Dean Idoniboye, The Stoop, 2019

Beefeater Portrait Prize: we have a winner!

For the first-ever Beefeater Portrait Prize in partnership with THE FACE, anyone with a smartphone and a love of (objectively) the world’s greatest city, could submit their interpretation of what the Spirit of London means to them. Meet our winners.

WINNER: DEAN IDONIBOYE

@deandumare_

It was a disco nap that did it. One fateful Carnival Sunday Dean Idoniboye was busy honing his street photography skills, shooting the floats and Mas Bands. Tired from the action, the 28-year-old decided to take a strategic break on a cosy-looking stoop. When I sat down I was with my friend, surrounded by a group of young ladies,” he recalls. I woke up without my friend and surrounded by a bunch of guys! So much happens on those stoops!”

The following year, 2019, Idoniboye decided to make West London’s iconic entrance stairways his focus. And the rest is… well, the winning shot for the inaugural year of the Beefeater Photography Prize. The brief was broad – capture London’s spirit. Something about Idoniboye’s image does all of that in one frame, one fleeting moment. With all the action of a Renaissance canvas or a big-budget movie, we find one enigmatic subject staring calmly down the lens as all around him go about their frenetic, joyful, messy Carnival business.

DEAN IDONIBOYE

Irrefutably London,” is how Mimi Gray and Sarah Williams, founders of the art buying platform Darklight Art, describe the shot. You can tell exactly where it is.” Of course, what’s more London than Notting Hill Carnival? But there’s more to it than that: The framing is dynamic and the image complex, but it still feels spontaneous,” they add. Which is precisely what Idoniboye was going for. He wanted the rest of the world to see what he sees in his city: London is intoxicating and chaotic,” he muses. Be prepared to drink it up, but don’t get lost in the sauce.”

When we speak, Idoniboye is ensconced in his office at The London Nautical School where he multi-hyphens in therapeutic intervention for teen males when he’s not working on his self-published magazine, Lude.

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The Hackney-born and Brixton-dweller casts his mind back to the moment the shot was taken. I don’t remember taking it and thinking, Yeah I’ve got it!’.” He was more concerned with that pesky arm holding a Sprite bottle careering in from leftfield. I remember feeling kind of annoyed that she almost jumped into the middle,” he laughs. But looking back I can see that in itself it’s a major part of the image. It brings more life to it”. Leica Akademie curator Robin Sinha is inclined to agree: The bold framing that chops bodies in half and beheads characters at the top creates intrigue while compositionally helping to draw the eye towards the centre.”

What are Idoniboye’s plans with the winnings? Spoil someone’s daughter,” he shoots, deadpan. Just kidding. I’ve been considering a project that’s close to me called Living Without, about the experience of growing up in a one-parent household.” He’s keeping his cards close to his chest but reveals that the imagery around childhood cartoons will feature.

As soon as he found out he’d won Idoniboye called his mate who’d given him the heads up about the competition. Who better to inform and thank, right?” he beams. But after that phone call, the celebration ended. All I’ve thought about since are the projects I want to execute.”

SECOND PLACE: LEIF SEBASTIAN

@leif.sebastian

It took leaving his hometown for this born and raised Londoner to realise he loved taking pictures. I moved to the Arizona desert and a desire to capture and make sense of my alien surroundings struck me.” Leika’s Robin Sinha describes this shot as an Absolutely beautiful portrait that works on so many levels. Whether it’s a portrait about love, friendship or perhaps both, I’m certainly left wondering.”

How did you get into photography?

Mostly taking bad pictures of friends. I eventually got into film photography, it feels like I’m making something tangible. The camera has become an excuse to learn about the world and the people in it. I’ve been to far northern Lapland to spend time amongst the nomadic Sami people and to India to document the ancient practice of Kalari martial arts and the desert festival competitions of Rajasthan.

What does the spirit of London mean to you?

It’s a spirit that’s forever changing and currently at the precipice of finding itself again. It’s in this space that I wanted to feel a sense of freedom, to let the spirit of youth become unkempt.

What’s the story behind your shot?

Towards the end of the summer, I gathered a young group of friends to just hang out in the marshes. I was inspired by Justine Kurland’s images of youth, the ties of friendship, making up for lost time, finding spaces to feel free and safe to explore the lines between staged moments and spontaneity. We ended up in the River Lea after dark, in the water, being silly. Everyone was leaning on each other, which is when I took the portrait.

THIRD PLACE: ETHAN PARKER

@ethanparkeruk

It’s hard to believe that this self-taught Londoner has just started his first year of photography at Arts University Bournemouth (he’s already let his tutor know he’s a winner, obvs!). Mimi Gray and Sarah Williams describe Parker’s shot as a stunning captured moment”. Pointing to the swirling smoke and atmospheric lighting, they add: His stillness amongst the Central London chaos is a beautiful contradiction which we love.”

How did you get into photography?

I started getting up early in the mornings to shoot scenes of London during the sunrises across the city. I have kept street photography true to myself. I like capturing the candid, subtle moments that people would pass day-to-day.

What does the spirit of London mean to you?

The vibrancy and culture all mixed into one place. You can’t really pigeonhole this city, there’s so much going on.

What’s the story behind your shot?

It was taken two years ago on a weekend morning when Greg came out of Oxford Circus tube station for a vaping break. I captured him in the moment of contemplation. When I found out I’d won it was a bit of a hunt to find him. My dad went to Oxford Circus to speak to the staff but he doesn’t work there anymore. Luckily I found his Insta so I could DM him and let him know we’d won!

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