Suffolk photographer Gillian Allard crowned Sky Arts Master of Photography 2017

Gillian Allard (centre) celebrates winning Sky Arts Master of Photography watched on by her fellow c

Gillian Allard (centre) celebrates winning Sky Arts Master of Photography watched on by her fellow contestants and judges. Photo: SKY ARTS - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s Gillian Allard has been crowned this year’s Sky Arts Master of Photography - snapping up a life-changing €150,000.

The final task saw Gillian visit the Yoruk people of Macedonia. Photo: GILLIAN ALLARD

The final task saw Gillian visit the Yoruk people of Macedonia. Photo: GILLIAN ALLARD - Credit: Archant

The prize - £132,235 in British currency - is Europe’s largest photography award.

“I’m still rather emotional about it, as it will open up a new future for me and my family and allow a change in direction I will totally embrace,” says the mother-of-two from Stonham Aspal, who plans to start her own photography school.

Thousands of amateurs and professionals from around the world applied for the second series, a creation of the Sky Arts Production Hub.

Gillian, originally from Ipswich, and 11 others were chosen to face a series of challenges over eight weeks testing their ability, skill and instinct across a range of styles.

Gillian Allard (centre) reacts to winning this year's Sky Arts Master of Photography watched on by r

Gillian Allard (centre) reacts to winning this year's Sky Arts Master of Photography watched on by runners-up Souvid Datta and Olympe Tits. Photo: SKY ARTS - Credit: Archant


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Tonight’s task saw her visit the Yörük people of Macedonia. Fellow finalists Olympe Tits, of Belgium, documented Pavee Travellers in Ireland; Comewell Puplampu, of Italy, photographed the Berber people of Morocco and Souvid Datta, also from the UK, photographed the Sami people of Finland.

Judges American documentary photojournalist Darcy Padilla, Guardian weekend magazine picture editor Caroline Hunter and controversial Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani said the final decision was a difficult but unanimous one. They felt she had grown a lot, not just in her work but in her outlook and how she approaches her photography.

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“When Caroline announced me as the winner, I kind of felt numb, bewildered and excited all at the same time. It has taken a while to sink in and at times I still find it unbelievable, but I am so happy and feel very honoured,” says Gillian, who teaches A-Level photography at Stowmarket High School.

“The award will help me pursue some new projects; to visit the Knoydart in Scotland, ‘the last wilderness’ and spend some time photographing there, to revisit my love of film and the darkroom and I’m planning to start my own photography teaching school.”

The seventh challenge, Home Sweet Home, saw Gillian back in Suffolk where she photographed herself a

The seventh challenge, Home Sweet Home, saw Gillian back in Suffolk where she photographed herself and her two sons. The idea was reflecting the past and the future. Photo: GILLIAN ALLARD - Credit: Archant

She described the series as an overwhelming experience at first, but one she would never change. While terrified, Gillian knew she had to do it and thanked her “amazing children” and everybody who encouraged her.

The pressure heled her excel, resulting in her resilience, self-belief and skills to grow.

“I can’t be anybody other than myself and that is the same with my photographs... that’s what makes photographs special, having your own voice. The guests and judges taught me that although it is, in many situations, the best idea is to follow your instincts, there are times when the advice of others is invaluable,” adds Gillian who’s just launched her first solo show in Ipswich.

“As you get older you can become set in your ways; I think I learnt from my fellow contestants the value of patience, smiling and that being

open-hearted and open-minded is a good thing.”

• AfterLife and Landscape, at Lamden Gallery, Felixstowe Road, runs until August 5. Read my earlier interview with Gillian here.

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