A PORTFOLIO of photographs of "astonishing ability" has won the AIB Photojournalist of the Year for the Irish Independent's Mark Condren – the third time he has claimed the prize.
The judges said Mark's work stood out for its great composition and mastery, with a set of images "that were difficult to fault but easy to feel envious of".
Mark, pictured, who scooped the Press Photographers Association of Ireland's (PPAI) top award in 2010 and 2011 and came second last year, also took first prize in the reportage section of the competition, with 'Final Journey', a photo essay which documented the repatriation to Romania of the remains of murdered teenager Mariora Rostas.
He was third in the news section, with an evocative study of businessman Sean Quinn, with tears in his eyes at a support rally for him in Cavan.
Another Irish Independent staff photographer, Steve Humphreys, took first prize in the competitive politics section with 'Taoi-shock', which the judges said was "a brilliantly spotted moment at what was probably a banal political photo op", captured with great skill.
Steve has won several PPAI awards over the years, including photojournalist of the year in 2008.
More than 2,000 images were entered into this year's competition by 120 photojournalists from around the country, in nine categories: news, daily life, sports action, sports portfolio, portrait, environ-ment, politics, arts and entertainment and reportage.
In all, 12 images taken by Mark caught the eye of the judges, capturing comic moments such as little "angels" outside the live animal crib on Dawson Street, Dublin, at Christmas, to the raw grief of Margaret Kershaw whose son Kevin was one of five fishermen downed off Union Hall in Cork.
Even when surrounded by other press photographers, it is often Mark's shot that stands out, such as his heart-rending portrait of Gordon Snell at the funeral of his wife Maeve Binchy.
Two other photographs by Steve won praise from the judges: his humourous shot of a young cowboy at the Horse Show at the RDS and his portrait of Michael Madsen – 'Reservoir Dogs' Mr Blonde – in dramatic pose between press interviews.
Other photographers who regularly feature in these pages and whose shots were selected by the judges for an exhibition that will feature 125 of the competition images include Gareth Chaney, Caroline Quinn and Brian Farrell.