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22 January 2019

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Continuing with our series of curator interviews for the AOP Awards 2019 we bring you Fiona Shields - Head of Photography at The Guardian, who will be curating the Stills category of the Open Awards.

Fiona Shields 3 2


As Head of Photography at the Guardian can you tell us about your role and how you got there.

I originally trained as a print journalist, and in those early days I imagined my future would be as a writer. But in my first job at a current affairs magazine, I quickly realised that I had much more of a talent for visual storytelling, layout and picture editing than for turning out an elegant feature or punchy news story. So I focused my efforts in that direction and it has proved to be a good fit.

Now I lead a team of picture editors across the titles at the Guardian News & Media Group, researching, selecting and commissioning bespoke photography. Together we set a tone for quality, considered and trustworthy photojournalism. 


You will have seen many changes in the photographic industry. What do you feel is photography’s role today?

There have been many changes in the last two decades, the quantity of images, some 30,000 a day land on our digital picture desk, and the speed between the shutter being pressed on the camera and the image being published online can be startling. This has transformed the way we make picture choices especially for online stories. There can be a tendency towards hasty publication, to be first with the news, but it pays to pause for a moment to verify sources and make certain that what’s being portrayed is real and accurate. But essentially the role of photography in my field of work is the same: to tell stories in a fair and just way and to try make sense of what's happening in the world.


Which photographer’s inspire you?

Oh so many. I'm always thrilled by a photographer who can tell a story in a new and original way and I appreciate a heartfelt and engaging approach. I'm really fortunate to work with images submitted by photographers who are at the top of their game. Recently I had the opportunity to meet the conflict photographer Lynsey Addario and learn first hand about her experiences in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. I've long admired her work but her courage and determination to do a story justice is inspiring. 


As curator of The Open Stills category what in your opinion makes for an award winning image?

I'm going to be looking for quality images that I find affecting and meaningful, perhaps surprising or witty, but that also show attention to craft and technical skill. 


What would your advice be to people entering this category?

Do give a little background detail or caption info, it really helps to give the viewer a deeper understanding of the image and don't be afraid to take a risk as that's where the most exciting and outstanding photography can be apparent.


Follow Fiona on Twitter: @fshields


Call for entries deadline for the Open Awards is midnight Monday 25 February.  Enter here

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