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INTERVIEW: Tim Flach - Open Award Curator

28 February 2020

IMG 4014 copy

© Rachel Rogers

There are just under 5 weeks until the entries close for the Open & Emerging Talent Awards on 2nd April.  We sat down with AOP's President - Tim Flach, joint curator of this years Open Award, to discover what he will be looking for in this years entries - namely surprising images! As a multi award winner Tim talks about how he has benefitted from awards over the years offering encouragement to anyone thinking about entering.

European Hoopoe HD AOP

© Tim Flach

Can you tell us how you got into photography?

I think it’s more of a question of what lead me towards photography. I was always much more of a visual than a word person, I began painting which naturally lead me to photography.

I established myself as a photographer way back in 1983 and at that time I took a small portfolio made up of some of my drawings as well as some photographs into marketing departments to persuade them to give me work.  From there on in my journey started, slowly moving on to design lead groups then into advertising campaigns and then to book projects. Today it would be a very different strategy and approach with the emergence of social platforms such as Instagram.  I think the scary thing is always trying to cross that line of getting your work out there and meeting people and I think today more than ever those starting out must pick up the phone and meet people.


Himalayan Monal HD AOP

© Tim Flach


What inspired you to focus on shooting animals?

The very first roll of film I ever took was when I was on a Foundation course in Art & Design.  We were sent to London Zoo and that’s when I started taking photographs of animals. Some years later I was able to bring animals into the studio. It’s hard enough to understand another human being but to understand an animal is another matter.  One aspect I found really intriguing whilst working with animals is the idea of perceptual space between us and them. Presently I am exploring how we can foster an emotional connection with them.


Ocellated Turkey HD AOP

© Tim Flach


As a multi award winner, what have they done for your career and the why is it important to enter?

I have been fortunate enough to benefit from awards over the years. I found that entering competitions was one of the most effective ways to promote my work. This allowed me to raise my profile, both in the UK and in the US.  

When you are entering an award it forces you to distil your work down. It’s important to think about what it is that’s interesting about ones own work. The idea of getting feedback and advice from other colleagues and professionals in the industry continues to be extremely important.  From my perspective awards can be a determining factor in building your career.


Virginia Cardinal HD AOP

© Tim Flach


You will have experienced many changes in the industry what words of encouragement can you offer to photographers?

I think there is no doubt that we are all facing different challenges in the digital age, for instance the commodification of images. I think ultimately you have got to be curious and intrigued by things in order to stay relevant. One of the things I feel we have been able to have is more control over our medium than ever before, whether you are working from home or in a studio.


Gouldian Finch HD AOP

© Tim Flach


As curator of the Open Awards what in your opinion makes for an Awards winning image? What would your advice be to those entering this category?

Wow! What makes an award-winning image? That can be many things. I think that when you first look at an image, you think about a range of things: Does it change your understanding of a subject? Does it take you somewhere you’ve never thought of? Do you wish you had taken that image? Does it surprise you?

When I take pictures I occasionally find myself tripping over something that surprises me, which, in turn, might surprise others. I think we can rationalise things but sometimes they just have to work.


What’s next for you?

I am half way through my current book project on birds, which is due to be published at the end of next year. Book projects, to me, are like journeys. I never quite feel like I have finished a book, I simply get separated from it. I am now immersed in a world of birds.


You can find further information about the Awards here

View more of Tim's work in Find

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