'The photograph is the most important thing'

Guardian photographer Sean Smith has scooped photographer of the year at the second Press Photographer’s Year awards.

Smith was recognised for shots taken in the aftermath of an Israeli rocket attack on Tyre, Lebanon, last year. He also won the award in 2006.

Some 300 photographers submitted a total of 6,000 pictures, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 133 by the judges and will feature in a book and an exhibition in London opening in June.

The competition singles out 12 award-winning pictures and is organised with the British Press Photographers’

Association. Judges for this year included BPPA chairman Jeff Moore and double Pulitzer Prize winner for photography Horst Faas.

BPPA spokesman Dillon Bryden said: “This is our second year, and we sadly appear to be currently the only competition of this kind in the UK, what with the ongoing struggles of the Picture Editors Awards.

“For us, the photography is the most important part, and we are careful not to anoint the individual photographers too heavily. After all, we have 12 winning pictures, but 121 others that have been selected by the jury for inclusion from more than 6,000 entries.

“So we don’t use titles like photographer of the year but instead photograph of the year. It’s not that we don’t want to applaud their terrific achievements, we do, but we would like to use their work as the new yardstick, and therefore continually raise the bar for all photographers working in the UK market .”

The BPPA is organising an exhibition of the winning photographs at the National Theatre at London’s South Bank from 16 June to 28 July and an Expo Day at the theatre’s Lyttelton auditorium on 22 June.

Speakers at the event will include Tom Stoddart, award winning photojournalist; Roger Hutchings, chairman of this year’s The Press Photographer’s Year judges; winner of photograph of the year in both 2006 and 2007 Sean Smith, and The Guardian’s Dan Chung; a driving force behind the exploration of what new media has to offer the stills photographer. For more details see www.theppy.com.

The competition’s 12 winners are: photograph of the year, Sean Smith – The Guardian; live news, Yonathan Weitzman – Reuters; news, Sean Smith – The Guardian; news features, Clare Kendall; photo essay, Pete Nicholls – The Times; portraits, Bruno Stevens – Cosmos; the arts, Cathal McNaughton – PA; business, industry and technology, Timothy Allen – Axiom; entertainment, Mike Marsland – Goff Photos; royals, Mark Stewart; sports action, Peter Sandground; sports features, Dan Towers – On Edition.

The other judges of this year’s awards were David Caulkin, AP photographer for 40 years; portrait photographer and director Nobby Clark; John Downing, seven-time winner of British Press Photographer of the Year; and Geraint Lewis, a specialist in portraiture and theatre photography.

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