We’re delighted to announce 36 talented photographers as the winners, jurors’ picks and finalists of the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards. These remarkable photographers come from 22 countries on six continents, and their work reflects a wide range of contemporary visual storytelling excellence from cultures around the world today.
For this award, we wanted to discover and celebrate the richness and variety of visual storytelling techniques, from documentary-based reports of real events, people, places and issues, to imaginative storytelling and interpretations that play with fact, fiction, metaphor, or conceptual approaches to stories.
The result is a diverse selection of winning projects that challenge, inspire and surprise. Whether it's chronicling world events or private moments, based on hard-facts or suspended in fantasy, these stories and single images all use the power of photography to capture our attention and engage our senses, emotions and intellect.
Be sure to take time to look through all of the work. We hope you will discover many stories that challenge your thinking, expand your understanding or hit a chord with your feelings. There is plenty of inspiration to be found here.
The spectacle of a church being torn down is what initially caught my attention with this series, and my curiosity lingered as I tried to figure out what was actually happened, since everything seemed quite incongruous. The composition and colors recall a Flemish landscape painting, but one being brutally encroached on by the modern age. The tiny figures looking on with ambivalence add to the sense of this picture falling somewhere between documentary and an apocalyptic, painterly landscape.
This is a simple picture by Luciano Diaz Godoy of a kid doing what kids do. Why is he soaking wet? We don’t know. Why is he diving into that hole? We don’t know. What is in that black darkness? Suddenly the picture is wide open. Could it be a floor, not a wall? Are good things going on, or are they very bad? I liked the pose first, but then I responded to the complexity of the whole. As is often the case with strong photographs, we see very clearly what the picture is of, but we’re challenged to say what it’s about.
With Tobin Jones’ project, Demographica, I was drawn to the data-driven approach and mission to dispel misconceptions about the make-up of Kenya’s population. Of course, we think of colonial-era typologies when we see collections like this, and the fact that he addresses that legacy is important. Tobin lets data science drive his methodology, but the individual images are haunting, humanistic and beautifully crafted. And the resulting collection represents Kenya today, without bias.
The images that Gillmar submitted immediately caught my attention not only because of their dreamy aura, delicate composition and light, but mainly for their respectful approach to the subjects. Even though we are used to consuming folkloric representations of native South American populations, everything in his proposal makes us want to know more about the people portrayed from a place of genuine curiosity, deprived of exoticism.
I understand photographers play an extremely important role when it comes to understanding and introducing cultures to each other. After centuries of anthropologic taxonomies, it is very rewarding to see how the visual periphery is starting to build its self-portrait, putting considerable efforts into balancing the Western-centric historic explanation of the world.
Diana Thorneycroft uses every tool available to enrich her nuanced story with all the wit, drama and complexity it requires. There’s a gag-line in the title, rich cultural references in the images, a belly laugh in the captions and at the end a lingering feeling of pain that can’t quite be explained. The images work hard to earn the viewers’ attention and reward every moment you spend with them.
Although this body of work is different from the photography that usually draws me in, the gentle yet powerful compositions and lovely color palette appealed to my artistic sensibilities. The photographer visited Crimea at 8 years old and held onto her first sight of the sea there and a feeling that the place was magical. I felt that magic in her photographs.
Each person’s life has a narrative, and the life in this picture looks like it has been harrowing so far. This image reminds me of the kind of hand-drawn maps that open up some of my favorite novels or short stories — showing just enough details to call attention to important stops along an important journey, giving the action a sense of time and flow and physical space. The picture evokes empathy and imagination. Are these scars and wounds self-inflicted, or the result of some complicated accident or medical operation? Did this all happen at one time, or over an extended period? Why are the hands so red? Is the trauma still going on? The image itself is stripped down to its essence. It’s got a strong and haunting graphic quality that sears itself into your mind and makes you curious to know the story behind the picture.
