Aerial shot of students holding outstanding sign

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landscape photograph by Alex Phocas

Alex wins London Met Photography Prize

Congratulations to Alex Phocas who is the overall winner of the London Met Photography Competition.  The competition is for students of photography and visual arts studying in full-time education in the UK.  They were asked to submit their favorite portrait, landscape and still life photographs for the three categories Your People, Your Places, Your Things (YPYPYT 2021). Alex won the Your Places Category with his photograph of a 'solargraph' using old photography techniques.

Here he describes how he experimented and captured the image.

"it all started from my interest in long exposures. Before I went into pinhole photography I was exploring the different times of day. This included taking pictures of the morning, mid day and night using a regular digital camera then combining them all together to show the journey through the day in one image.


As I developed my project my teacher showed me some other ways I could go about photographing “time” which was based around pinhole photography, which allowed me to utilise exposures of up to 8 hours based on the current box and hole I was using. I started by using a smaller “phone box” as my first pinhole camera. We did some calculations and by using a 1mm diameter pin and measuring the distance from the pinhole to the back of the box, we calculated that the adequate exposure time was 4 hours. My intention was to capture a “solargraph” so this exposure time needed to be longer to capture the trail of the sun through the sky. We decided to double the distance of the current box and half the size of the pinhole to ultimately double the exposure time. We used a 0.5mm pin to do this and used a new, bigger box which I found in the photography department as scrap materials. After finding the correct box and finalising the measurements, I put it together by taping black sugar paper on the inside of the box to make it as light proof as possible, then using a fragment of a tin can, I pierced the pin through and used metal/grit sanding paper to smooth out the hole and to prevent the flare from the hole obstructing the light. I then stuck this fragment of tin onto the front of the box after finding the exact centre, using plenty of duct tape to keep it secure. As the pinhole was put on the “lid” half of the box, this meant that I needed to cut out a fragment of other half to allow the light to get through and project the image to the back of the box. After doing this, it was pretty much ready to go. I finished off by putting a makeshift “shutter” on the hole merely using tape and peeling it off when ready to expose. After loading up the paper in the darkroom by securing it on with tape, I brought the box up to my attic window and secured the camera onto a tripod using tape and cable ties, which I positioned perfectly aiming toward the trees. As I wanted to capture a solargraph, I used an app on my phone to help me “aim” my camera toward the future trajectory of the sun. Taking my maths into account, I exposed the camera and timed an 8 hour period. I then shut the door to prevent any of my cats and dogs moving the tripod! I then went to college to go about my normal day, whilst my camera was sat at home capturing the path of the sun as time went on. After closing the shutter at 8 hrs in, I developed it in the college dark room. After this, I scanned it in to the computer and inverted the print to finish up."

"Since then i’ve been extremely interested in pinhole photography. I’ve been exploring urban and nature environments using my 8 hour exposures to see how “time” effects the landscape and imprints it’s existence."

London Met says in their announcement of the winner. "We would like to thank and congratulate the 24 finalists whose work you can see in this magazine as well as those students whose work has been highly commended and will be shown on our BA Photography Website. However, we also wish to thank all the students who submitted the many wonderful entries from around the country. All the judges commented on the quality of images, how hard it was to make decisions and how much they enjoyed seeing the work from the 260 entries we received."