeks out elegant everyday observations and distorts them into surreal poems. He is a purist as a photographer, and whilst he works in fashion he doesn’t dance to the beat of anyone else’s drum. His self named book is a beautiful journey through portraiture, still life, even architecture, all united by his distinct and evolving visual language.

In advertising, Tyrone Lebon’s FW19 campaign for Bottega Veneta with Art Director Edward Quarmby provided a bit of absurdity and glamour in an often predictable category. Lebon had set designer extraordinare David White hang golden skinned supercars from a crane a few centimetres above the ground in front of Bottega’s new collection and the resulting images are startling, stark and beautiful.

We held a huge talent showcase at BBH recently and curator Tom Burns introduced me to the work of Nwako Okparaeke, a 22-year-old multidisciplinary artist from South East London. She has seemingly arrived fully formed like many artists of her generation with an incredibly body of work. Her photography dazzles with colour and life.

I have been revisiting the Polaroid Kidd’s explosive journey into the underbelly of the American team with his Ridin’ Dirty Face series. It’s one of my favourite series, compelling in every image, a natural successor to Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency for it’s eloquent portrayal of a human life.

I might be slightly late to the party but I have also been spending a considerable amount of time on Dana Lixenberg’s Imperial Courts. It’s a mesmerising series photographed over two decades in a public housing project in Watts, Los Angeles. Lixenberg’s portraits lend a grace and majesty to every sitter, and amidst the turmoil there is a rare sense of calm that photography can often bring to a subject.

CR: What photographers do you think are doing great work at the moment?
SLL: It’s a really rich time for new talent in photography. I’ve worked with photography for a long time, and I feel like the commonly recognisable trend cycles every few years in fashion, portraiture, landscape etc have become faster and more fragmented with the proliferation of digital platforms. The selection I have chosen below offers a brief microcosm of that.

Johnny Dufort has repeatedly tested the norms of the fashion image and is finding a unique language for himself. He doesn’t rest against any notions of beauty and has actually sought imperfection and humour with his editorials and campaigns. Post-production doesn’t feel hidden within his images at all, it feels like he is weaving it into the creative process and allowing us all in on that.

Kristin-Lee Moolman is a resonant photographic voice hailing from South Africa. She grew up during a period of political transition between Apartheid and Mandela’s vision for a new South Africa and this has had a profound and long-lasting impact on the narrative of her work. Her fashion images are arresting not only in their directness, but in their use of casting and styling and inclusivity.

Bobby Doherty is the kind of photographer that makes the craft of still life photography look easy and anything but still. His imagery has a kinetic and spontaneous quality to it and is endlessly entertaining and beautiful.

Bobby Doherty’s photography has a “kinetic and spontaneous quality”, says Stephen Ledger-Lomas

CR: What brands or companies are making good use of photography in your opinion?
SLL: I’m particularly inspired at the moment by the challenger brands that are shaking up some fairly traditional categories in advertising. Glossier in particular has breathed new life into the skincare business with it’s utterly relaxed and spontaneous photography and casting. It’s a brilliant brand that has helped to redefine the language around perfection in that category.

Coal Drops Yard retail site in London produced a brilliant and refreshing series for their advertising hoardings this year, featuring Martin Parr and a collection of talent sourced from Central St Martins college. The design is a perfect blend of simplicity with form from Droga5 London.

BBH has just commissioned a new series for Barclays shot by photographer Tom Johnson under the Make Money Work For You campaign. Tom’s images are some of the most beautiful and relaxed portraits in advertising I have seen for a long time and were the result of a very specific casting and production approach which allowed the photographer to work with freedom under a pre-agreed brief.

CR: What, to you, makes a great image?
SLL: The greatest photographs offer up a vision of the world that you have not seen or considered before. In many ways that could be summarised as access: the photographer allows you, the viewer, to access an almost imperceptible moment in time. That could be as literal as a look at a unique subculture and tribe that you didn’t know existed (The Polaroid Kidd’s Ridin’ Dirty Face), an unguarded or surprising moment from an individual you have never seen depicted in that way before (Juergen Teller’s portrait of Björk with her son in Iceland springs) or even a beautiful chronology of a family’s life taken over an expanse of time (Nicholas Nixon’s Brown sisters).

Great images have the power to take your breath away with this access, and the power of that will never diminish.

Mike Brodie, AKA The Polaroid Kidd, is known for shooting film and Polaroid images of travellers and trainhoppers

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

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