Robert snaps top award

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AN award-winning photographer has added two more titles to his name – thanks to an image from The Tall Ships Races and another featuring a new-born baby.

Hartlepool-based Robert Usher scooped the awards for regional Portrait Photographer of the Year and Top Pictorial/Illustrative Picture at the British Institute of Professional Photographers North East competition.

One of his award-winning shots was of the class A ship Santa Maria Manuela pictured against a Hartlepool skyline at the town leg of The Tall Ships Races.

The other was of tiny Zara Auty, who was just eight days old at the time of the photograph.

It marks yet more success for Robert, 53, who had taken the title of top wedding photographer in the region at the awards for three years running up to last year.

Now he has won the portrait section in which he had been runner-up in the previous three years.

The winning picture of baby Zara was presented to her proud parents – Easy Jet cabin crew worker Katie Robson, 26, and sales worker Ben Auty, 28, both from Bishop Cuthbert – by Robert at his York Road studio, in Hartlepool.

Katie said: “I wanted a picture of Zara just after she was born because babies don’t look like that for very long.

“I love the ones that Robert took.”

Robert said: “I am delighted to win the portrait section after being runner-up for three years in a row.

“This year, I entered three photographs in the competition and won two sections and was runner-up in another.”

Robert has been a photographer for more than 30 years and moved into the profession after previously working as a miner at Vane Tempest pit, in east Durham.

He was the official photographer at the Hartlepool leg of The Tall Ships Races and is also the man who puts together the £10,000 package of prizes for the Bride of the Year competition run by him in conjunction with the Hartlepool Mail.