We’re delighted to announce 39 remarkable photographers as the winners and finalists of the first-ever LensCulture Black & White Awards. These masters come from 21 countries on five continents, and they demonstrate in many ways the visceral power of black-and-white photography to engage our senses and emotions. Their images sear themselves into our consciousness and plant themselves in our visual memories.
The great documentary photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank once said “Black and white are the colors of photography”, and lots of people agree with that point of view. Our world exists in vibrant color, but in black and white we see and experience the very essence of our surroundings. These awards recognize photographers playing with this fundamental and dynamic relationships between light, dark and shadows across all kinds of photography — from street to fashion, portraits to news and current events, experimental to fine art.
We reached out to photographers all around the world to share their creative approaches to this timeless genre. Through debate and discussion, our international jury of eight specialists narrowed the submissions to these 39 selected finalists we’re excited to share with our global audience.
Congratulations to all of these great photographers. We believe your work is remarkable, and a reflection of our own long-held love for the simplicity and evocative power of monochrome images.
Using a straight, mostly frontal approach, the images capture command centers, research facilities and former nuclear test sites across the United States. Void of people, the images convey a measured reflection on the Atomic Age, a period of time in the second half of the twentieth century characterised by the optimistic expectations for the use of Atomic energy, which was later marred by the complicated social, political and environmental ramifications. The images are reminiscent of the straight approach made popular by artists associated with the new topographics movement.
I think that nowadays it is important to underline the importance that an image can have, and how it can be transversal and an important message that speaks to more people. The composition and the subject of this image recall that of the classical works linked to the concept of piety, and put the suffering of the sick and of the women close to him at a religious and universal level. Every age has a disease that makes a human being an untouchable victim of prejudice and certainly - AIDS is that of the last thirty years. I chose this photo to combat this prejudice.
The series of photographs named “pole vault” by Klaus Lenzen captivated my imagination the first time I saw them, and every time I returned to look at them again they made me pause and appreciate the elegant simplicity captured so perfectly in each carefully framed photo.
These minimal compositions are hushed moments of movement and time, freed from the restraints of gravity, cropped out of context without becoming completely abstract, floating in a neutral space, suspended in dream-like grainy tones of middle gray. They make us aware of what is inside the frame and outside the frame, and celebrate small miracles — moments in an athletic ballet of precision, grace, balance and beauty.
I found this image to be at once arresting and poignant. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at and upon discovering the subject, I was impressed that this image could feel simultaneously familiar and foreign. Sariñana captures the abstract and concrete in one shot.
I was drawn by quiet and painterly work of Damion Berger during the process of judging. Shot by night-long exposure, using the motorboats as his brush, the artist visualized the invisible structures created by time and movement of the sea. These scenarios only exist while many are asleep. Contrasting with the primordial seascapes in the backgrounds, the dark thick path traced by moving points are transient sculptures. It reminded me of The Tale of the Heike - the impermanence of all things, like a dream on a night.
When framing this scene, the photographer chose to step back, allowing us to see all the details: the hospital bed, the cross on the wall, the medical equipment, and, most powerfully, the patient, who seemed to be experiencing a twinge of pain just as the shot was taken. A moment of great human vulnerability, caught in soft, natural light: that discord is what drew me to this image.
The series Under the Yuzu Tree by Chinese-born and UK-resident artist Feiyi Wen captured my attention immediately. Her work has a unique tactile physicality, mixing family album, ephemera and her own striking photographs. The series is a moving poem in images suspended in time and place, an example of how black and white photos, archival and new can fuse together into something so powerful and fresh.
The darkness of our memories spreads thin the amalgam of joy and sadness, soon more limber as it enters.
For a long time, photography has been known for producing images that suspend time, diving into our life experiences in order to illuminate objects, spaces and materials, and to trace over them the story of our human connection.
Marina Black’s strange images merge old photographs with traces of hand drawings, bringing to the surface accidents and lens aberrations in a unique encounter with the magic. What we see is not what we see, but who we are.
Daphne Palmer is a Director at Fraenkel Gallery. Fraenkel Gallery is the primary representative for several key photographers from the medium’s history, including Diane Arbus, Robert Adams, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and Garry Winogrand. The gallery works closely with the Estates of Peter Hujar and Bernd & Hilla Becher, and represents a number of important contemporary artists including Hiroshi Sugimoto, Nan Goldin, Richard Misrach, Christian Marclay, Sophie Calle, Katy Grannan and Adam Fuss.
