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Outstanding New Photographic Portraits from Around the World

Paul Spencer Portrait Awards 2024, Juror's Pick

Paul Spencer

United Kingdom

Selected by Jim Casper

Editor-in-Chief LensCulture

Paul Spencer - Bio

In 1978, aged 17, Paul Spencer won a scholarship to Croydon College of Art to study painting, drawing and sculpture under Bruce McLean & Helen Chadwick, before taking his degree in fine art, graphic design, photography and film (Norwich school of art, 1979-1981).


In the mid-eighties, Spencer assisted reportage photographer, Rod Shone, igniting his own career in photography. Spencer moved fluidly between portraiture and reportage spending time in Ceaușescu’s Romania documenting gypsy life or Norfolk’s Outlaw biker gatherings, whilst simultaneously capturing the essence of sub-culture with Paul Simonon and The Clash, John Lydon and the Sex Pistols and jazz legend Lol Coxhill.


A decade collaboration with friend and muse, Sara Stockbridge - notorious cult anti-fashion Vivienne Westwood supermodel - combined Spencer’s still photography with film work that would later travel from London to Beijing with the V&A as part of their Fashion in Film exhibition. 


By the nineties, Spencer was photographer of choice to capture the darker side of characters including Shane McGowan, Bryan Ferry, Colin Salmon, Robert Carlyle, Robert Cray, Elvis Costello, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Radiohead. 


His “British Image 1 & 2” of the emerging band Blur, sliced a gash between the gentrified fetish of the 80’s and the street-smart dressing-down tee, jeans and Doc Marten boots of the 90’s, establishing the band’s fashion style that would come to define the Britpop era. 


Over a three-day shoot Spencer was tasked to photograph the iconic singer and frontman, Morrissey of The Smith’s, at favourite London haunts including Grave Maurice pub, Whitechapel market and other Kray twins hangouts, before heading to a Kent mansion where he captured the now iconic “Eyes Shut” image used for both the Greatest Hits album cover tour and the artiste’s Penguin classic; Autobiography front cover; fees for which the Guinness World Record Company confirmed as the highest paid for a single book cover of all time. 


Combining film-footage and stills as backdrop to a barren stage in the heart of Shoreditch, in 2012 Spencer made his stage Director debut with the gritty one-man show: Ten Men: The Lives of John Bindon. 


Spencer’s compositions, embroidered with asymmetrical shadows and highlights in true blacks and high contrast whites, define his style; only selectively tempered with a smattering of his colour images of blue/green hues that foreshadow the sub-culture themes of his wide array of gangs, ladies of the night, the homeless, the forgotten or the hidden from society. 


Major brand commissions have included Dr Martens, Lowenbrau, Shelly’s, SAP, Vodafone, EMI, Getty, Vivienne Westwood, V&A Museum. 

A forerunner in donating limited edition artwork for the esteemed CRUK Sound & Vision fundraiser at Abbey Road Studios, Paul Spencer also works in mixed-media collage creating bespoke artworks and installations for numerous private collectors and businesses







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