© Martin Venezky, Barbara Levine

Announcing The Winners & Finalists!

The LensCulture Exposure Awards recognize and celebrate excellence in the visual language of photography. This year’s Winners, Jurors’ Picks, Finalists and Student Spotlights present us with an astonishing range of creative approaches and subject matter. Selected by a diverse international jury, the award-winning photographers hail from 22 countries on five continents, representing an intriguing and inspiring cross-section of contemporary photography today.

Our hope is that the 44 photographers showcased here allow you to see the world anew through their eyes, offering fresh and interesting perspectives on our ever-changing surroundings — and an appreciation for the power of photography to communicate many kinds of complex ideas, stories and emotions.

Series Winners

1st Place Series
Elena Anosova
Russian Federation
2nd Place Series
Areg Balayan
MOB (Military Mobilization)
3rd Place Series
Antoine Bruy
Outback Mythologies: The White Man's Hole

The Exposure Awards judging process was a delight from start to finish. I’m really impressed by the LensCulture community, clearly made up of dedicated and intensely focussed photographic practitioners. The collective diversity of the submissions offers a resounding celebration of photography’s capacity to express our world,
and what makes us human.

Charlotte Cotton, Curator & Writer

Single Image Winners

1st Place Single Image
Jonathan Bachman
United States
Unrest in Baton Rouge
2nd Place Single Image
Susan Copen Oken
United States
The Last Decade
3rd Place Single Image
Sandra Mehl
Ilona and Maddelena

Jurors’ Picks

Each of the eight jury members selected one photographer to be awarded special distinction and a cash grant. Here are the jurors’ special selections, with a brief quote from each juror explaining what they especially appreciate about these photographers and their work.

Julie Anand & Damon Sauer
United States
Selected by Ютинг Дуан
Festival Founder and Director Lianzhou Foto
Ютинг Дуан
Festival Founder and Director Lianzhou Foto
Guangdong, China

This is a comprehensive, complete body of work that was made with a great degree of technical difficulty. For me, the seemingly mundane landscape series was a clear stand-out among the many submissions that approached humanistic themes in very direct ways. This work touches on some of the historical and geopolitical problems that exist today, while questioning the vicious competition between humans within our increasingly advanced technological world. Throughout the creative process, the artist has also resourcefully explored various possibilities within the medium of photography.

Laetitia Vancon
Selected by Patrick Witty
Deputy Director of Photography National Geographic
Patrick Witty
Deputy Director of Photography National Geographic
Washington, D.C., USA

Laetitia Vancon used social media and couch-surfed her way across Scotland to create her beautifully intimate series “At the End of the Day.” Vancon weaves her way through landscapes and bedrooms, capturing the beauty and complexity of the dwindling island community. Vancon’s aesthetic is unique and surprising, sometimes haunting and always poetic.

Matic Zorman
Selected by Alexa Becker
Acquisitions Editor Kehrer Verlag Publishing
Alexa Becker
Acquisitions Editor Kehrer Verlag Publishing
Heidelberg/Berlin, Germany

Matic Zorman’s gift is to capture moments of human struggle that will stay in your mind. His images make you understand the refugees' suffering from the cold at night, from missing family members, from displacement. You get an idea of what it must feel like to be stuck in a chaotic, immovable crowd without a concrete, positive perspective or an idea when things will be changing for the better again. Still, in these touching photographs, there is an underlying beauty that gives a little hope.

His personal statement is key to his photography: in order to learn more about life, he immersed himself into his career as a photojournalist. Because he wants to learn, he gives us the chance to learn, to understand better, and ultimately to love our neighbor.

Tadas Kazakevicius
Selected by Karen McQuaid
Senior Curator The Photographers’ Gallery
Karen McQuaid
Senior Curator The Photographers’ Gallery
London, UK

“Soon to Be Gone” documents the rural communities and homesteads of Tadas Kazkevicius’ native Lithuania. These are villages that have lost great quantities of their young blood, lured away by the convenience of modern city living. His pictures however, stubbornly resist any sense of grief or destitution. Picturing the animals, residents and structures that populate these communities with a reverential centrality, his pictures inhabit the rhythms that govern a lifestyle on the edge of being eradicated.

Wes Bell
Selected by Мэри-Энн Голон
Director of Photography The Washington Post
Мэри-Энн Голон
Director of Photography The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., USA

When I first looked at Wes Bell’s series “Snag,” inspired by the death of his mother, I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of the idea and the extraordinary emotional presence in his images. I cried looking at them without even reading his artist statement. There is beauty, loss, and poetry in every single frame. When I read his motivation, I cried again with joy for his ability to translate his pain into these beautiful photographs. Loss and remembrance are universal, and Wes made feeling those emotions accessible and visible.

