Last week Jooney Woodward was named as the winner of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize for her portrait of Harriet and Gentleman Jack. The 32-year-old worked in the Vogue Photographic Archive before pursuing a career as a freelance photojournalist. Twin asked Woodward to tell us more about her winning photograph…
Your photographs record moments that are both obscure and everyday – how did you discover the Guinea Pig show?
I discovered the show whilst working on a series of landscape pictures for my first solo exhibition Unhidden – Documentary Photographs of Contemporary Wales, at the Museum of Modern Art Wales. One of the places I decided to visit was the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show. It was there that I stumbled across the Fur and Feather Pavilion, which is where the guinea pig judging was taking place and that’s where I spotted Harriet.
How did you approach Harriet and how easy was it to get the shot with her?
I approached Harriet and her mother and explained that I was a documentary photographer and that I would love to take her picture. It wasn’t the easiest of shots to do. I had time issues due to the fact that she was busy stewarding and we were standing amongst all the hectic judging tables. I was conscious about not getting in the way. I knew I was only going to have a few seconds to get the shot I wanted and thankfully I got it on the first frame. What you don’t see in the picture is how busy it actually was in the background, with the general public walking around the cages. I had to choose my moment and grab it.
When it came to submitting the portrait – what made it clear to you that Harriet and Gentleman Jack was the one?
I submitted this picture because I like that it has so many elements to it and that there is some ambiguity to the image that provokes questions. She’s wearing a white laboratory style coat. Where is she and what’s going on? It’s not clear at first that she’s at an agricultural show. How old is she? The more you look at it, the more you start to notice various details such as her red nail varnish and mascara, the scratch on her hand, the guinea pig’s pen number on his ear and obviously the similar colouring of her hair and the guinea pig.
Colour is really integral to the image – what is it that you look for in a portrait subject?
My portraits are all about the small details. Sometimes something will just stand out immediately and that’s when I know I want to capture that moment. My pictures are very colourful and getting the right light is integral to my photographs. I like subjects that are often overlooked or not very well known, but are actually a huge part of some people’s lives. I would like to open up these worlds to a wider audience.
How does winning a prize like the Taylor Wessing change things for you?
It’s a huge honour and is amazing to have my work on display in the National Portrait Gallery. I hope that it will give me greater access to the people and places that inspire my personal projects, as these are really important to me. I’m also really pleased that a wider audience is getting to see the broader body of work on my website, which is already generating a lot of interest.