2018-2019 Winners’ Interview


Jason Parnell-Brookes

United Kingdom

Open Award single photo Gold Prize

ー What made you decide to apply to Nikon Photo Contest? Do you have any stories and struggles leading up to the application process?

I've been a long-time Nikon shooter, and was well-aware of the prestigious Nikon Photo Contest. The theme for 2018/19 in the open award single image was Change and it made me think of a photo I took nearly 10 years earlier when I got my first DSLR, a Nikon D90. I wasn't sure whether to enter the image though as I wasn't sure if it was good enough, but it was my partner who encouraged me to send it in. I'm so grateful that she pushed me, because I had no idea it would end up winning gold.

ー Do you have any episode when taking the award-winning photo/film?

I believe I shot this in manual mode, on my Nikon D90 (the first DSLR capable of HD video recording). I positioned myself next to the window, because window light has a beautiful, soft quality. I didn't talk to, or pose my grandparents in any way it was a completely candid moment. It was a visit two days before Christmas 2010 and you can see some decorations around the picture frames in the background. My grandfather was unaware of what was going on, wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa in the back of the room, and my nan had just put lunch on the table. This shot was never meant to see the light of day, it was a personal photo destined for archiving and I only took it for posterity. I didn't have any clue that when I was taking that photo it would ever be seen by anyone outside of my immediate family, let alone the entire world with a global exhibition tour! It was only upon submitting to the contest that I even noticed their dog Bella, begging for food over my grandmother's arm, which you can see if you look very closely.

ー What specific changes have occurred to you, and have there been any changes in your career or in the way people evaluate you after you won the award?

I got to travel to the awards ceremony, and meet so many wonderful people. Both the other winners and the staff at Nikon were all incredibly friendly and kind, and I'm still in contact with the winners to this day. I've not really had anything else change as a result of the award.

ー What kind of activities have you been doing recently?

More recently, especially during lockdown and the pandemic situation, I've been focusing on nature and landscape photography - something that's always been close to my heart. I spent two weeks photographing Comet NEOWISE - it was rewarding but very tiring as I was staying up all night and sleeping in patches during the day for a fortnight. It's also given me time to explore my local patch and photograph the wildlife around me in a much more detailed way. I've also had some recent success as a finalist in another competition by Explorers Against Extinction but I'm yet to hear whether I'm a winner or not. I've also been contributing and photographing articles for Fstoppers.

ー Do you have advice for your followers who may be considering participation in future Nikon Photo Contest?

Competitions are incredibly subjective, with societal influences changing year-to-year, and judges personal opinions influencing the result, so there are some really fantastic images that don't make it through, but that shouldn't discourage anyone from entering. The best advice I can give having been on both sides of the table as an entrant and part of a judging panel, is to look at the past winner's galleries. Take a look at the tone and subject matter, then link your best photos with the competition theme. Try not to be too literal with it either, as long as you can link the theme to the image and it serves a purpose, you'll be fine. Also, get other people's opinions - had I not got my partner to weigh-in I'd never have entered.

ー What does “taking photos/films” mean to you?

Photography has been a part of my life since I was four years old and took my first photograph of my mother, Sue, my grandmother and my uncle - it's similar to the image I won the award with, funnily enough. Both my parents encouraged me to follow photography and it's been a way for me to discover the world. Whether the world of the very small with macro photography, or the very large in landscape or astrophotography. It's taken me all around the world and I've met many wonderful people during this time, all with Nikon kit strapped to my back.