Xavier Soule is the CEO of Abvent Group and president and director of Agence VU’, one of the most renowned agencies and galleries for photographers in France and Europe. The aim of Galerie VU’ is to affirm, on the walls, the diversity of contemporary stylistic photographic approaches, and to compare and contrast current viewpoints, so they can dialogue with their differences. Galerie VU’ works like any other commercial gallery: it is simultaneously a space for exhibiting and selling collectors’ editions, offering monograph approaches as well as hosting authors’ dialogues, group and thematic approaches. As a collector himself, Xavier is interested in a wide array of photography. From art pieces to documentary reports, he is particularly interested in cutting-edge photojournalism and contemporary photography that offer innovative approaches to expand our visual understanding of the world, people and light.
Francesca Morosini is a photo editor and a journalist born in Pesaro in 1969. She currently lives in Milan, Italy. In 1991, Morosini moved to NYC and studied at the International Center of Photography; she initially worked as a photographer before transitioning to photo editing upon her return to Italy.
Morosini worked for several print and digital publications before finally landing at the Italian edition of WIRED. As part of her work at WIRED, Morosini selects and works with some of the most prestigious contemporary photographers as well as new discoveries. In September 2015, Morosini also became the photo editor for GQ Italia.
Joanna Milter is the director of photography for The New Yorker, overseeing all photography for the print and digital versions of the magazine, in addition to Photo Booth, the magazine’s photo blog. Since she joined The New Yorker, in 2015, the magazine’s photography has been recognized by World Press Photo, the Society of Publication Designers, and American Photography, and has received a National Magazine Award for Feature Photography.
Previously, Joanna spent eleven years as a photo editor at The New York Times Magazine; for the last four of those years, she was the deputy photo editor.
Bruno Ceschel is a writer, curator and publisher whose works primarily explore contemporary photography. His research focuses on issues relating to identity, with an emphasis on gender, sexuality and racial formation. Ceschel is also the founder of Self Publish, Be Happy, an organisation that collects and studies contemporary artists’ books and has an ever-travelling mobile library.
Ceschel regularly writes for various international publications, such as FOAM and Aperture, and has co-edited the journal Photography and Culture. Ceschel has also published and edited numerous photography books, and participated in events at many UK and international museums and galleries, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Whitechapel Gallery (both London), Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and PS1 (both New York).
Ihiro Hayami (b. 1982, Osaka, Japan) is the founder / director of T3 PHOTO FESTIVAL (Tokyo International Photography Festival). He’s the former chief editor of the Japanese photography magazine PHaT PHOTO and was the gallery director of RINGCUBE (Ginza). His selected curatorial exhibitions include Alejandro Chaskielberg’s Otsuchi Future Memories (2016), Alex Prager’s WEEK-END (2010), and more. Over the past few years, he has served as juror, lecturer, and reviewer at various international photo festivals and photography universities.
Shoair Mavlian is the director of Photoworks and is responsible for curating the 2018 Brighton Photo Biennial. From 2011-2018 she was Assistant Curator, Photography and International Art at Tate Modern, London, where she curated several major exhibitions: ‘Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art’ (2018); 'The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection' (2016); 'Conflict, Time, Photography' (2014); 'Project Space: A Chronicle of Interventions' (2014); and 'Harry Callahan' (2013). While at Tate Modern she also researched acquisitions and curated displays from the permanent collection including ‘Dayanita Singh’ (2017), 'Lynn Cohen and Taryn Simon' (2017), and many more. Some of Mavlian’s recent independent curatorial projects include the exhibition 'Don McCullin: Looking Beyond the Edge' (Les Rencontres d’Arles, 2016) and 'In flux' (Kanellopoulos Cultural Centre, Greece, 2015 and Getxo Photo 2017).
Mavlian has a strong interest in photography relating to conflict and memory, Central and Latin American photography and emerging contemporary practice. Recent publications include ‘Ursula Schulz-Dornburg: The Land in Between’ (Mack 2018) and ‘Catherine Wagner: Place, History and the Archive’ (Damiani 2018).
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.
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, ultimately selecting the brilliant work displayed here.