Exclusive: FEI’s Richard Johnson on the Eye-Catching World Photo Grand Prix

By iSportconnect | June 3, 2014

The FEI (Fédération Équestre Internationale) has been pushing to grow their solidarity programme with the introduction of the FEI Solidarity World Photo Grand Prix.

The main aim of the FEI Solidarity Programme is to provide national federations the ability to develop equestrian sport in their own country in a sustainable, structured, progressive and professional manner. With the introduction of this new competition, the FEI is hoping to highlight the diversity and global reach of equestrian sport.

The FEI Solidarity World Photo Grand Prix, launched with Action Images/Thomson Reuters, encourages amateur and professional photographers to submit images that capture an aspect of equestrian sport and lifestyles in a memorable and eye-catching way.

iSportconnect caught up with FEI Director of Corporate Communications Richard Johnson who spoke more about the new initiative.


Can you tell us a bit about the FEI Solidarity World Photo Grand Prix that you have recently announced?

It came about as a new digital and social media campaign by the FEI to highlight our FEI Solidarity programme and the forthcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The ultimate ambition of this innovative partnership, working alongside Action Images/Reuters, was to unearth new photography talent all over the world and that included amateur and professional photographers.

What was the inspiration for the idea?

It was my inspiration. I am Director of Corporate Communications and I was looking to create an obvious platform, as the bread and butter of our job in communications is using powerful imagery and what better way to find new imagery and new photographers that can try and challenge the perception of world sport.

Our sport can be perceived in a certain way and through photography we are looking to change those perceptions of the sport, by making it a little bit more accessible and contemporary, because we are not looking predominantly for photographers that have an experience in equestrian sport. You don’t have to be a horse lover or horse rider to take a good picture of our sport.

How has the response been so far?

The response has been overwhelming. Already in a few days we have had over 1000 quality entries from all over the world, from professional and amateur photographers and there has been quite a big interest. I don’t think people are aware that the subject matter of equestrian sport is pretty wide. We made it quite clear in the competition that we are not just looking for traditional pictures of horses. I am keen to capture any abstract vision of a horse. We could have been very safe in doing a traditional competition, by saying ‘send us a picture of a pretty horse.’ That’s not what this is about. It is to show powerful images on anything to do with equestrianism.

We are totally unique in our sport as we have two athletes; the human and the horse so we want to also find and develop a strong portfolio of human athletes as well.


You have a number of categories for entrants. How did you decide upon these categories?

We wanted to have an interesting spectrum that would encourage different audiences that normally wouldn’t be involved with equestrianism in the past. Through FEI Solidarity, which is a grass roots development programme set up by FEI President HRH Princess Haya, it’s all about developing the grass roots and if anything this competition is one aspect of that in that we are nurturing new equestrian talent around the world hence we have categories for photography students, for people under 16, for amateurs and etc so it’s all about finding that hidden photography talent which we know is out there. Ultimately we will be able to commission these photographers at the events we have all over the world. We have over 3,500 events all over the world so we need to find photographers.

Can you tell us a bit about the judging panel and how you came to pick the judges?

We’ve gone for a top-tier judging panel. The panel is chaired by HRH Princess Haya who is a passionate and creative individual who loves photography. Then we have top-tier individuals like Bob Rosato from USA Today, Melissa Farlow, an award-winning National Geographic photographer and Mark Adams, Director of Communications at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to name a few.

We are also delighted to have the title sponsor of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Deirdre Lyons, the Co-Founder and Director of Corporate Image and Design at Alltech who will be judging. Having her on board will be wonderful.

Finally, do you have any messages you want to pass on to entrants for the competition?

We are looking for passionate photographers from any sport or any background. We are not just looking for traditional horse lovers, we want the most creative photographers and we want to be challenged ourselves. We see our sport as entertainment. It is very rich with opportunities; we have sport, we have the fans, we have athletes, but most importantly we also have an animal, so we have a real good mix of three or four different elements that make it right for creative work.

The competition runs until June 29 and is open to everyone via http://feiworldphotograndprix.com, and to Instagram users who can enter their images by using the hashtag #FEIPhotoGrandPrix.

Richard Johnson for the last 5 ½ years has overseen the corporate communications strategy and development of the FEI, based in Lausanne. His role encompasses digital & print publications, online campaigns, social media development, website development & innovative exhibition creation whist supporting the development of FEI Solidarity. With 18 years’ experience in the communications field, Richard has blended his career from some of the largest NGO’s, entertainment industry and sports world.

Throughout his career he has created managed and developed a number of innovative campaigns and high profile events from international film premiers to celebrity based events and public exhibition projects. Throughout Europe and USA Richard has created and managed a number of international photographic exhibitions and campaigns with international media exposure.

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