Late-starter wins £15,000 photography prize after granddaughter calls the shot

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A grandfather who taught himself photography after he was given a camera at the age of 30 has won the inaugural £15,000 Schweppes photographic portrait prize.

Roben Antoniewicz, 49, beat 1,200 other photographers to scoop the prize yesterday at the National Portrait Gallery, London. His work will go on show at the gallery with more than 60 other shortlisted works from tomorrow until 15 February.

The winning portrait, of his granddaughter Mairead, was taken at his home in Perth, Scotland, on her second birthday.

It was chosen for the prize by a jury including Mary McCartney Donald, Paul McCartney's photographer daughter; Sandy Nairne, the director of the National Portrait Gallery; and the critic Ekow Eshun.

Five years ago, Mr Antoniewicz was shortlisted for the Schweppes prize's predecessor, the John Kobal photographic portrait prize.

Mr Antoniewicz said he normally tried to control the picture, but his granddaughter had dictated the terms on this occasion.

"I'd considered making a formal portrait of her in my studio, but she instinctively posed for me in my kitchen," he said.

"In some ways, this is an idealised vision of Mairead. She's wearing a Victorian-style party dress and she resembles a porcelain doll. At the same time there is a tension in the photograph.

"The following day she was leaving Scotland with her parents to live in Manchester. I don't know whether Mairead sensed the family's trepidation of this, but she seems apprehensive and hesitant."

The second prize winner was another Scot, Victor Albrow, 51, of Edinburgh, with a portrait of the red-headed five-year-old twin sons of a friend. Third prize went to Alan Powdrill, 36, a professional photographer, with a portrait of Gerry George, a professional model and writer. Both runners-up received £1,000.

A £5,000 award, sponsored by Deloitte, for the best portrait by a photographer aged 25 or under was won by David Yeo, 19, for a portrait of his three cousins.

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