LensCulture Critics’ Choice 2020
Announcing 48 Critics’ Choice
Award Winners for 2020!

For this new international photography award, we invited 20 influential experts from around the world to review the submissions — asking each of the experts to select three personal favorites to win a Critic’s Choice award — and to explain what they particularly liked about each of their picks.

Photographers from over 150 countries took advantage of this opportunity to get their work seen by this large group of experts. And the results are — amazing!

We encourage you to dig in to appreciate the wide range of topics and artistic approaches and diverse points of view. This is a chance to discover lots of fresh new inspiring work — and also a unique opportunity to learn directly from the experts what makes these photographs and series so special in their eyes.

It’s an eclectic mix, as you can imagine, coming from so many different highly-opinionated people who work daily with photography in so many diverse fields, like media, fine art, book publishing, museums, auction houses, festivals, magazines, websites, branding… We hope you will find some of your own new personal favorites, too.

Critics’
Choice
Please take your time to discover all 48 photographers, and be sure to read the statements from each critic to understand why an image or series resonated so strongly with them, some of the most influential minds in the industry.
Selected by Alexa Becker
Acquisitions Editor, Kehrer Verlag Publishers
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
Catherine Panebianco’s work beautifully demonstrates how photography can create a realm in our minds and souls we call “home“. Despite having been deprived of a steady home in her childhood, the repetition of the same images and stories being told by her father achieved almost the same sense of belonging, which continues to this day. By matching the old slides with her present environments, Panebianco creates visual proof of photography’s "magical powers".
United States
Yuki Iwamura
Revolution of our Time
United States
Yuki Iwamura
Revolution of our Time
The ongoing tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China and the resulting protests are clearly worth being documented and carried into the world. Yuki Iwamura managed to capture the conflict between protestors and the police in a visually convincing way. Each image has a smart composition and a strong inherent aesthetic without deflecting from its content.
Poland
Alena Kakhanovich
Sleeping Garden
Poland
Alena Kakhanovich
Sleeping Garden
Alena Kakhanovich sensitively touches upon themes many people nowadays are familiar with: depression, self acceptance and the struggle to embrace these states of being. By placing the portrayed women mostly in natural environments and with evocative still-lifes, the photographer develops her very own visual language. She thus manages to create images for the different shades of our existence that are otherwise hard to be described at all.

Selected by Anna Dannemann
Senior Curator, The Photographers Gallery
Poland
Agnieszka Piasecka
Post-Punctum
Poland
Agnieszka Piasecka
Post-Punctum
Agnieszka Piasecka’s series appears at first glance as if fallen out of time. With her clever use of the Ambrotype method, her project, about the process of burials at a funeral home, offers an honest reflection of the fragility of human physicality. In times when funerals are mostly happening in sterile environments, these images function as a bridge to a silent and dignified world.
Chile
Javier Vergara
Chile Resists
Chile
Javier Vergara
Chile Resists
Protest culture, joint actions on the streets and the power of people going against oppressive forces are themes in Javier Vergara’s impressive image of demonstrators in Chile. We become part of the protest, experiencing the phenomenal effort of the anonymous protagonists to overcome whatever is standing against them.
Italy
Marika Nacci
Overdrive
Italy
Marika Nacci
Overdrive
For me, Marika Nacci’s collage stood out in the mix of single image entries. In the process of dissecting and re-joining, Nacci has created a whole new portrait. Here the many eyes all seem different, ultimately Nacci plays with notions of identity while also examining ongoing questions about the representation of women in photography.

Selected by Charlotte Cotton
Curator & Writer
New Zealand
Sara Orme
Rangi, Te Teko
New Zealand
Sara Orme
Rangi, Te Teko
Sara Orme’s approach to portraiture is rooted in her long-term documentarianism. Her portrait of Rangi wearing her grandmother’s ancestral cloak is part of Sara’s ongoing project — Te Teko – referencing the inland town on New Zealand’s North Island, and both Rangi’s and Sara’s Maori heritage. I appreciate all of the active and conscious choices that are encapsulated in this remarkable portrait that channels Rangi’s agency, and visually claims the being of and within the pre-colonial and pre-photographic landscape.
India
Ritam Sarkar
Never too late
India
Ritam Sarkar
Never too late
It wasn’t a surprise to discover that Ritam Sarkar is a filmmaker as well as photographer. What an incredible, well-observed image – literally every element deliberate and rich with narrative.
United States
Maxine Helfman
Untitled, Portrait
United States
Maxine Helfman
Untitled, Portrait
Throughout Maxine Helfman’s bodies of work is an astute claiming of the aesthetics and symbols of image-making in the 19th and 20th centuries. A constant through-line is the re-animation and claiming of visual territory for this artist’s own ends. I felt that is really beautifully at play in this portrait, balanced by the description of the presence of the sitter.

