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Winner of Ilford's Black & White Spririt competition announced - One of this year's major sporting events was the World Cup, an occasion which engendered a great deal of passion and apparent patriotism - at least while England was winning - which was the subject of a special Ilford Photo competition.
Never mind those characters in the blue-and-white football shirts singing Arrivederci Roma, the real winner of this year's World Cup was Alex Handley who triumphed in the Spirit of the World Cup competition sponsored by Ilford Photo to win a year's supply (365 rolls) of Ilford film of his choice.
The competition provided an open palette to photographers of all walks, with no restrictions on subject matter or location, provided it reflected the enthusiasm which surrounded this quadrennial highlight of the world sporting stage.
The many hundreds of competition contestants covered an extremely wide range of takes on the subject theme, from celebrations to commiserations, from anticipation to action. However, the winning image did not actually feature football or players or even fans of the game, but showed the extent to which patriotism extended to all areas of daily life while the nation held its breath over the four weeks leading up to the 9 July final.
The photographer who, in the judges' opinion, best captured the spirit of the tournament was Alex Handley, a 38-year old professional photographer based in Leeds. Handley's vocation is photojournalism, though he takes on other types of work - weddings, portraiture, etc - in between times to pay the bills.
Following gaining his Masters degree in photography and working in a variety of situations, Handley decided 10 years ago to follow his passion and specialise in freelance photojournalism dealing both through agencies and direct with newspaper and magazine publishers. He covers a variety of commissions from politics - covering local and general elections - to spiritualism to bingo, with his favourite subjects - stories about Yorkshire and about circuses - taking special attention.
Handley's approach to covering circuses extends not just to breath-taking acts, but to the communities which make up the world of circuses and circus performers, endeavouring to capture the bigger picture beyond those aspects usually seen. Recent work in this arena (sic) extends to press and PR work for Billy Smart's Circus and coverage for circus publications.
An inspiration of Handley's was the late Tony Ray-Jones whose short life (1941-1972) abruptly ended the introduction of what was regarded as the development of the English school of candid photography in the 1960s, mostly via his career-long study of 'The English', capturing the idiosyncratic and extraordinary among the everyday lives of the English at work and play.
Tragically, in January 1972 Ray-Jones was diagnosed as suffering from leukaemia and returned to England from the US where he had been working and seeking a publisher for his book on The English. He died a few days later, but had already set in motion a style of raw black-and-white photography which reflected 'real life'.
It is a style which Handley has successfully attempted to emulate in his own work, not least with his endeavour to reach behind the glamour and the excitement of the World Cup tournament, as well as in other work including a photographic study into how ephemeral such patriotism can be when the team loses and those once proudly-waved flags are discarded, to be left in the gutters.
Handley uses digital photography wherever it is appropriate, but his love, and certainly his choice for his own work, is black-and-white film. “I have used Ilford film all my working life,” he says, “and would never be without it. It is the one true medium which captures the emotion and passion of life - a real artist's canvas.”