The Mark Gunter Photo Awards returns for its seventh year, celebrating the very best in amateur and professional cycling photography. Rouleur magazine’s James Startt, who will be one of five judges in this year’s competition, explains how he first came into contact with The Mark Gunter Photo Awards and previews the 2022 competition.
Entries for The Mark Gunter Photo Awards are open now and will remain so until Sunday January 8, 2023. Along with some great prizes on offer from our friends at Wahoo, winners of the amateur and professional categories will have the opportunity to see their work printed in Rouleur magazine and will feature in our exhibition at Rouleur Live 2023.
I never knew Mark Gunter, although we perhaps stood beside each other in a field along the roads of the Tour de France. But thanks to the Mark Gunter Photo Awards I have come to learn about his legacy. Photo awards in cycling come and go, but since they started in 2016, these awards have earned a special place in the cycling community, consistently attracting the best photography the sport has to offer year in and year out.
Wout Beel's entry for the professional category this year
To be honest, I had grown suspicious of cycling specific photo awards. So often they seemed to fall in the realm of an old boys club, with the most established photographers choosing images of their friends, and the judging was too often done by cycling specialists rather than those who really understood the art of photography.
But the Mark Gunter Awards quickly caught my attention. First of course, was the personal link to Mark’s family as well as their desire to raise money for cancer. Then there was the sheer quality of the images. Many of the photographers I respected the most participated in the first editions, and so I soon joined in.
As a participant I studied more closely the work of others. After all, I wanted to keep an eye on the competition! While I was impressed by the overall body of work, I was even more impressed by the judging, which consistently made astute choices. Though I was often a finalist, I was never a winner, but when I saw the final selections the choices were nothing short of legitimate. After all, it’s a lot easier to lose to a worthy winner than one you feel is undeserving. Just ask the French football team after their near miss at the World Cup this year.
In addition to the professional category I have also loved looking at the amateur entries.
Photography has been called the most democratic of art forms; anyone with a camera can take a picture, and at times an outstanding picture. In the amateur category the photographers often work with an openness that is enviable, for while it is nice to have photo accreditation at the world's biggest bike races, it can also be confining, as we often focus too much of our attention on the same riders and the same races.
The amateur category was refreshing as the participants often find great images in unexpected places.
This premise was only reinforced last year when I was asked to be a judge and I literally spent hours selecting my long-list in the amateur category.
As Rouleur’s staff photographer, I was again asked to participate in judging this since the magazine became the new partner with the awards. Great photography is the centrepiece of the magazine and joining forces with the Mark Gunter Awards is simply a perfect fit.
While the awards had already built a tremendous reputation in the six years since it started, it is clear that Rouleur wants to write a chapter all on its own.
Sean Hardy's winning entry from 2021
We are greatly expanding the jury to include not only cycling photographers but also established figures from the art world. Make no doubt about it, this is a serious jury.
Sean Hardy, winner of last year’s top prize, is a logical choice for the judging this year while Graham Watson, perhaps the most experienced cycling photographer in the history of the sport, again acts as ambassador, giving us serious cycling creds. Though he doesn’t participate in the judging, he is present in the process, occasionally offering us his perspective.
Meanwhile the addition of Veronique Rolland, Susanna Brown, and Antonio Colombo bring serious fine art criticism into the fold. Rolland is an award-winning portrait photographer while Brown was the long-time photography curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. When it comes to making the link between cycling and art, few people do it better than Antonio Colombo. The long-time head of Cinelli and Columbus, Colombo has also been the founder and owner of his own contemporary art gallery in Milan for more than 20 years.
I truly cannot wait to see the long list of the judges this year, and while the selection process promises to go long into the night, the conversation and debate promises to be exciting.
Reid Neureiter's entry for the amateur category
Although this year's awards only launched a few days ago, entries are already flooding in, and we’ve already got some tremendous work. So far that includes Wout Beel, a finalist in last year’s professional category who is staff photographer for the Quick-Step team. Needless to say, he had an inside view on Remco Evenepoel’s stellar season. The images of Evenepoel standing before a sea of fans after winning the World Championships gives the viewer a sense of what it must be like to be him, if even for a split second. Meanwhile Reid Neureiter’s image of a pack rolling out at sunrise in the amateur category simply makes me want to get up early and go for a ride.