Zak Waters Wins Bronze
Zak Waters won the Bronze award in the single image category for his portrait of an elderly man in a care home. "It was taken as part of a longer term project," he explains, "looking at the role of family and residential carers in the community and highlighting their lives. I do a lot of commissioned work for care organisations in the UK and it's something I'm passionate about. I'm pleased that the winning picture was from this project as it's great to have the topic highlighted."
Although Zak doesn't see himself as a portrait specialist, it's an area he'd love to get more recognition for. "I class myself as an editorial photographer," he says, "and, in my view, an editorial photographer has to do a bit of everything: advertorial, conferences, portraits, travel, reportage, landscapes. I've always wanted to be recognised as a portrait photographer, because I think it's one of the hardest things to get right. This is my second LPA portrait award and it helps me believe I could be a really good portrait photographer. I like to shoot real people, making look dignified as part of a story. Portraiture is in my heart and the industry is always crying out for interesting portraiture."
Zak's winning image was taken from a shoot he did at a care home. He explains: "One of the elderly residents had been talking to me during the day about him time in Belsen during the war. I went outside at one point for a cup of tea and looked back to see him looking out the window at me. His face had a lot of life in it. I think the image tells the story of faces and bodies which are getting old. He had really beautiful features. I don't think it's a sad look; it's just a reflective look, gazing and poignant. I realised that his face told me everything he'd been telling me about where he'd been. There was no anger or happiness there, just a man who'd been through a lot in life. I found it enchanting."
Zak counts himself lucky to be largely unaffected by the recession, and has his own thoughts on how to keep going in a downturn. "I noticed that my most regular clients remained loyal to me during the tougher times. I've put a lot of work in with them over the years and they're very loyal to me, so I try to do the same, giving them everything I've got every time I work for them."
On branching out into new areas during a downturn, Zak says: "I think it can be easy to lose track of where you're at if you branch out too much. I think it's more useful to use quieter times to take stock and see what more you can do for your clients. Think about longevity and make sure clients know what they're getting from you. That way, they will feel safe with you. Competitions give you hope and inspiration when commissions are thin on the ground. Most importantly, just keep your fingers in there and keep taking pictures, otherwise you've got no voice. Keep your presence out there."
Zak's project "It's My Duty Isn't It" (from which the winning image was taken) follows on from various other personal projects all of which look at the lives of real people up against it in some way. The projects are community focused, looking at how people are coping and surviving. "I'm also doing a new black and white project," he says. "I'm in love with black and white. It's a project about the businesses and workers who keep the industrial Thames alive. So if there are any businesses or people working along the tidal section of the Thames who'd like to be involved, get in touch. The aim is to capture some of the people who make up this amazing industrial river. "