Back to News

Pensthorpe Portfolio Development

26 Feb 2019


Blog by Julia Rafferty

Michael I’Anson – award winner

We are proud to announce, that Michael I’Anson’s panel: ‘Ready, Prep, Grow!’ – shown here, was awarded 2nd place in the Portfolio section of Competition 12 of the ‘International Garden Photographer of the Year’. He was also presented with the Royal Photographic Society Silver Medal. The presentation ceremony was on Friday 8 February, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where the President of the RPS presented Michael with his medal. Michael’s portfolio of images is in the exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew until 10th March 2019 and are published in the wonderful book that is published with this exhibition and competition. Congratulations Michael!

I asked Michael if he would share his journey, from starting this portfolio to being presented with these prestigious awards. Here is his response:

Photography means different things to different people. To some, it is a source of income and a commitment to running their own professional business. To others, it’s a platform to educate and teach individuals who are interested and passionate about the subject.



Amateur photographers can also have a dedication and obsession, particularly in wanting to get their pictures ‘just right’ and as perfect as possible. Equally, for some, they love nothing more than happily snapping away when a scene or occasion presents itself as it’s about capturing the moment and not necessarily worrying about depth of field, perspective or composition.

My photographic journey started five years ago when I attended one of Julia’s weekend courses and then subsequently enrolled on the six-week program to gain my ‘City & Guilds Level One’ certificate in photography. Lots of water has flowed under the photographic bridge since then but during April of 2018, Julia mentioned to our photographic class at Pensthorpe about a competition, ‘International Garden Photographer of The Year (IGPOTY)’ being held at ‘Kew Gardens’ and in conjunction with the ‘Royal Photographic Society’ (RPS).

Initially I was not going to enter as I felt the standard of work required was far and above anything I could produce. However, I purchased some previous IGPOTY books and, after studying them in detail, I came up with a black and white concept (my preferred genre) to produce a series of six images in the form of a portfolio. The idea had come about after watching my parents gardening one afternoon and, in particular, seeing how my father tendered the seedlings in his vegetable plot.



As a Chiropractor, I work with my hands as they are the way I experience my professional world through touch, feel and sensation. Just like a face, hands can be full of expression, emotion and passion and I wanted to capture all this through my black and white photographic images.

With the idea in place and the concept realised it was now a matter of taking the correct shots. This involved my father needing to get into some quite sinuous poses whilst at the same time avoiding him from putting his back out! My mother found the whole process hilarious, especially as my father is very much the other side of eighty years old! However, we successfully achieved the shots I wanted and, after each of the sessions, we dutifully rewarded ourselves with a well-deserved cup of tea and piece of cake!


The photographs were edited totally within ‘Lightroom’ as I felt this software gave me more freedom to achieve the hard, grainy, tough-looking detail I was looking for. Submission deadline was at the end of October and although I was pleased with the end result, I had no sense that they would be anything other than just another entry. The previous competitions were of an extremely high-level, professional and expertly edited.


The first I knew something positive might be happening was when I received an email in November saying my portfolio had been shortlisted. No sooner had I digested this news that another email arrived saying that my portfolio was a winner (we did not know what though) and an invitation was attached to attend the Awards Ceremony on 8th February 2019 at Kew Gardens.


The day was fantastic and the venue (The Nash Conservatory) professionally laid-out with boards displaying all the winning photographs. It was also full of judges, dignitaries, journalists and the participants themselves along with staff serving up some very delightful glasses of champagne and bite-sized nibbles! I have to say that my wife, Linda, and I were beyond shocked to see my portfolio all framed-up with an accompanying small panel detailing the achievement of 2nd place in the overall portfolio section and also the winner of the coveted RPS silver medal! It was a very humbling experience and I am still quite amazed. However, the most memorable and special part of this whole process and experience has been the privilege of capturing, what will now be, a true family legacy.


Here’s to you Dad!