100 Strangers : Round 3 : No. 220 : Margaret by phil_howcroft

100 Strangers : Round 3 : No. 220 : Margaret

One of my friends and a former work colleagues, Jagjeet, tagged me in a post about a portrait competition. The competition, run by the National Portrait Gallery and The Duchess of Cambridge was named “hold still”. The brief was to create a unique photographic portrait which captures the spirit, mood, hopes, fears and feelings of the nation as we continue to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak. There is no prize money for the competition, the 100 winning entries will appear in a virtual exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

So I had an idea about a vicar standing outside a closed church, wearing a clerical collar and face mask. I thought it would make a powerful statement about the effects of Covid-19 on the church parish

So I emailed the Reverend Margaret Caunt, vicar of St. Mary’s in Arnold, Nottingham, asking if she would help me in the competition. Less than 24 hours later we were outside her closed church doing a photoshoot.

Margaret was really helpful and patient as I photographed her. We talked about various topics, my photography, my family, our dogs, how Covid was effecting the church, the restoration of the clock tower, Arnold’s history, the gravestones, politics, football. Margaret has been vicar of St. Mary’s for four years, I am surprised I have never met or seen her before as my usual walk with Ruby takes me alongside the church and vicarage.

I told Margaret I would email her a shortlist of my photos for the competition and would appreciate her opinion on them. I emailed some headshots and full length shots, four different poses in colour and black and white i.e. 8 images in total. After some email exchanges and phone calls I decided on the one you see above. This was Margaret’s favourite, she said it took her breath away when she first saw it. I was favouring one of my headshots, but then decided that the competition might get quite a few headshot and mask entries.

I had to write a narrative to accompany my entry into the competition (1000 characters max), I wrote the following …. ..

"The Reverend Margaret Caunt , vicar of St. Mary’s Church, Arnold ,Nottingham had to close the church doors as part of lockdown. This presented difficult challenges as Margaret no longer had direct contact with her congregation and the people of her parish. Margaret had to diversify and reach out in different ways. She set up support groups for those parishioners who were vulnerable and shielding, she regularly phones her congregation and has now started doing Zoom webcam worship from the vicarage. Hopefully, Margaret will soon be planning to open the church doors. The image shows Margaret on the church path, which is the main entrance to the church. Lockdown has affected the whole of the country, but cannot stop God’s work and words."

I hope you all like my photo, the competition closed tonight, so I have now shared my image online

Thank you for being a terrific stranger Margaret, it was lovely to meet you.

Find out more about the project and see pictures taken by other photographers at the 100 Strangers Flickr Group page


My own strangers can be seen here:

Perfect portrait and characterization! FAV! May I pin it, please? I'm crossing my fingers for you, Phil!
June 18th, 2020  
@marlboromaam Maggie , you may pin any of my photos :) Thank you for your kind words
June 18th, 2020  
@phil_howcroft Pinned. Thank you and best wishes for a win!
June 18th, 2020  
A great image for the competition. I'm sure it will make the short list.. And great you have chosen the full shot.. though I am sure the head and shoulder would be great as well..
June 18th, 2020  
Amazig and wonderful image - Love the darkness of the old church with its closed doors yet Margaret , the messenger of god so white and shining through with hope ! - Best wishes with the composition ! fav
June 18th, 2020  
It's wonderful Phil. So powerful but full of hope somehow. Best of Luck in the competition. I'm sure you'll do well!
June 19th, 2020  
What a great shot Phil. One that will in time to come mean a lot more. fav.
June 19th, 2020  
Great portrait and I keep my fingers crossed for the contest !
June 19th, 2020  
Fav. Well done. May you win!
June 19th, 2020  
This is really neat - if you can call a vicar neat! She has a lovely surplice. Best in B&W to make her the star!
June 19th, 2020  
Fav for a fabulous shot: the contrast of the whites (hair, mask, surplice) of Margaret's figure with all the other sombre tones in the photo; the composition, clarity; the symmetry of the church architecture..... I do feel some sinister undertones in the shot yet I also found myself thinking that must be lavender bordering the path and imagining the scent. To win would be great of course but this portrait is about more than winning.
June 19th, 2020  
I think this is a super portrait and says so very much. Twice as shocking somehow to see a vicar with a mask on when their whole job is communication and care. We have been attending online church the past few months, which helps you stay in touch.
I imagine this competition will enjoy your entry very much. An excellent portrait, instant and easy fav.
June 19th, 2020  
Fav. And the winner is ..... Phil Howcroft! Well done on a terrific shot.
June 19th, 2020  
This is a class social comment image, Phil. In years to come all that a viewer should need to know is that it was made in the time of the pandemic lockdown. There's lots of 'tells' and symbolism there if you take the time to look; the vicar's mask and the closed church door are particularly eloquent, I think.
I very much hope this is chosen for the exhibition, good luck!
June 19th, 2020  
awesome shot - love this one - powerful statement indeed
June 19th, 2020  
Wow this is a winner indeed Phil. Your subject & story telling is spot on for the times we are living in. I’m sure the judges will be bowled over by Margaret. I was quite riveted by her masked face...so much more dramatic than seeing her face properly. Spot on to get this angle as it gives her stature & portrays the full seriousness of our COVID troubles. Will wait with interest to see how you do!
Just a thought, was this not the church your daughters got married in Phil...I see my recognise the pathway?
June 19th, 2020  
@happypat hi Pat, thanks for your lovely comment. I have photographed the church a few times on my 365 and yes, Kirsty was married at St. Mary's in 2013

