This year marks the third annual Portrait of Britain exhibition. As much a showcase of photography as it is a celebration of our nation, Portrait of Britain is the largest contemporary portrait exhibition ever held. And for the first time since the exhibition’s inception, British Journal of Photography has produced a book in collaboration with Hoxton Mini Press, containing the 200 shortlisted entries, from which the 100 winners have been chosen. Among the winning photographs is Kovi Konowiecki’s portrait of East London twins, Dick and Clark – Kovi’s second winning Portrait of Britain image in the competition’s three-year history. In 2016, Kovi’s portrait of Shmuley, a young Orthodox Jewish boy, was also selected. “It is always cool to be a part of an exhibition with such a wide-reaching audience,” says Kovi. “Having been selected for Portrait of Britain a couple of years ago, it was amazing seeing my photograph across numerous screens and tube stations on my daily commute. It feels great to be a part of the exhibition again.” Joining Kovi in the exhibition is John Davis, …
“The work represents my experience in recovering and understanding my parents, their life and their relationship towards myself,” says Marco Marzocchi of his series Oyster. “I never knew them well because they split when I was 6 years old, and they both died young.
“Drugs, addictions, jail, and dysfunctional environment, these were constant elements. This work is focused on dealing and replacing all the doubts and the fears that I had. Exorcising the pain and the searching for love.” A bold mix of colour, black-and-white, contemporary and archive images, presented with hand-written text, Marzocchi’s series has scooped first prize in the 2017 Gomma Grant. Marzocchi has worked on the project for a decade, honing down on the editing last year with distinguished photographers JH Engstrom and Margot Wallard at the celebrated Atelier Smedsby workshop.
“There is this feeling that if someone has won an award, then it will not be a mistake if they are awarded again. But unfortunately selecting this way does not highlight fresh gems and talents. It just creates trends, but not excitement and new-comers. We at Gomma are not afraid to prize unknown photographers,” says founder Luca Desienna. This year’s awards are now open for submissions with past winners boasting solo exhibitions, international magazine features and photobook publications since bagging the award.