Photography bursary launched in memory of Guardian’s Eamonn McCabe | Photography

A bursary focusing on the theme of sporting endeavour and designed to help talented young photographers has been launched in honour of the memory of the award-winning Guardian and Observer photographer Eamonn McCabe.

Eamonn McCabe.

The bursary, established by The Royal Photographic Society (RPS), The Guardian and Observer and McCabe’s family will give £3,000 to a photographer aged 25 or under to produce a project.

The RPS described McCabe, who died in 2022, as “one of the outstanding photographers of his generation”. He had produced “a swathe of memorable images that defined their era”, it said.

McCabe started his career as a sports photographer, worked as an educator and broadcaster and was the Guardian’s picture editor for 13 years.

Ben Johnson wins the 100-metre sprint at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, with Carl Lewis and Linford Christie coming second and third. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

He won picture editor of the year six times and sports photographer of the year four times. He also won news photographer of the year in 1985 for his images of the Heysel stadium disaster in Brussels. In the 2000s he pivoted to portraiture, photographing key figures from Tony Blair to Iris Murdoch and Lou Reed to Desmond Tutu. Many of his images are displayed in the National Portrait Gallery.

Iris Murdoch at home in Oxford. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

The bursary recognises McCabe’s commitment to supporting other photographers, including those just setting out on their careers, said his wife Rebecca Smithers, a former Guardian journalist who is supporting the award along with Ben and Mabel McCabe.

“Eamonn was always generous with advice and practical help to up-and-coming young photographers whether on assembling a portfolio, choosing the right course or trying to secure work experience,” Smithers said. “He knew from personal experience how tough it was for people starting out who did not have any contacts in the business.”

Tom Jenkins, an award-winning Guardian sports photographer and videographer, said the mentoring he received from McCabe had been invaluable.

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Boxer Sylvester Mittee tapes his hands before a training session at Frank Warren’s gym in King’s Cross, London in 1984. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

“The photographic world owes Eamonn McCabe a huge debt. He was an inspiration to a whole generation in this country and abroad,” he said. “Countless young photographers like me were given a first break and encouraged into the profession by him. Not only has he left a legacy of incredible images but he has also generously ensured that photographers following on behind him are set up to succeed.”

Those wishing to apply for the bursary can do so online before the start of August, the RPS said. The theme can be “interpreted as widely as the applicant wishes” but their work should be new and suitable for publication, it said. The chosen project will be published by the Guardian and brought to a wider audience. The winner is expected to be announced before the end of September, with the project given 12 months for completion.

Zadie Smith. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/The Guardian

“Eamonn was incredibly encouraging of aspiring photographers and this bursary will continue that by producing new and exciting photography into the future,” a spokesperson for the RPS said.

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