Amber Bracken
Selected by Шарлотт Коттон
Curator & Writer currently Curator-in-Residence at the ICP, NY and the Metabolic Studio, LA
Шарлотт Коттон
Curator & Writer currently Curator-in-Residence at the ICP, NY and the Metabolic Studio, LA
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Amber Bracken’s portrayal of life in the Standing Rock resistance camps is quite unforgettable, and comes out of Amber’s experiences and encounters during her sustained period of living there. There are quiet and intimate moments of reflection that only a member of this protecting tribe could observe, and the stark and violent confrontations that rain in on the water protection community are captured at close vantage points. The scale of the problem, and the beauty of what is at stake is brilliantly articulated in this project.

Viktoria Sorochinski
Selected by Саймон Бэйнбридж
Editorial Director British Journal of Photography
Саймон Бэйнбридж
Editorial Director British Journal of Photography
London, UK

First of all, these are extraordinary portraits. I have no doubt that a large part of their fascination is the photographer’s relationship with her subjects, which are both intimate and estranged. She writes about her happy childhood visits to grandparents in rural Ukraine, and on her return many years later, having lived in four different countries since adolescence, how she was astonished by “how lifeless and miserable it looked,” shocked by how the almost entirely elderly residents had to fend for themselves.

To me, as someone who lives and grew up in England, there’s also a fascination with the interiors—a sense of time stood still, like a museum for Soviet-era kitsch. A way of life seemingly untouched by IKEA or fast food or Facebook or any of the unappreciated comforts (and distractions) of modern life. But there’s also a horror and discomfort about their abandonment, a sense of the uncanny about the end-of-life purgatory that awaits, here illustrated by these real and living people eking out their remaining years in the land that time forgot.

These photographs are straightforward, but not merely descriptive. They capture something of her subjects’ inner lives; the sense of claustrophobia but also the residual pride in home and appearance. The photographer writes about commemorating a people and a culture that is dying. But what is astonishing to me is not so much the quiet time capsule that it captures as the fact that it co-existed—nearby yet unseen—with a world that is well into the 21st century, yet seeming to struggle with the unprecedented pace of change.

Martin Venezky & Barbara Levine
United States
Selected by Jim Casper
Editor-in-Chief LensCulture
Jim Casper
Editor-in-Chief LensCulture
Amsterdam, Netherlands

I like the way that the creative duo of Martin Venezky and Barbara Levine have defined imaginary horizons that connect a bunch of disparate anonymous images and give them new life. It’s a celebration of nearly forgotten memories and moments, scattered across time and place, but gathered together in a musical, cinematic, artful way. The odd juxtapositions and shifts in scale and color create dreamy wonderlands that hint at rich inner realities that no doubt differ from viewer to viewer. It’s a great way to appreciate the random discoveries provided by discarded family albums and old boxes of snapshots.


Vladimir Alekseev
Russian Federation

Student Spotlight

International Jury

Karen McQuaid
Senior Curator
The Photographers’ Gallery
Charlotte Cotton
Curator & Writer
Currently curator in residence at the ICP, NY and the Metabolic Studio, LA
Simon Bainbridge
Editorial Director
British Journal of Photography
MaryAnne Golon
Director of Photography
The Washington Post

Karen McQuaid is Curator at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. In this role she has been responsible for exhibitions such as Jim Goldberg, Open See (2010) and the gallery’s graduate exhibition freshfacedandwildeyed, established in 2008 and continuing annually. She has commissioned and organised off-site projects with artists such as Virginia Nimarkoh and Lucy Steggals. Karen received her MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Westminster. Before joining The Photographers’ Gallery in 2005 she worked for several years in publishing, at titles such as Tank (London) and Surface (San Francisco). Karen has undertaken portfolio reviews at Photo Biennale, Thessaloniki (2010) FotoFest Houston (2012) and Stockholm Photography Week (2012).

Charlotte Cotton is an independent curator and writer. She is currently curator in residence at the International Center of Photography, NY and the Metabolic Studio, LA. She has held positions including: curator of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum, head of programming at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, and head of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is the author of “The Photograph as Contemporary Art.” Her most recent exhibition was “Public, Private, Secret,” which opened the ICP’s new 250 Bowery exhibition and event space in June 2016. Her most recent book, “Photography is Magic” (2015) surveys the practices of eighty-five contemporary artists that are reshaping the idea of photography.

