Parliament picks Queen portrait winner

24/05/2010

A 23-year-old photography graduate from Glasgow has been selected to take a portrait of Her Majesty The Queen on behalf of the Scottish Parliament.

Shaun Murawski will take the first-ever formal portrait of The Queen to go on display at Holyrood.

Shaun was one of five finalists short-listed for the once-in-a-lifetime project which was judged by a panel of experts including award-winning Scots photographer Harry Benson CBE and members of the Parliament’s Art Advisory Group (AAG).

The self-employed photographer, an HND Photography graduate from Reid Kerr College in Paisley, will now start preparing for the royal project under the watchful eye of Mr Benson, who agreed to mentor the winning photographer before and during the royal photo shoot.

New York-based Benson, who volunteered his services for free, will help Shaun decide the best location, lighting and theme for the portrait which will highlight the Queen’s links to Scotland. He will also guide the graduate during the photo shoot taking place in Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse in July.

All five finalists were invited to Holyrood last Friday to give a 20-minute presentation on how they would tackle the photo shoot and show the seven-strong panel of judges various examples of their work to date. Harry Benson took part in the process via a video link from the US.

Speaking after the six-hour judging session, Mr Benson said: “Any one of the finalists would have done an excellent job but Shaun just had the edge. His obvious passion and love for photography came through and you could see he has real talent.

"He realises this is going to be the biggest project in his life so far, as not many people, let alone those starting out, get to photograph The Queen. I am sure he will do a tremendous job.

"In many ways he reminded me of myself at that age and, coupled with his obvious talent, will make him an interesting and hugely enjoyable person for me to get to know over the next few weeks.”

Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP said: "I was enormously impressed with the standard of entries which accurately reflected the exciting talent emerging from Scotland's higher education establishments.

"I know it was a tough job for the panel to select the eventual winner and I am sure Shaun will be both excited and a little nervous about working with Harry.

"He now has a unique opportunity to take a portrait of one of the most recognisable faces in the world which visitors to the Scottish Parliament will see for many years to come. I wish Shaun the very best of luck and am very much looking forward to seeing his work on display at Holyrood."

Winner Shaun Murawski, from Glasgow, said: “It’s all a bit surreal. I can’t believe in a matter of weeks I am going to be photographing The Queen and that my work will go on display in Holyrood. It is more than a dream, it’s just unbelievable.

"I told the judges my aim in photography is to try to capture a feeling at any moment, which reflects that person. It will be the same with The Queen.

"I will possibly be the youngest, and possibly most 'off-the wall’ person she has sat for and that makes this project even more exciting and makes me more determined to get the right picture.

"I see The Queen as a steady figure in an ever-changing world and I hope to get that across in my work. I have never photographed a celebrity before – and there is nothing like starting at the top.”

Robin Harper MSP, chair of the AAG, said: “This project confirmed my belief that Scotland is producing photography students of extraordinarily high quality. The entries were of a phenomenally high standard and it was a close competition between all five finalists.

"In the end, however, there was a consensus that Shaun has the skills which best suited this project. He is a very open and honest lad with a genuine warmth and love of people. He also clearly has a raw passion for photography and we are sure he will take a first class portrait of Her Majesty.”

All higher education establishments across Scotland which run photography courses were invited to nominate two graduates for the honour of photographing the Queen. Selection was made on the basis of the quality and innovation demonstrated in the entrant’s work.

The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body agreed to commission the portrait in January after a recommendation by the AAG. It followed a request for a portrait of the Queen to go on display at the Scottish Parliament by Murdo Fraser MSP. The new photographic portrait will go on display in a public area of Holyrood later this year.

Two of Harry Benson’s portraits, of previous Presiding Officers Sir David Steel and George Reid, are part of the Scottish Parliament’s current art collection. Mr Benson gained international acclaim for his photos documenting various political events and his portraits of well-known figures including Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama and The Beatles. He was awarded the CBE in the New Year Honours List 2009 for his services to photography.

The Art Advisory Group is made up of MSPs and representatives of the arts in Scotland. The group’s purpose is to advise on the purchase of art for the Parliament’s collection.

The other finalists, who all graduated within the last four years, were:

  • Carolyn Scott from Fife
  • Julie Tinton, Sylwia Kowalczyk and Chris Park, who are all resident in Edinburgh.
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