Every year for 13 years, Bristol, United Kingdom-based photographer Sean Malyon has been contracted to photograph the winners of The Prince’s Trust awards. The Prince’s Trust is a British charity that supports young people in getting through school, finding work, or starting a business. Sean travels around the United Kingdom to meet and photograph the award winners about a month before the annual National Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards show in March.
In 2006, The Prince’s Trust needed pictures of a group of young people who were starting a business growing and selling organic fruit and vegetables in Bristol. Soon after that shoot I was doing regular work for the Trust. They are my longest and most supportive client.
The Prince’s Trust has Sean travel to each award winner’s hometown. In past years this has included travel to Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland to photograph upwards of 20 finalists. This year, all of the awards winners were in England, which made travel much easier for the photographer.
Still, the individual locations for the portrait shoots can present challenges. Typically, the Trust asks that the award winners choose the locations for the shoots because there is no budget for renting out studio space near each of the young people.
Sometimes the locations that the young people suggest don’t work out, and I have to think quickly on my feet to suggest an alternative. It’s amazing how a spontaneous decision on the location can yield the best shots.
Though Sean’s favorite part of these shoots is meeting the inspiring young people, many of the award winners are initially nervous in front of a camera. Not only have many of them never been in the spotlight before, the young people feel wary of a strange man showing up to photograph them. To calm their anxieties, Sean tries to keep the shoots low key with just a few people and as little equipment as possible.
With only a few people, it’s much easier to build a dialogue with the person you are shooting and to create a fun atmosphere. I like to travel light, and I never like equipment to dominate the shoot.
The portraits that Sean takes of the winners are used at the annual awards show, on the Trust’s website, in publications, and in ad campaigns across a multitude of media outlets. The photographer has seen his images from these shoots in Underground stations, bus stops, and shopping centers.
The initial use is for the Awards event. They get used in the program and — this is the bit I love —projected onto the screen behind the stage at the back of The London Palladium. Can I claim I’ve played The Palladium?
Ultimately, The Prince’s Trust uses Sean’s photos to encourage other young people to turn their lives around. The photographer enjoys being a part of that process and meeting the young people who have already had their lives changed by the charity.
These people have faced obstacles that most of us can’t image and to meet them when their life is on such an upward curve is always a pleasure.
See more of Sean’s work at seanmalyon.co.uk.
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