World Press Photo: Nadav Kander awarded First Prize in Staged Portraits Singles

Nadav Kander’s portrait of English actor Daniel Kaluuya has won him a World Press Photo prize. He speaks to BJP about being included in a prize normally reserved for press photographers, writes Lauren Heinz

BJP — 15 February 2013

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British actor Daniel Kaluuya, January 2012. Copyright Nadav Kander/New York Times

Working with Kathy Ryan of The New York Times Magazine, Nadav Kander was assigned in January last year to photograph the titans of the British stage, to draw attention to the UK’s strong thespian heritage before the Olympics.

He photographed such greats as Judi Dench, Mark Rylance, Patrick Stewart and Simon Russell Beale as well as Daniel Kaluuya, a young British actor whose portrait has won Kander a prize in this year’s World Press Photo awards.

For Kander, working with the subjects in their own setting, on the stage, was something he rarely does. “I generally take people out of their surroundings and try to make truthful pictures in that context, while these images were photographed on the stage or in some sort of set up scenario.”

Despite forcing himself to work in a different manner, Kander is quite pleased with the results. “It went fantastically well. It took me out of my comfort range with a set of images I’m really proud of.”

The photograph of Kaluuya is one that somehow stands out from the rest of the series, says Kander, “It’s more fantastical than the others. They are more quiet, more surreal. But that one seems to almost go towards a fashion photograph in a way; there’s more intervention.”

Being heavily focused on photojournalism, the World Press Photo awards is not the sort of competition in which a Kander portrait would necessarily make sense. He stresses, however, that the category of ‘staged portraits’ has enabled him to participate. “I’ve never seen myself as a press photographer but I’m pleased my work was entered. It’s really smart that they call the category ‘staged portraits’.

To judge photographs of those in a warfield against mine is nonsense – the only thing connecting them is that they are of human beings. I’m really happy that they include this category because many competitions don’t.”

“I’m not really a photojournalist,” he adds. “The decisive moment has never been the criteria for which I judge pictures.” Despite that, Kander admits that he is extremely happy to be included in such a prestigious award and will probably enter again next year, sticking to the same category.