Selected by Corey Keller
Curator of Photography, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Iran
Farshid Tighehsaz
From Labyrinth: Living with Anonymous Apprehensions
Iran
Farshid Tighehsaz
From Labyrinth: Living with Anonymous Apprehensions
I was immediately drawn to this deeply personal and powerful series about life in post revolutionary Iran. The slightly off-kilter, high-contrast pictures seem to crackle with energy but are also suffused with sadness, freighted with emotion.
United Kingdom
Tariq Zaidi
At Home with the Sapeurs of the Congo
United Kingdom
Tariq Zaidi
At Home with the Sapeurs of the Congo
I am not usually drawn to fashion photography, but found this lively series rather irresistible. Zaidi conveys the individuality and the joie de vivre of the dandies he photographs, but also gives a window into the community in which they live.
Australia
Daisy Noyes
71 Self-Portraits in Isolation
Australia
Daisy Noyes
71 Self-Portraits in Isolation
I think we can all empathize with the emotion this photograph conveys at this moment. I thought the monotone color scheme added just the right note to the wry humor of the staging. I’d love to see the rest of the series!

Selected by Darius Himes
International Head of Photographs, Christie’s
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
In this playful project, which has equal doses nostalgia and catchy technique, Panebianco, armed with Kodachrome slides made by her late father, travels to the locations of their making and ’reinserts’ them and herself into the landscape. The curtain is pulled back, so to speak, through the visual trope of her hand holding the original Kodachrome, simultaneously allowing the viewer to see a broader landscape as well as the framing of the family slide. This is a rephotographic survey project tinged with family memories. For those reasons, and more, this is a project worth spending time with.
United Kingdom
Àsìkò -artist
Egun
United Kingdom
Àsìkò -artist
Egun
I appreciate the perseverance of this artist to explore, with passion and emotion, his cultural roots among the Yoruba. The power of masks, the metaphorical allusions they contain, the power to affect the soul, the question of identity in relation to both our physical and spiritual selves; all of these are worthwhile topics to explore, and I enjoy them here in Asiko’s work.
United Kingdom
Jack Lawson
Mbola from Naivasha Maximum Security Prison, Kenya
United Kingdom
Jack Lawson
Mbola from Naivasha Maximum Security Prison, Kenya
Every soul deserves the opportunity to redeem itself, whether in this life or the next. This touching portrait speaks volumes, and the face of this man speaks volumes. I’m immensely drawn to the story, the portrait, and the beauty of this man surrounded by books.

Selected by Fiona Shields
Head of Photography, The Guardian
Australia
Lisa Sorgini
Behind Glass
Australia
Lisa Sorgini
Behind Glass
So many photographers have captured the unique experience of lockdown during the pandemic around the world but this is one of the most atmospheric series I’ve seen. It conveys that feeling of being trapped, almost suffocated, by the enforced social distancing but also the intensity of relationships at this time depicted with such beautiful, artistic tonal quality that resonates a sense of a significant moment of history.
United States
Monika Lawrence
Beyond Whiteness
United States
Monika Lawrence
Beyond Whiteness
This series could have been bleak and forbidding but instead the photographer has made magical images, peppered with the subtly observed colours and structures of human and natural life. The scale of the photographs emphasises this vast and most challenging of environments while the detail gives the viewer a hopeful or optimistic indication of survival.
France
Nicola Vigilanti
Cannot Breathe
France
Nicola Vigilanti
Cannot Breathe
A powerfully emblematic image of a Black Lives Matter protestor with a face covering pulled so tightly that it emulates the personal struggle of George Floyd to breathe. This portrait is so important in bringing attention to this centuries-long fight against racism and injustice. For the photographer making the image and for a jury to recognise its impact is a signal in a long overdue call for change in society but also in our own industry.

