Why we love photos at Arts Award!

Why we love photos at Arts Award!

Picture of Cathy Thornhill

BY: Cathy Thornhill
03 Mar 2021

Pictures are so essential to telling stories: ‘The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words’ said photographer, Elliott Erwitt. And we agree. Not only do they add colour to a narrative and offer a level of description that it is hard for words alone to convey, they grab our attention and keep us interested. Photography can transport us to the exact place and moment where the scene took place, which is so powerful when creating communications for a specific audience.

One of the things that most attracted me to Arts Award when I first joined the team over 10 years ago was the photography used in the literature. Big, colourful images shone off the page; of young people in classrooms, in galleries and libraries, and in youth clubs. As I thumbed through the leaflets I’d been sent before my interview, it wasn’t only the range of settings that impressed me. I was also struck that every image felt ‘real’, rather than forced or posed - and the young people pictured looked completely absorbed in their performance or artistic creation.

Since that time, the variety of centres we have been able to feature in our Arts Award communications materials has grown considerably, as has the range of artforms we now showcase. But as far as possible, the ‘essence’ of the photos we use has remained unchanged. To a large degree, this has been achievable due to the kind support of the many centres who have welcomed one of Arts Award’s professional photographers to their workshop, rehearsal or classroom.

At the present time when it is sadly not possible to visit centres in the way we would normally do, and many aren’t able to reopen just yet, it remains important to us that Arts Award’s resources, websites and newsletters continue to reflect the diversity of creative experiences that we know are continuing.

With that in mind, we have launched a photography competition – with options for advisers and young people – which offers the chance to highlight centres’ work through Arts Award’s national materials, and at the same time win vouchers to support your centre. Find out more about the photography competition here.

We have also been revisiting the photos in Arts Award’s back catalogue and reflecting on our personal favourites. We love seeing Arts Award in action, and we treasure every picture, but here are a selection of the staff team’s top picks:

First off, here's a great example of a photo telling a story: The children from Abbey Catholic Primary School taking part in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Abbey Catholic Primary School photo Kirsten Holst

'This fantastic photo shows that Shakespeare can be fun and is accessible to younger children when positioned in the right way.'
Annabel, Head of Arts Development, UK & Ireland


Secondly, here's a glowing example of music technology in action from Chapel FM.

Chapel FM Roger V Moody

'The stained glass not only provides an attractive backdrop; the traditional art work offers an interesting contrast to the digital artform that the young people are getting to grips with.'
Helen, Head of Operations, UK & Ireland


We love to be able to show how important advisers are to young people's Arts Award journeys, as shown by this photo taken at a workshop run by Carousel.

Carousel Images, photo Kirsten Holst

'Carousel works with young artists who have a learning disability.  Arts Award is inclusive and accessible to a range of young people and we want to reflect that in the photos we use.'
Layne, Sector Support Manager, Arts and Youth

Next up, here's an example of a photo with an uncluttered background. These types of photos are useful for our communications materials as we sometimes place a logo in one of the corners.

Hollingworth Academy photo Roger V Moody

'I love this photo from Hollingworth Academy. This student is clearly enjoying the moment and is completely immersed in the activity.' 
Nicola, Sector Support Manager, Schools

So we've mentioned that we like a plain background. Here's an example of when texture works really well!

Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea photo Paul Maven

'This photo originating from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a lovely example of art unfolding against a background of art! I really like the colour and vibrancy of this image.'
Cat, Head of Arts Award

Last but certainty, not least, here's a strong image snapped at The Valley special school.

The Valley School photo Paul Maven

'I love the energy and dynamism of this photo. And the looks of concentration on the young people's faces.'
Cathy, Marketing & Communications Manager

We hope you have enjoyed looking at these great examples from Arts Award’s photo archives, and we hope you've been inspired to enter our photo competition!

Learn more about the competition

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