2020 Potato Photographer of the Year
Editor’s note: Image #10 (11th in the gallery) doesn’t strictly feature nudity, but may be considered NSFW, so proceed with caution accordingly.
Yes, you read the headline right. The Potato Photographer of the Year is a real photo contest and this year’s winners have been announced.
If you’re wondering where the idea for a potato photo contest came to be, look no further than Kevin Abosch’s Potato #345 (2010), a now-famous photo of a sole starchy tuber that sold for a wallet-mashing one million dollars in 2016, making it the 15th most expensive photo sold at the time.
The Potato Photographer of the Year contest was founded by the contest platform Photocrowd, who partners with The Trussell Trust to ensure all proceeds to ending hunger and poverty in the United Kingdom. Proceeds are made with each photo entry, which costs £5 (GBP) each (up to 8 images).
While the competition ‘didn’t quite raise a million bucks I had secretly hoped for,’ says competition organizer Benedict Brain, ‘the few grand we did raise will go a long way to help provide much-needed food for the Trussell Trust.’
The overall winner is Raw Spence, who captured an image of his sprouting spud about to get a much-needed quarantine haircut. For taking the overall prize, Spence is receiving a Fujifilm X-A7, a year’s membership of the Royal Photographic Society, a one-on-one workshop with photographer Benedict Brain and 3 years of Photocrowd master-level subscription.
The ten winning images, presented in the following gallery, were selected from an panel of judges that includes Martin Parr, Paul Hill, Angela Nicholson (Founder of She Clicks), Nigel Atherton (Editor, Amateur Photographer), and Benedict Brain (Brain’s Foto Guides).
Photographer: Ray Spence
Title: End of Lockdown
Caption: ‘This picture manages to introduce a topical lockdown obsession to the brief of photographing a potato. It takes a great imagination to see a sprouting potato as a head covered with hair, and there is a lot of humor in the way the picture has been executed.’ — Nigel Atherton
Judge’s comment: ‘This is delightful, imaginative, and a good laugh. And again, a bit bonkers. What we all need at this grim time. Love it!’ – Paul Hill
Title: A Potato
Judge’s comment: ‘This looks like an alien lifeform, photographed on the surface on a barren planet by a NASA robot.’ — Nigel Atherton
Title: Tight Market Specifications
Caption: ‘Potato agronomy is changing, raising the need for new solutions to old problems. In an environment where pests, weeds and diseases have no regard for the pressure to meet tight market specifications Bayer is committed to helping you produce quality crops that are also profitable to grow.’ – Bayer, 2019
In Peru, the birthplace of the potato, indigenous women sometimes use fine slices of potato peel as a facemask to soothe and soften the skin.
I was meant to be working with an indigenous NGO in the Andes when Covid broke out so since I couldn’t try this in the Andes themselves, I decided to try this technique out at home and made a self-portrait documenting the process. I was simultaneously reading about the history of agriculture and the development of large agribusiness, specifically about the corporation Bayer, now one of four major agrichemical businesses in the world, a company that owns 80% of all commercial seeds on the planet. The report that I was reading was released by the CIA in 2001 and discloses information about Bayer (then known as IG Farben) and their despicable involvement in Nazi Germany.
I rang up the Crop Science branch of Bayer that is based in the U.K. and was shocked to hear that the company still uses and promotes the use of glyphosate on British potatoes. Glyphosate, a chemical that the company Monsanto, which was bought up by Bayer in 2011), sold in their ‘Round-Up’ product, a product they, and now Bayer is being sued by consumers for giving the users of the product various cancers and autoimmune diseases. I was fascinated by the obvious dichotomies and differences that there are when looking at the relationship that indigenous peoples have with their food and the relationship that western ‘developed’ countries and companies share with their food.
Indigenous peoples make up less than 5% of the planet’s human population, and yet they are protecting 80% of its diversity. And only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. This image investigates the relationship between natural remedies /the close relationship some people have with their food and the big companies/corporations that take advantage of that natural knowledge to expand on market specifications.
Judge’s comment: ‘This image looks at the politics of the potato from two angles — its indigenous origins and the current domination of agriculture by a single company — and cleverly combines them is a thoughtfully conceived and well-executed composite image.’ — Nigel Atherton
Title: Potato Slug
Caption: A straight shot of a sweet potato
Judge’s comment: ‘I like the fact that this spud looks like a cross between a seal and a unicorn.’ Martin Parr
Title: Planting Jersey Royals
Caption: Every winter the fields in Jersey are ploughed in preparation for the planting of the Island’s main cash crop, Jersey Royals. As a Jerseyman I have been endeavouring to determine and photograph some of the things that we take for granted but are intrinsically and distinctly part of the fabric of Jersey life, cultural reference points that fellow Islanders would instantly recognise and instinctively understand. The planting of potatoes by migrant workers has been a feature of the farming community since the 19th century. Over the years some have stayed and many families include forebears who originally arrived as seasonal farm labourers.
Caption: A portrait of individuals, together yet very much alone….and the unifying task of the mundane that is also beautiful….much like the character of the potato (mundane and glorious in its basic state and potential).
Together, alone, under a mundane task of peeling potatoes. During these past months of lockdown, the story of individuals; each from a different country, with their own interests and commentary…sharing space. In this depiction, they are united by the potato.
Judge’s comment: ‘This carefully arranged tableau is a work that stayed most in my mind when I went back and forth through the excellent contributions to the competition. The photographer has creatively used what looks like available light in an empty kitchen, and the image also reflects effectively the claustrophobic side of the lockdown. It is engagingly surreal and a bit bonkers too.’ Paul Hill
Title: Frites in Bruges
Caption: Frites in Bruges with dollop of mayonnaise.
Judge’s comment: ‘How reassuring to see a helping of chips and mayonnaise.’ – Martin Parr
Caption: Eating a ‘potato face’ – from inside of my mouth ‘Smileycam’, 110 cartridge pinhole camera image taken from inside of my mouth using two flashguns to illuminate subject and teeth (not in mouth).
Photographer: Amy D’Agorne
Caption: The year; 2030. Climate change and a rise in food shortages have prompted the U.K. Government to encourage all citizens to start growing food within their back yards. Gripped by the mass hysteria, the protagonist, with a colander on her head to protect herself from her own erratic fears of 5G, tries to plant potatoes in her concrete-lined back yard. As one of the hardiest food crops, they may be her only chance of survival.
Judge’s comment: ‘I like the humour in this image and have nothing but admiration for the effort the photographer went to in order to create it.’ – Nigel Atherton
Photographer: Jodie Krause
Title: Apple of the Earth
Caption: This photograph depicts an interpretation of Adam and Eve. Subsequent to COVID-19, humans have been denied many temptations such as contact and intimacy. However, it has also provided an opportunity for the world to ‘reset’ and renew. The potato is a staple food enjoyed around the world and therefore epitomises the fundamentals of life. Moreover, potato in French, ‘Pomme de Terre’, directly translates to ‘Apple of the Earth,’ highlighting the importance of the potato since it is likened to a fruit associated with re-birth. Therefore, my photograph is focused on the creation of Adam and Eve, who herald the start of a new world by holding a potato.