Simon Murphy has just won the top prize in the Photographic section of the 2019 Scottish Portrait Awards. The award ( RICHARD COWARD SCOTTISH PORTRAIT AWARD IN PHOTOGRAPHY) presented in Edinburgh recognises excellence in black and white portrait photography. Colleague Christine Stevenson from the college's photography department in Springburn commented: " To win the Scottish portrait Award is a marvellous achievement for Simon. As a former student of mine, it is wonderful that his hard work and talent has been recognised with this prestigious award." The chosen portrait of artist Alan tanner comes from his documentary work from the area of Govanhill in Glasgow's' southside. Simon began photographing folk in Govanhill when he lived there in the early 2000s.
Murphy first met Alan Tanner in Milk, a lively social café in Govanhill that supports refugee and migrant women living in Glasgow. They got talking and Tanner agreed to being photographed. Within minutes Murphy says he was up in Tanner’s flat, ‘surrounded by a cloud of smoke and listening to stories from Tanner’s time in London in the 60’s and 70’s, when he lived around the corner from Jimi Hendrix, and designed album covers for bands such as Hawkwind and Procol Harem.’
The photographs from that first meeting were great, Murphy says, but he wanted something more intimate and collaborative. He returned a week later with some tubes of paint.
‘We found a broken glass picture frame,’ he said ‘and I asked Alan to do something with the paint. After making some marks on the glass he raised his paint-covered hand to his face and smeared it over his eyes and head. Then raising a cigarette to his mouth, I asked him to look directly into the lens and I clicked the shutter.’ That was the winning image.
Murphy says of his Govanhill series, ‘Although each portrait is of an individual and carries its own story, collectively the work is a portrait of the place and a celebration of one of the most diverse and vibrant areas of the city.’ The project has grown into a commitment. Murphy self-publishes a photographic newspaper that can be picked up free in Govanhill shops and cafes. ‘Anyone who wants the paper has to go to Govanhill, he says, ‘and if they do maybe they will buy a coffee or a book and contribute to the local economy.’
Murphy says he never had any interest in entering competitions before, but he’d seen previous work in the Scottish Portrait Awards photography exhibitions and had been impressed by the quality. He came across a leaflet appealing for entries and he thought, ‘Why not?’ This week he was rewarded with £3,000 after his work was selected as the winner from hundreds of entries.
The work by Simon and more artists will be on tour in the Scottish Portrait Awards Exhibition until May next year, appearing at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh until 30 November 2019, then the Glasgow Art Club from 16 January to 15 February 2020 and the Kirkcudbright Galleries from 14 March to 24 May 2020.
The Scottish Portrait Awards is run by the Scottish Arts Trust. The competition is open to anyone born, living or studying in Scotland. See www.scottishportraitawards.com for more details