The story behind the best portrait of 2020 by an emerging photographer Bas van Est, Winner of Spotlight Awards Portraiture & Celebrity Category


After a series of inspiring documentary projects and short films, Bas van Est, an Amsterdam-based photographer and director, has proved that a single picture can tell lots of stories. Our judges from Rolling Stone Magazine, Esquire,  Harper’s Bazaar and HAVAS have selected his spontaneus shot as the best in Portraiture & Celebrity category of the Spotlight Awards.


Portraiture & Celebrity Photography Category winning image of the Spotlight Photo Awards 2020. Photographer: Bas van Est


Production Paradise: Tell us about the winning image – the idea behind it, how was it shot?

Bas van Est: This is Adonis Duvergel, posing in the bedroom of his family home in Old Town Havana, Cuba.

I had an extra day in Havana after finishing with a shoot for Kathmandu and talked to New Zealand stylist Elois Morin, also in Havana at the time, about doing a small project together. She had spotted Adonis from across her balcony one day and asked if he was keen to be part of the shoot. He happily invited us into his home, introduced us to his family, and kindly offered up his wardrobe for Eloise to style him with.

This picture is a moment between changing outfits, a confident gaze framed by the surroundings of the bedroom he had lived in his whole life.

Spotlight Awards Portraiture & Celebrity Category Winner Photographer: Bas van Est


Production Paradise: How do you feel about winning the Category Prize of Spotlight Awards 2020?

Bas van Est: Last year was one of the busiest years and most fun years of my career…the momentum to carry this on has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. Needless to say, news like this provided a welcome boost!! Thanks again!

Production Paradise: How would you describe your style?

Bas van Est: I used to think in very clean, clear, and rigid lines…the dutch in me wanted to apply this to photography in my initial years of shooting. I’ve let this go….and that’s the style I’ve now adopted. Letting go and moving a certain flow that comes about in a shoot…. like a dance between light, the subject, and myself. The result is emotive, cinematic, and free-flowing imagery.

Production Paradise: Name three photographers that have inspired you.

Bas van Est: I’m endlessly mesmerised by the works of Jack Davison, Tom Craig, and Jacob Au Sobol at the moment.

Production Paradise: How did you end up behind the lens? Tell us about your career path.

Bas van Est: I’ve never been good at sitting still for long… unless I was drawing. After finishing my university degree in environmental science and working a nine to five desk job I had to get out. So, I embarked on a six-month trip to South America with two friends which changed my life.
Armed with a Sony Cybershot, and a basic Nokia for emergencies, I found that I wanted to shoot everything and anything… collage them, and edit them (if it could be called that) and the result was my first total immersion in the practice, without even realising this at the time.
The impulse to shoot hung around after my travels so I returned to study photography. Here’s when the infatuation with light and the medium finally found its outlet and I realised I was able to work for an immense number of hours, weeks on end, and not get sick of it. The rest is a blur and here we are.

Production Paradise: What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?

Bas van Est: A strong mind to navigate the weird world of challenges a photographer faces on a weekly basis….and I’m speaking from the position of an emerging photographer.

Production Paradise: If you weren’t a photographer, what would be your alternate career path?

Bas van Est: I can barely imagine a life like that but probably something to do with music…

Production Paradise: We believe you are not resting on your laurels – what are you working on now?

Bas van Est: I literally just received the final edit of my new short film ‘Yusef y Ramiro’. The story of a Cuban athlete preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

So I’m currently mapping out the film festivals I will pitch this into and looking around where the photo essay will be best suited for in terms of print media.

Production Paradise: Spotlight Awards had a judges’ panel composed of potential clients for commercial photographers – did that influence your choice of image(s) selected for your entry?

Bas van Est: No, not at all. Most of the work I show is personal work which seems to work as industry creatives are often more interested in seeing this over a single campaign image.

Production Paradise: What made you want to participate in these Awards?

Bas van Est: As an emerging photographer, I thought this would be a great platform to be seen on.


We would like to thank Bas for taking the time to share his experience with us! If you want to see more of his work, visit his member page or his website.

Production Paradise has published a special edition of the Spotlight Magazine featuring all the winners and their images. Make sure you subscribe to our blog and Spotlight Magazine so you won’t miss out!

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