Power: Merchant Taylors' Photography Competition 2021

25 January 2022

Each year Merchant Taylors’ hosts a photography competition for all our schools. Divided into Junior (ages 4 to 11), Senior (ages 11-18) and Staff categories, the competition is a tough one and this year was no exception, with a consistently high standard from each group.

The 2021 competition was a record year of entries: 176 in total (98 Junior, 60 Senior and 18 Staff) and saw some particularly strong engagement from our youngest junior students who received some excellent mentoring by Freeman Imogen Carter on how to take interesting and dynamic photos.

This competition’s theme, set by Master Annie Harding, was ‘Power’. In its strictest sense power is identified in relation to something else: a process, an action, perhaps a state of being, which is deemed powerful in contrast to what is without that same power. To illustrate such contrast in an image requires not only a good eye and excellent timing but also an ability to communicate an idea of two halves at once easily.

A spider’s web is typically thought to be delicate, yet its endurance in the wind and rain shows the power and resilience of structures in nature.

From our Seniors, Power was interpreted playfully – from capturing light through prisms of water to geological forces of strength and hardiness, while others captured the binaries of light and darkness. Our winner Daisy and runner-up Fatima both stretched the definition of power to create images that present an entire narrative to the viewer and which demand closer inspection.

This is such an exciting surprise! It took a lot of attempts to get the photo right. I was surprised but overjoyed to win the competition.


For our Juniors, the standard was equally high. With a range of entries from family cats yawning, fairground rides, open flames and much in between, the composition of images hugged the brief well this year and made it incredibly tricky for our judges!

In the end, it was Matthew’s image, which shows sparks flying from metalwork, that won the day. His image showing man against material captures a whole narrative of influence and power being exerted and of the dangerous sparking effect of that exertion. Importantly, the image is also a striking one to enjoy looking at. Congratulations to Matthew and all our Junior entrants.

I am so pleased and proud, I really wasn't expecting to even be entered, so when I found out that I had won, I was overjoyed and very excited to be in an exhibition.

Among the many excellent Staff entries, our winner was Emma Bowater, Head of Art at Wolverhampton Grammar School, for a cyanotype photograph on paper called Power Fades.

One of the delights of this competition is that it brings with it the chance to connect with students and our schools in different ways with each new theme. As we continue with the Livery Academy Awards, the new Sheriff’s Challenge, and the inaugural Design Competition, there are plenty of exciting opportunities to come in addition to our usual support through programmes, bursaries and scholarships. We are very proud to support the delivery of high-quality education that every child deserves. If you would like to find out how you can get more involved in this work, get in touch with us now.

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