Selected by Jim Casper
Editor-in-Chief, LensCulture
Germany
Ingmar Nolting
Measure and Middle - A Journey through Germany during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Germany
Ingmar Nolting
Measure and Middle - A Journey through Germany during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Like stills from a science fiction movie, these eerie photographs show a world that has been shocked and forced into new, rational, antiseptic and remote ways of being while trying to carry on with essential everyday life – teenage romance at the edges of border towns, visits to the dentist, solo classical music performances, ad hoc religious services for congregations in cars, and so on. We’ve seen lots of images of similar situations from around the world, but these convey a palpable degree of hushed stillness and quiet uncanny isolation in their matter-of-fact approach.
Slovenia
Vanja Bucan
Concrete Flowers
Slovenia
Vanja Bucan
Concrete Flowers
These remarkably inventive constructed pictures convey a sense of whimsy and play while also demonstrating the confounding power of using life-size printed photographs as props “inside” other photographs. The artist takes us on a fictional travelogue that often echoes the cultural dislocation a traveler sometimes feels when encountering strange new experiences on the road in foreign lands.
United States
Nina Welch-Kling
Duologues
United States
Nina Welch-Kling
Duologues
Like the best of street photographers, Nina Welch-Kling finds joy in wandering city streets and paying attention to the endless flow and changes that happen there. She notices momentary eye-catching juxtapositions of people, architecture, shadows, visual rhymes. And she photographs them in a manner that allows the viewer to see what she sees, allowing us to share in the moment of delight or surprise while soaking in all of the other activities in the context of her framing. Then she takes her gift one step further, by pairing photographs in what she calls “Duologues”. These diptychs produce visual echoes that evoke new ideas, new meanings, new connections — encouraging viewers to energize their own ways of seeing.

Selected by Joanna Milter
Director of Photography, The New Yorker
Germany
Snezhana von Büdingen
Meeting Sofie
Germany
Snezhana von Büdingen
Meeting Sofie
This series takes us into the world of Sofie, a young German woman with Down’s syndrome. In each image, we’re shown a different aspect of her life: her intimacy with her mother, her place on the family estate, and her love of the natural world. She’s graceful and open to the camera; the photos are like film stills, drawing us into their narrative.
United States
Natcha Wongchanglaw
Couchsurfing Hosts
United States
Natcha Wongchanglaw
Couchsurfing Hosts
I love Natcha Wongchanglaw’s witty portraits of Couchsurfing hosts. By including herself in each image, we see the nuances of her relationship with each person. These are visually-rich photographs -- we learn so much about the subjects from their homes. Smart, characterful, environmental portraiture.
United States
Tavon Taylor
The Clouds Whispered Your Name
United States
Tavon Taylor
The Clouds Whispered Your Name
Tavon Taylor’s “The Clouds Whispered Your Name” seems to exist out of time. We don’t know anything about the man lying on the grass, but the setting, the color palette, and the position of his body evoke an oil painting from another century. A mysterious and beautiful photograph.

Selected by Khalifa Al Obaidly
Director, Qatar Photo Festival
Poland
Paweł Miazga
The Waiting
Poland
Paweł Miazga
The Waiting
I like Pawel’s concept of “waiting” and its relation with time and how it affects everyone in a different way, with a mixture of feelings. He conveys a variety of meanings by capturing different scenarios with simple, colorful images that allow you to imagine yourself in similar situations.
Peru
Morfi Jiménez Mercado
The (un)Real
Peru
Morfi Jiménez Mercado
The (un)Real
Morfi treats the subject of self-isolation in a very creative way. The (un)real situation we have all been in is tinged with fear, a sense of suspended time, and longing for connections. Morfi’s approach to projecting sepia-toned images on a rooftop canvas with a quiet background of city lights attracts all my senses, and the layers of the images he creates remind us how much the pandemic affects everyone in many different ways.
Poland
Ola Zdeb
Mother Earth
Poland
Ola Zdeb
Mother Earth
Ola has created a very strong portrait she called “Mother Earth”. Its harsh lighting creates powerful diagonal shadows that take the image to another level of abstraction and creativity.
Critics’
Choice
Top Ten
How are the Top Ten chosen? Photographers who were selected by more than one critic and/or had the highest cumulative ratings of all submissions became our Top Ten. They will each receive a $1000 cash grant in recognition of their work.
Selected by Lars Boering
Managing Director, World Press Photo Foundation
United Kingdom
Julia Fullerton-Batten
Looking Out from Within
United Kingdom
Julia Fullerton-Batten
Looking Out from Within
We have seen many stories about the lockdown and most of them register what is there. This often leads to shallow work and much of the same. In the work of Julia Fullerton-Batten we see an artistic approach executed in a skilled way. It engages me as a reader to find out where this is and who they are. Excellent work.
Ethiopia
Yonas Tadesse
Finding Meaning in a Pandemic
Ethiopia
Yonas Tadesse
Finding Meaning in a Pandemic
In a simple and straightforward manner Yonas shows us the people who help to save lives and are committed to their cause. I find it crucial that Yonas tells us the story from the place where he lives; that we see the work told by an Ethiopian photographer who knows the people and the place. The research he has done helps him get across the story told through very compelling portraits. To see the emotions, the fatigue and the strength of the portrayed people makes it a strong series for me. It is an example of what we already know now for years: that great photography comes from the continent of Africa and that it is made by great local storytellers.
Netherlands
Jeroen Hofman
Bereft City
Netherlands
Jeroen Hofman
Bereft City
Rephotographing what once was is one of the challenges photography cannot meet. You can’t register what isn’t there anymore. What you can do is revisit the place where it happened and give it a creative treatment that tells us the story in such a compelling way that we feel the emotions. Jeroen is a highly-skilled photographer and a dedicated storyteller. This work makes me think about the story that is behind the images, and when photographers are able to do that you know they control their craft.