For the past 13 years, Bainbridge has acted as chief editor of British Journal of Photography, transforming it from a weekly trade journal into a lushly produced, award-winning monthly. As editorial director of Apptitude Media, he is responsible for all non-commercial content, overseeing BJP’s website and digital editions, and initiating new projects such as Portrait of Britain, a nationwide public art exhibition that reached more than 10 million people across the UK.

He has curated two exhibitions; Paper, Rock, Scissors: The Constructed Image in New British Photography at Toronto’s Flash Forward festival (in 2010, working with his colleague Diane Smyth), and Time & Motion Studies: New Documentary Photography Beyond the Decisive Moment at Hereford Museum & Art Gallery (2011). He has been a judge or nominator for numerous awards, including the Deutsche Börse Prize, Prix Pictet and Hasselblad Award, and he has worked with education institutions including The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and École cantonale d’art de Lausanne.

MaryAnne Golon is director of photography at the Washington Post. As a member of the senior management team, she supervises all aspects of photography for the daily newspaper and its digital forms: on the web, mobile and tablet. Golon received an IFA Lucie award as Picture Editor of the Year in 2013. Golon was previously Time magazine's director of photography and co-managed the international newsweekly’s photography department for more than 15 years. Golon led the photo team that produced the Hurricane Katrina and the September 11, 2001 special Time editions that each won coveted ASME National Magazine Awards. MaryAnne Golon received a B.S. in Journalism and Communications from the University of Florida and is a distinguished alumna. She completed a fellowship in Public Policy and Media Studies at Duke University.

Patrick Witty
Deputy Director of Photography
National Geographic
Alexa Becker
Acquisitions Editor
Kehrer Verlag Publishing
Yuting Duan
Festival Founder and Director
Lianzhou Foto
Jim Casper

Patrick Witty is the Deputy Director of Photography for Digital, leading the digital photography team as well as contributing to National Geographic magazine. Patrick was most recently the director of photography at WIRED, where he led photography across all platforms and produced award-winning covers on a variety of subjects from Dr. Dre to Edward Snowden.

Prior to joining WIRED, Patrick was the international picture editor at TIME where he edited global visual coverage that won numerous awards and recognition from organizations including the World Press Photo of the Year, Pictures of the Year International, the American Society of Magazine Editors and the Society of Professional Design. Patrick has served on multiple juries and has led workshops in Iraq, Bangladesh and Slovenia for local photographers and editors.

Previously, Patrick was the international picture editor at The New York Times and was a member of the foreign staff awarded the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting in 2009. Patrick began his career as a freelance photographer based in Washington, D.C., and New York. His editorial work has appeared in publications including TIME, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Stern and GEO. Patrick’s photographs from 9/11 were widely published and are part of the permanent collection at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Born in Kentucky, Patrick has a degree in Photojournalism from Western Kentucky University.

Alexa Becker is the acquisitions editor for photography and art books for Kehrer Verlag, a publisher located in Heidelberg, Germany. Having obtained her Master’s in Art History from the University of Heidelberg, she started her career at Kehrer in 2003, where she is now responsible for selecting and acquiring new photography and related projects. These include Jessica Backhaus’s first photo book “Jesus and the Cherries” and the recently published title “Snowbound” by photographer Lisa M. Robinson.

Yuting Duan has been dedicating herself to promoting Chinese contemporary photography for many years. Currently she is the director of Lianzhou International Photo Festival, one of the biggest and most influential photo festivals in China. She cofounded the festival in 2005 and has been closely involved with its development since. Ms. Duan has also been involved with the following festivals around the world: FotoFest, FOTOBILD, Paris Photo Biennale, Rhubarb-Rhubarb festival, Thessaloniki Photo Biennale, Festival de la Luz and Moscow Photo Biennale. She has also been a nominator for the Prix Pictet Photography Prize and the Hasselblad Award. She is the author of “Ten Years of Contemporary Photography in China 2005-2014”.

Jim Casper is the editor-in-chief of LensCulture, one of the leading online destinations to discover contemporary photography from around the world. As an active member in the contemporary photography world, Casper organizes annual international photography events, travels around the world to meet with photographers and review their portfolios, curates art exhibitions, writes about photography and culture, lectures, conducts workshops, serves as an international juror and nominator for key awards, and is an advisor to arts and education organizations. He serves on the board of directors at SPE, the Society for Photographic Education, the world’s largest association of photography educators.

Thank You

LensCulture would like to thank every photographer who participated in this competition — your entries, which came from all over the world, have been a true inspiration to view and consider! We would also like to extend our sincere gratitude to the members of the jury who worked long and hard reviewing the entries to the competition and ultimately selecting the brilliant work displayed here.

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