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Question time: Student competition judge Eliza Williams

1 year ago

With deadline to the Student competition edging closer (don't forgot to enter before 30th November at 13:00 (GMT), we speak to this year's judge Eliza Williams so she can share her advice for cutting your teeth in the photography industry. Eliza has been Editor of Creative Review since 2019. She has been writing, speaking and broadcasting about advertising, design and visual culture for over two decades, and is the author of two books published by Laurence King Publishing. She also hosts the Creative Review podcast. 


The brief for the Student competition is In a Changing World. What will you be looking for in this year’s entries?  

This is a great topic for the competition as there are so many different ways to approach it. I will be looking for work that offers fresh perspectives and avoids clichés, and which makes me think and feel.

For more than 20 years you’ve witnessed and critiqued some of the world’s leading visual cultures. You’ve also written two books How 30 Great Ads Were Made and This Is Advertising. What do you feel a visually led piece of work needs for you to want to look at it again?

We are totally bombarded with visuals today, so work needs to stop you in your tracks to some extent. This is no easy feat but is what is required. The best work has a strong point of view and usually an interesting and meaningful back story.


Alongside design, art, music and advertising, Creative Review highlights some of the world’s most interesting photography-related stories. What do you think is the most exciting trend in visual culture you’re seeing right now?

This is not a trend as such, or at least I hope it isn't, but it's really exciting to see the worlds of photography and visual culture finally beginning to open up to new voices. We're seeing great photography work coming from all over the world, no longer just from the usual suspects, and the gatekeepers of the industry are finally realising that they need to allow access to more people for it to survive and thrive. There is still a lot of work to be done - photography can still feel like a closed, exclusive world – but there are great strides being made.

As the Editor of Creative Review, what experience and expertise will you bring to the judging panel?

I've looked at an awful lot of photography over the years across many genres, including commercial, art, documentary and so on. Hopefully, this will help me spot the work that is bringing something new to the table.

What are your five tips for students thinking about entering the Sony World Photography Awards Student competition?

Put a lot of time into editing your work – less is more; Ask advice about what to enter but also follow your own heart; If your work looks like that of others you've seen on Instagram etc, leave it out; Write a clear and concise text to accompany your work; Make sure your work fits the brief.

What is your advice to emerging photographers and lens-based artists hoping to be commissioned?

Think about how you present your work - often I see work that is presented in a confusing way and commissioners are always moving at speed, so make it easy and clear for them. Spend time editing it so only the work you are really proud of is featured. 

Be careful of how you present work - it is good to signpost which projects are commissioned but don't make it seem like this work is less important than your personal work. Don't mix your personal life and your professional work on social channels - have separate accounts for each. Short explanatory texts about your work and who are you are/what you've done are really useful - take time to get these right. 

Make it really clear how to contact you (and make sure you check your messages!) - it is surprising how hard people make this sometimes. And don't fear rejection – it is an unavoidable part of the process but it doesn't mean your work isn't good. So don't give up – but do keep challenging yourself.