@pdulis thank you Peter, thanks for your lovely words

@dulciknit Hi Alison, nice to see you back on 365, I am pleased you picked out the key elements of the shot , I am really pleased with the photo

@sangwann Dione thanks for your awesome words :)

@casablanca Thanks Casa' , I thought this might connect with you as I know you worship at church every week . Margaret was a really nice lady, I am sure you would like her :)

@quietpurplehaze Haze, thanks for your lovely reply and great comments. Interesting that you use the word "sombre" as Margaret used that word when she described the photo ;)

@maggiemae thanks Maggie, I am pleased you like this photo , it does work well

June 19th, 2020  
@sdutoit Sylvia thank you for your kind words :)

@cocobella Corinne , thank you , I think there will be thousands of entries, so it will be difficult

@gamelee thanks Lee, I am pleased with the photo , I think it does make a statement :)

@jackies365 jackie, I am pleased you like the photo , your words are so good to read :)

@beryl beryl , your analysis is spot on , thank you for the lovely words :)

@julzmaioro thanks julia , i may post the headshot in a few days :)
June 19th, 2020  
good luck what a great shot and story
June 20th, 2020  
This is a fab portrait Phil. I think you made a good choice as the church behind really adds to the story. Good luck with the competition. 🤞🏻
June 20th, 2020  
This is fabulous. I can’t imagine that your photo won’t be chosen. It is perfect.
June 20th, 2020  
@lesip thank you leslie for your lovely comment and visit

@nickspicsnz thank you Nick , I am pleased you like this

@louannwarren Lou that is so kind of you to say , thank you :)
June 20th, 2020  
You should definitely win. This makes such a powerful statement. Definitely need the full figure and the VRC background o tell your story. Good luck! You have already won on this site!
June 20th, 2020  
Powerful words, love the portrait, sums up the situation so well. Good luck!
June 20th, 2020  
@allie912 thanks allison , yes you are right I have won on this site :)
I went onto the National Portrait Gallery website today and they have had over 30,000 entries !!! It is going to be a long shot to be in the top 100 , plus how do you judge over 30K entries ?

@fbailey thanks felicity , it was a planned shoot, but it has captured the situation we have found ourselves in !
June 24th, 2020  
Phil I had missed this photo (and many others recently). I find it SOOOO nice and intriguing. All the things I think of this pic and of the storytelling have a been said by the many who have commented in the past few days. Congratulations for a good job. Let us know how the competition will go! Fav
July 5th, 2020  
@caterina thank you for those really lovely words caterina, I am really pleased with this photo , probably one of my best of the year so far :)
July 5th, 2020  
Leave a Comment
Sign up for a free account or Sign in to post a comment.