Thomas Morgan’ winning portrait is of Malick Darbo, a young model just starting out in the industry. The aim for the image and wider series was to highlight the beauty of dark skin, which has been underrepresented in the fashion industry for many years.
Thomas maintains a particular interest in fashion photography. Since being given his first DSLR camera on his 17th birthday, he has spent time curating shoots with his family and friends. In 2016, he arranged a shoot with a friend he thought could be a model. Off the back of those images, his friend got signed to a modelling agency, and Thomas was invited to test shoot and build up portfolios for new models, giving him room to experiment with style and technique. Being selected for Portrait of Britain is the first public recognition Thomas has received for his work.
Can you tell me about the portrait you entered into Portrait of Britain 2018? What is the story behind it?
For a while I have wanted to do a series focusing primarily on dark skin and colour. I’ve always believed that there should be more dark-skinned models and self-love in the fashion industry, and we are starting to see that happen now more than ever. Malick Darbo, who features in this series, is a young black male who has just started out as a model. He is strong and confident in himself and comfortable in his own skin, which made him the perfect person to do this series with.
Why did you select this image to enter into Portrait of Britain?
I selected this image because I believe it shows how beautiful dark skin is. It’s strong and bold, but peaceful and elegant at the same time. The image is bright and full of colour, which isn’t my typical style, but I’m proud that I have been able to try something new and improve my skills.
Is the portrait part of a wider series? If so, what were the aims for that series?
The portrait is part of a small series called ‘Celebrating Dark Skin’, using brightly coloured backgrounds and clothing to contrast against the dark skin of my subject. The aim of this series was to show the beauty of dark skin, whilst creating a set of images that also focus on style. One of my aims was to try and show different emotions in the images; some with strength, some with happiness, some with contentment and relaxation. Given a larger budget and more time, I would love to expand and re shoot this series with multiple models of colour, and with female models too.
Why did you choose to enter Portrait of Britain?
I was inspired to enter the competition by a photographer called Holly Cato, who I know and love. Holly is incredibly talented. She sent me a link to one of the photos she submitted, and I thought I would give it a go too. Portrait of Britain is a big platform for a young photographer so I had nothing to lose.
What do you think makes a compelling portrait?
For me, a compelling portrait should be engaging and should make people react in some way, whether that reaction is sadness, happiness, or any other emotion. The portrait should connect with the target audience. I say target audience because every photographer has their own style, which may only be directed to certain groups of people.
I believe that the best fashion portraits are clean and crisp, quite simple in the way that they are put together, and should focus on the subject. It’s better to focus on small details as opposed to trying to do too much.
Do you have any advice for future entrants about selecting a portrait to submit and, more generally, about getting into portrait photography to begin with?
To be honest, I’m not an expert on photography. I don’t know many technical terms or much about the science, but I believe that people should just do things. If you think you might enjoy something then try it. You don’t need super expensive kit, or a team of people, all you need is a camera and someone you can take photos of and explore ideas with.
It’s good to think about what you want the image to look like in your head, then figure out how to get it to that point. If you can, collaborate with other photographers, stylists, and makeup artists, because you will learn a lot from them and what they do. Once you start, you can only get better with practice.