Exeter photographer: Finalist at AOP Open Awards

Lining the walls of a public lobby in one of Canary Wharf’s finest buildings are some of this year’s most outstanding photographs. The exhibited pieces are from the 2019 AOP Open Awards – one of the UK’s most prestigious photography accolades.

We are excited to announce that three of Spencer Cobby’s photos will be displayed here from April 15th as a finalist in this year’s Stills category.

What are the AOP Awards?

Founded in 1968, the Association of Photographers has been running this competition for 13 years. It is known as the gold standard of photography, celebrating the original and the best. Each year more than 1,500 photographers – both professional and amateur – from around the globe enter their pieces into various categories. From fashion and beauty to food and drink. On average, more than 3,500 photographs are entered into the competition.

Now the celebrated Exeter photographer is hoping three of his monochrome stills will steal the show.

Previous winners of the Stills category at the AOP Open Awards include Nicky Hamilton, Ella Nash and Will Sanders. Subject matters range from portraits of athletes to cats climbing fences in exotic landscapes.

The winners of this year’s competition will be announced at an awards ceremony and party on May 14th at Canary Wharf’s premier event venue, East Wintergarden, in London. All 200 finalists from all 11 different categories will then be exhibited until May 31st. That’s more than 250 photographs joining Spencer’s work in Canary Wharf.

The underwater photographs in the Finalists category

Sharp, detailed and immersive, the monochrome stills entered by Exeter-based commercial photographer, Spencer Cobby, document a moment beneath the water surface. The fluidity of a body encapsulated in a shot. “It tells of the movement of the divers as they move through the water,” says Spencer. “It’s about the depth, and I guess, for me, it was about capturing how their bodies reacted to the pressure of the water.”

Exeter photographer, Spencer Cobby's underwater photo of diver

Assigned to celebrate the sporting achievements of Plymouth College’s student divers, Spencer used a 20mm wide angle lens underwater to capture their bodies plummeting into the pool. “I was trying to get them crashing into the water from Olympic height boards,” he says, “almost like spears.”  

Exeter photographer, Spencer Cobby's underwater photo of diver

He says he kept the camera running throughout due to the quick pace of the divers in the water. This helped capture their descent from dynamic angles.

Exeter photographer, Spencer Cobby's underwater shot of diver

Exeter photographer’s underwater photography experience

It is hardly surprising that Spencer is the man behind the striking aquatic stills. He’s got years of experience in underwater photography, contracting with WaterBabies for the last six. He also taught the discipline in the Red Sea, whilst working with Cameras Underwater.  With a first-class photography degree under his belt, he’s also worked with Canon UK.

From projects with homeless charities in Exeter to photographing catalogues for big lifestyle brands, he’s travelled the world capturing the most magical and poignant of life’s moments. He places detail at the forefront of the vision.  “For me,” he says, “the camera is the window of the world.”

“I get involved in quite an eclectic set of photography,” he says, “for me it’s about capturing what I’ve seen. It’s about applying yourself to as many different disciplines as possible.”

Entering the competition

The energetic, immersive black and white shots of Plymouth College’s divers are, however, the first entered by Spencer into the annual competition. “Success at the awards with these photographs would mean significantly more exposure for me,” he says, “both on social media and generally in the industry.”  He says he hopes it will open his business up to even more photographers and creators in the photography world.

Winning the competition

If Spencer wins this year’s competition, he will win a bespoke light box from a leading arts light box producer called Lite-House Europe Limited. That decision, however, remains in the hands of Fiona Shields, the head of Photography at The Guardian.

With the judging still ongoing, the future is exciting for Exeter photographer, Spencer. Victory or no victory, he knows his work will hang in the foyer at One Canada Square in Canary Wharf. It is estimated more than 50,000 people will see the exhibition over the course of seven weeks. He also knows his work will be printed in the ‘Awards Book’ of finalists given to industry experts, commissioners and buyers at the awards party.  The ‘Awards Book’ can also be purchased online from 15th May.

AOP Awards Party

Spencer will leave Exeter for London in May to attend the party. More than 1,000 VIP guests have been invited to the party to celebrate the biggest and brightest in photography. Until the big day, all Spencer can do is cross his fingers and hope for the best.

You can read more about Spencer’s background in underwater photography here, just one of many areas of photography that Spencer is skilled in. If you’d like to get in touch for a free consultation or to find out about the other photography services we offer, please contact Spencer here.