Francis Hodgson is Professor in the Culture of Photography at the University of Brighton, in the UK. Formerly photography critic for the Financial Times, and Head of Photographs at Sotheby’s, London. A specialist in photography of many years standing, Hodgson is unusual in having worked at a senior level both in the cultural and in the commercial aspects of photography.
Hodgson was for some years the manager of the print room at The Photographers Gallery in London. He later founded and directed Zwemmer Fine Photographs, a gallery specialising in photography, and has worked with several other galleries.
Hodgson was also director of photography at Photonica, a major stock image library, where he was responsible for opening up the stock photography market to more artistic photography than had been considered possible. He was also at one time director of content at Eyestorm, the online art dealership. He has acted as representative and agent to photographers, and has been a writer and broadcaster on photography for many years. He is co-founder of the Prix Pictet, the prize devoted to photography of the environment and of sustainable development and has served on many other prize juries as well as that one.
In another life, Hodgson authored Only the Goalkeeper to Beat (Macmillan, 1998) a highly praised study of the role of the goalkeeper in football.
Cristina de Middel is a Spanish photographer whose work investigates photography’s ambiguous relationship to truth. Blending documentary and conceptual photographic practices, she plays with reconstructions and archetypes that blur the border between reality and fiction. De Middel achieved critical acclaim for her series The Afronauts (2012), which explored the history of a failed space program in Zambia in the 1960s through staged reenactments of obscure narratives. With more than 12 books published, she has exhibited extensively internationally and has received numerous awards and nominations, including PhotoFolio Arles 2012, the Deutsche Börse Prize, the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography in New York. Cristina de Middel is a Magnum nominee since 2017 and lives and works between Mexico and Brazil.
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.
Hannah Watson is director of TJ Boulting Gallery and publishing house Trolley Books, and is also on the elite British Journal of Photography International Photography Award judging panel. She has worked with some of the best photographers in the world, including Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Alex Majoli and Philip Jones Griffiths, and has a reputation for publishing exceptional stories in photography, photojournalism and contemporary art.
At TJ Boulting, Watson represents emerging talent and artists who have not shown their work in London before, and also exhibits the work of more international and established artists. Additionally, Trolley Books is known for their predominantly reportage photography titles and unique stories in photojournalism, but also contemporary art and popular culture. Since 2001, Trolley has published numerous highly respected photographers and artists, and has received a special commendation from the Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards for its outstanding contribution to photography book publishing.
Stephen Mayes is Executive Director of the Tim Hetherington Trust and an active board member of Catchlight.io. Across twenty-five years, he has managed the work and careers of top-level photographers and artists in the diverse areas of art, fashion, photojournalism and commercial photography. As Creative Director and CEO, Mayes has written successful business plans and reshaped operations for American, Asian and European imaging companies. Positions have included an 8 year assignment as Secretary to the World Press Photo Competition, CEO of Network Photographers (London) and VII Photo Agency (New York), SVP Content for Getty Images, Director of the Image Archive at Art + Commerce and Global Creative Director for eyestorm, the innovative art retailer. Often described as a “futurist” Mayes has broadcast, taught and written extensively about the ethics and practice of photography.
Molly Roberts is a photography editor, curator and photographer; she recently joined National Geographic Magazine as a Senior Photography Editor after 15 years as Chief Photography Editor at Smithsonian magazine. Previously she led the Washington Post Magazine and USA Weekend photography teams.
With 25 years of experience in the magazine publishing world, she is responsible for the content and appearance of magazines, books, websites and apps. Roberts is an advocate for powerful visual storytelling and human rights and recently created the non-profit HumanEyes USA to present documentary photography projects in public spaces and to use imagery to help illuminate complex issues facing America. She is also committed to developing diverse voices in the media: she is currently the acting director and board member of the DC-based organization Women Photojournalists of Washington.
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.
Congratulations to all 36 photographers! And to everyone who entered, thank you. We are inspired by the work you do and we are always delighted to discover how image makers around the globe are working with photography in new ways.
We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!