It was a great pleasure and an interesting exercise to have taken part in the judging process of the inaugural Photogrvphy Grant.
Its premise is straightforward: Photogrvphy Grant awards $1000 annually to the applicant with the most inspirational photographic idea to support their visual project. My [Barry W. Hughes] acceptance of the invitation was based on the grant’s emphasis on young and emerging talent, its openness – geographical, age and category – but more importantly, that this competition is actually a grant and being promoted as such. In other words, this competition was less about vanity and more about the work.
Let’s be honest, there are quite a lot of competitions now. The big ones are sponsored by multinational corporations and principally geared towards promoting those who have an established presence, or seek to establish a firmer presence by the industry’s latest darling. They are as closed-shop as they are stilted, rarely hold surprises but often come with ethical arguments. There are competitions that are formulated by partnerships (say between a gallery and publication), which seek to create a synergised platform of promotion for all concerned. These can offer something different, and even be valuable to the winner, if those who are judging do so with integrity. By that, I mean selecting a winner based on the work’s merits, not what is trending on social media. On the other hand there are those competitions that simply come with large fees and mean fuck all to anyone in any regard – win or lose.
At the photo competition’s heart is advertising and adoration. Photographers who were ignored for many years can win an accolade and enjoy a bright future literally overnight. This has always irked me, as I would appreciate an artwork based on my taste and understanding, not on Brett Rogers’ opinion for instance, so what changes with an announcement in a sweaty room with terrible lighting? Money is always the answer to that. Those with the money, who finance the entire machine the majority of photographers think they can merit their way into, will only part with that money on the say-so of certain names and institutions. It’s no different to the politics of council boroughs.
On occasion I think it has nothing to do with the competition model itself – it is the attention-craved people who run them, judge them and win them. But does this make me sound like a mean bastard? Maybe the future of the photography competition should be one of assistance in the crudest sense. If you win, based on your talent and competence hopefully, you will be given a practical prize that can benefit your career from the inside. Rather than engaging in Photo X Factor talent shows, surely the model of tomorrow is one of empowerment over endowment. In the end it can be very simple: when a photographer who has decent talent but not much confidence wins the compliment of an award, that could actually change their entire outlook for the better, and help them realise their goals as an artist. And that is never a bad thing.
American photographer Drew Nikonowicz has been announced as the overall winner of this year’s Photogrvphy Grant and granted $1000 prize money to support his visual projects. His winning series, titled This World and Others Like It investigates the role of the 21st century explorer by combining computer modelling with analogue photographic processes. [for those who don’t know, Drew Nikonowicz also recently took over the SMBHmag Instagram]
Additionally, four photographers were featured as category winners:
Patryk Karbowski (Poland) in City category
Aleksey Kondratyev (Kyrgyzstan) in Outdoor category
Matt Hamon (United States) in People category
Elena Anosova (Russia) in Story category
The 2016 Photogrvphy Grant received 3132 submissions from which 274 were awarded with Honorable Mention.
Winning series were selected by panel of international judges, including: Hugh Merrell, Jon Feinstein, Michael Pritchard, David Bram, Sarah Krueger, Aram Kim, Fosi Vegue, Barry W Hughes, Emanuele Cucuzza, Robyn Lange, Jurriaan Van Kranendonk, Christina Force, Gianpaolo Arena, John Kenney, Niccolò Fano, Daria Bonera, Steve Bisson, Rohit Vohra, Jorrit R Dijkstra, Alison Zavos and Martin Stavars
For more information and to see a wider selection of images visit Photogrvphy Grant winners’ gallery