It is always interesting to sit on the jury of a photo competition, as each is utterly unique. And this was never more the case than in the 2022 Mark Gunter Awards. Since its inception in 2016, the awards have risen to become the most widely respected and regarded photo competition in the sport.
Rouleur was only too happy to become a new partner, but it was clear from the start that we wanted to take the competition to places it had yet to go. And a key ingredient was having a larger, more diverse jury.
As Rouleur staff photographer, and finalist in the awards, I served to bridge the past and the present. And with the addition of last year’s winner, Sean Hardy, we guaranteed a cycling photographer’s perspective. Still, it was important for us to go beyond cycling. Susanna Brown, an internationally-renowned writer and curator specialising in photography, as well as Veronique Rolland, an international photographer, whose work is in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum, London, as well as the Pompidou Centre, Paris, brought serious fine-art credentials to the table. Meanwhile Antonio Colombo, the longtime head of Columbus and Cinelli, is a contemporary art collector and gallery owner in Milan, who understands cycling and is passionate about its link to art.
As a result, the jury asked questions that quickly went beyond the theme of cycling. Are there images that jump out in our mind without seeing them in front of us? Do we want to make any kind of statement with our final selection? These were just two talking points I had never considered before our selection process began.
Needless to say, dialogue was rich throughout the decision-making process, and I think it is reflected here in our final selection. Every photograph selected was debated and discussed with vigour.
1st Place - Bram Bierken @bramberkien
The professional category was led by Bram Berkien (Instagram: bramberkien) for his stunning photo capturing Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard in a rare down moment just after the finish of the race. If memory serves, it was the only photo entered by Berkien. But when you have an image like this, it is not necessary to add more.
2nd Place - Lian van Leeuwen @saltlake_lian
But while Berkien’s image was a clear winner, many other images seemingly had a life of their own, rising and falling in the ranks as the deliberations progressed. And the image by Lian van Leeuwen (Instagram: Saltlake_Lian) of Nancy Akidebe after the Migration Gravel Race was a case in point. Susanna Brown commented during the jury process that this is one of the most stunning portraits she's seen in her career; composed like a renaissance painting. High praise, indeed.
3rd Place - Anouk Flesh @anoukflesch
And while there have been a lot of cycling images from the Roubaix showers over the years, Anouk Flesch (Instagram: anoukflesch) produced an image that captured the hearts of many jury members with her shot of Flora Perkins after her first-ever Roubaix race. There is timeless innocence in her look that offers a stunning juxtaposition to these historic showers.
4th Place - Nils Laengner @nils_laengner
5th Place - Eloise Mavian @eloisemavian
Juan Felipe Rubio @thebreakaway.co
7th Place - Eloise Mavian @eloisemavian
8th Place - Daniela Tommasi @daniela_tommasi_photography
9th Place - Matt Grayson @mattgrayson_photo
10th Place - Harry Talbot @visualsofharry
1st Place - Iurii Makalis @makalisiurii
Deliberations were even more intense as we discussed the amateur category, as the level was high, and the images were often surprising.
Top prize went to Iurii Makalis with his stunning shot of a Ukrainian cyclist riding past a line of sandbags. Makalis, we learned, struggled even to find an internet connection strong enough to submit the images. But once he did, his vision of a cyclist’s life during wartime impressed us all.
2nd Place - Stijn Bastens @stijn_bastens
Meanwhile one of the most unexpected images came from Stijn Bastens (Instagram: Stijn_bastens) as he captured the joy of a young girl watching a cyclist race by during a criterium near Antwerp. At first glance this image could be overlooked in the sea of powerful images found in the amateur category. And from a purely technical point of view, it is not perfect. But that is part of the charm of the image, which captured our hearts with the pure emotion found in this moment. It is an emotion so pure that it makes us all want to go to a bike race.
3rd Place - Darren Athersmith @da_sportsphotos
Another image filled with emotion finally found its place on the podium of the amateur category with Darren Athersmith’s (Instagram: da_sportsphotos) wonderful image of a female cyclist making her way up the Lakeland Hill Climb. The woman is obviously digging deep in the final pitches of the climb, and yet she seemingly finds just enough energy for a faint smile as she responds to the cheers of the fans, showing us another numerous levels of emotion found in this sport.
4th Place - Stuart Baker @stuhbaker
5th Place - James Middleton @jmidphoto
6th Place - Lewis Allan @lewisallanphotography
7th Place - Lewis Allan @lewisallanphotography
8th Place - Jeff Corcoran @corcoransphotos
9th Place - Saskia Martin @saskiacmartin
10th Place - Jenna Leigh @jenna7788
Looking over the final podium selections, I am aware that I made several very different choices in my own shortlist. And yet I could not be happier with the final choices, as they were the result of a rich evening of discussion and debate. And while every image here is very deserving, we spent just as much time debating many other images in the top ten and beyond.
As a photographer myself, I am of course frustrated when my work is not selected for a prize, but I now understand just how much a jury respects and admires countless other images submitted in a competition. There are really many worthy winners.
Rouleur magazine has always championed the very best in cycling photography, and this year we are looking forward to featuring the top three images from each category in an upcoming issue of Rouleur magazine. We will also be featuring the top ten from each categories in an in-person exhibition at Rouleur Live 2023.
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD
This year, we added an additional category to bring the decision making over to our Rouleur readers. Over a thousand votes later, these were the winning images from The People's Choice Award:
Winner, Professional Category -Harry Talbot @visualsofharry
Winner, Amateur category - Reid Neureiter