If you’d been standing outside London’s iconic May Fair Hotel one evening last week you might have noticed dozens of people leaving the hotel clutching bright yellow Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky bags. No, the hotel hadn’t set up as an off-licence, the bag-holders were guests on their way home from the launch party for Travel Photographer of the Year 2012.
Until now, TPOTY launch parties have consisted of the TPOTY team collapsing in an exhausted heap as last-minute gremlins have been defeated and that year’s new competition website has gone live and the final press release has been emailed to the media. Refreshments at these rather low-key affairs have tended to comprise cups of tea and a plentiful supply of biscuits. For 2012, however, things were rather different.
We still had some last minute internet gremlins to battle, but, thanks to the very generous support of The May Fair Hotel, Radisson Blu Edwardian London and Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky, the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year awards were launched in style – and what style!
As guests sipped photography-themed Cutty Sark cocktails in the beautiful Crystal Room – recipes to follow in a future post – the TPOTY team was stacking those yellow goodie bags (NOT full of whisky, though we did send each guest home with a pocket-sized bottle to keep the night’s chill at bay), and running through the slideshow in the May Fair Theatre.
It was fantastic to see such a great mix of TPOTY photographers (including Stuart Dunn, fresh back from his Elephant Family/Cutty Sark prize commmission in India, Young TPOTY 2010 winner Kat Waters and TPOTY prizewinner Philip Lee Harvey) alongside TPOTY sponsors and judges plus travel and photography journalists and other guests from both industries.
Then, when we could prise the guests away from what must be the best canapes in London, everyone came into the theatre to hear TPOTY founder Chris Coe announce the sponsors, categories and prizes for the 2012 awards.
Later blog posts will focus on the individual categories, and how we devise them each year, so suffice it for now to say that prizes such as the Cutty Sark Award for the overall winner of TPOTY 2012 were a big hit with the audience (who particularly liked the idea of the winner being able to blend their own whisky, as well as receiving a £2,500 paid commission for Cutty Sark and £2,500 in cash).
The highlights for the TPOTY team were the very kind words from Jason Craig from Cutty Sark and Alasdair MacLeod of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and the hush that descended on the audience at the start of the presentation, as a four-minute slideshow of images from the past nine years of TPOTY was shown, set to music.
For those of us who work so closely with all these incredible images and talented photographers, it was a lovely ‘time-out’ to just sit back and take stock of the years gone by. And for those who were not so familiar with TPOTY, it was – we were told – a magical experience, with stunning, exciting, humorous, fascinating and moving images appeared one by one on the May Fair Theatre’s big screen.
At the end of the day, that’s what Travel Photographer of the Year is all about. The images. And we are enormously grateful to the May Fair Hotel for staging them in such a wonderful setting, and to Cutty Sark for providing those cocktails. We can’t think of a better location for our first-ever awards launch party!