The artistic talent of a Leigh teenager has caught the eye of legendary photographer Martin Parr, who has chosen an image by Belfairs Academy pupil Alfie Winters to be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.
“Stoned & Plastered” - a shot of a man standing outside an ornament dealers near London’s Columbia Road - was selected from hundreds of entries and now takes its place in Parr’s acclaimed exhibition “Only Human” at the gallery just off Trafalgar Square.
Alfie, whose photographs will also be showcased locally in June during the Leigh Art Trail, said: “I’m beyond speechless. I truly cannot believe that at 15 years old I have my image on display in such an iconic gallery in London. The fact that Martin Parr has even looked at my photos is amazing enough.”
It is easy to see why Parr was drawn to Alfie’s work. Parr’s “Only Human” show at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on wry, affectionate observations of Britishness and British identity. Many of Alfie’s photographs share the humour and quirkiness of Parr’s - a remarkable achievement considering the youngster is still doing his GCSEs.
“I mostly photograph street scenes,” added Alfie, who has never studied photography at school and is completely self-taught. “I’ve always been obsessed with people-watching, which perhaps is an odd thing for a 15-year-old boy, but that’s me!
“The picture came about on a trip to Brick Lane. It just looked like an interesting scene that needed to be captured, so I quickly got out my phone and shot the photo while walking by.
“I posted it on Instagram and the National Portrait Gallery sent me an email saying I’d been shortlisted. That was a shock. Then two days later, while I was in class at school, they got in touch again to say my photo was being framed and put on display.”
On top of that achievement, Alfie is about to become the youngest ever artist to exhibit on the Leigh Art Trail, having been selected this year from nearly 100 new applicants.
Mixed-media painter Emma Bell, from gallery 70 The Broadway, said: “Alfie first applied for the Trail when he was 14. We had no idea how old he was, but it was obvious he had a natural eye and he was one of the few photography applicants not presenting images of the estuary.
“There was an inconsistency in the style, which made me think he was young. I invited him to show in my gallery and he really impressed me with his attitude and his body of work. He came to meetings on his own, was always prompt and polite, he asked questions and welcomed advice.
“I’m thrilled his talent has been recognised by Martin Parr and soon visitors to the Leigh Art Trail will be able to see what all the fuss is about, too.”