Selected by Louise Fedotov-Clements
Director, FORMAT Festival & Artistic Director QUAD, FORMAT Festival & Director of QUAD
Germany
Ingmar Nolting
Measure and Middle - A Journey through Germany during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Germany
Ingmar Nolting
Measure and Middle - A Journey through Germany during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Ingmar Nolting’s project Measure and Middle - A journey through Germany during the COVID-19 pandemic is a beautifully composed series of images that represents familiar, surreal and poetic moments from the situation that we are facing globally as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The artist travelled 9000km across Germany documenting intimate and frontline, often surreal, spaces in near total lockdown during this exceptional time of crisis — from dentists’ surgeries, hard borders, musicians in fields, empty funerals, concerts to theatres and drive-in sermons.
Germany
Irina Unruh
I am Jamilia
Germany
Irina Unruh
I am Jamilia
I am Jamilia by Irina Unruh is an extraordinary series that shares a set of dialogues from women of all ages from across Kyrgyzstan, who have experienced bride kidnapping firsthand. It is an outlawed custom that is still practiced today, called Ala Kachuu, which roughly means ‘grab and run’. Extraordinarily every 40 minutes one woman in Kyrgyzstan is kidnapped. The series is a sensitive set of images that highlights the need to continue challenging the patriarchy and traditions relating to the violence and repression against women.
Canada
Niv Shimshon
Joe Shanti — "Last night I couldn't sleep."
Canada
Niv Shimshon
Joe Shanti — "Last night I couldn't sleep."
The portrait of Joe Shanti by Niv Shimshon is a powerful image that shares the thoughts of a father concerned with the world that his son is growing up into. Joe talks about what keeps him awake at night about “how to stay alive after an interaction with the police. You’re taught how to ’act’ around the police just so you can come back home with all your bones intact and most importantly alive. Why does any parent have to worry about this? Why do I have to train my child to be tactical and strategic when dealing with the police?” We have witnessed the global Black Lives Matter protests, it is certainly time for change and injustice must not continue. The portrait shares an important personal story that resonates around the world.

Selected by Manila Camarini
Photo Editor, D La Repubblica
Australia
Lisa Sorgini
Behind Glass
Australia
Lisa Sorgini
Behind Glass
During lockdown I received a lot of stories about isolation but Behind Glass by Lisa Sorgini is a different point of view, different from any other features. The choice to shoot through windows is particularly well suited in order to explain the reality of what every mother had to deal with during very heavy weeks. It’s not important to know where it was made, it represents a moment that has been universal for all single parents.
Germany
Snezhana von Büdingen
Meeting Sofie
Germany
Snezhana von Büdingen
Meeting Sofie
The author of the pictures has established a deep connection with the subject of the story, an it is evident from the images. It takes time to gain someone’s trust but Snezhana did it. Respect and care are fundamental characteristics that a photographer must always keep in mind. Sofia’s story shows exactly what it means to listen and then represent someone’s personality through one’s own vision.
United States
Maxine Helfman
Historical Correction
United States
Maxine Helfman
Historical Correction
Maxine Helman’s work has impressed me positively. In 2012 she began to creating a personal work about identity. A work made topical by the chronicle and the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement

Selected by Mary Virginia Swanson
Photography Marketing Advisor
United States
KyeongJun Yang
Acacia Cliffs
United States
KyeongJun Yang
Acacia Cliffs
KyeongJun Yan introduces us to his immediate community who reside side-by-side during the current public health crisis in the apartment building “Acadia Cliffs.” We also see glimpses of wildlife that are drawn to the green grounds, and to the magnificent tree that commands the common courtyard, serving as the symbolic pulse of the complex. He states: “The roots tangle each other and slowly become one tree.” For me, “Footprints” references signs of life at Acadia Cliffs via the marks from delivery drivers, postal workers and others bringing essential supplies to him and to his neighbors. This series serves as a simple, yet layered portrayal of a community in isolation at this extraordinary time.
Argentina
Agustina Speroni
Confinement
Argentina
Agustina Speroni
Confinement
The photographs in Agustina Speroni’s series “Confinement” allow us a glimpse into both her physical space and her emotional angst. We sense her longing to get outside, expressed through ‘self-portraits’ that offer little direct reference to human presence. The photographs range from simple concepts to complex, layered works addressing inside/outside. In one image, “Confinement VII”, a shadow of a hand reaches towards light pouring in from a window; this humble, universal gesture is perhaps made in hopes someone will see it and reach out and connect in some way.
United States
Manuel Morquecho
Transition
United States
Manuel Morquecho
Transition
The image “Transition” by Manuel Morquecho has made a lasting impression on me. There are three people reflected in this family portrait: a mother and two sons, as the emotional connection of the photographer is imbedded in the image along with those of his mother and brother who are so poignantly presented. We don’t simply see this portrait, we experience the emotional bonds between the three of them. What Manuel created is a classic portrait, one that transcends place and time.

Selected by Mazie Harris
Assistant Curator of the Department of Photographs, Getty Museum
Germany
Jan A Staiger and Daniel Niedermeier
Simili Modo
Germany
Jan A Staiger and Daniel Niedermeier
Simili Modo
There’s something strange about the work of Jan Staiger and Daniel Niedermeier, and I mean that as a compliment. The pictures are pristine, without the messiness of real life. They show us the simulacra that are everywhere around us, though generally overlooked: artificial atmospheres, wax figures, scientific simulations. At a time when we’re all made constantly aware how horribly askew the world is, their work gives a welcome pause, urging close looking to ferret out the real from the unreal. We should take up this invitation to re-examine our own surroundings, to have a heightened awareness about the uses and limits of artificiality.
United States
Rashod Taylor
Little Black Boy
United States
Rashod Taylor
Little Black Boy
I’m neither a father nor a son, but Rashod Taylor’s photograph gives me a glimpse into both worlds: the restless impatience of waiting on your dad, the poignancy of watching a child fidget and grow. No fenced-in yard, however edenic, can protect this small scowling innocent from the world outside. No single photographic project can encapsulate the insidious tangle of systemic racism that creeps toward him. Yet in this single image Rashod Taylor manages to distill a father’s fears and uncertainty about his son’s future. I can’t imagine a more crucial genre than portraiture in this moment, with its awareness of the preciousness of every body.
Russian Federation
Anastasia Dubrava
Planet of Water
Russian Federation
Anastasia Dubrava
Planet of Water
Here we find ourselves, drowning in our own past, our future obscured. Anastasia Dubrava’s placid image of vanishing railroad tracks at Baskunchak Lake, in southern Russia, gives no hint of the region’s bustling tourism, or the process that extracts enough salt from the lake to supply most of the country. Instead, as signs of human presence fade out toward the horizon, we’re left to wonder what we’ll make of the world when we’ve mined its resources and face an uncertain path ahead.

Selected by Michael Famighetti
Editor, Aperture Magazine
China
Wang Lu
Frozen are the Winds of Time
China
Wang Lu
Frozen are the Winds of Time
Wang Lu contrasts interior and exterior life in muted color and to great psychological effect. The interior world of her parents’ home is still, quiet, but freighted by tragedy. Her father has suffered severe brain damage from a car accident and now exists at a remove. But outside their home, life speeds on, and the exterior terrain shifts as a large-scale development project reshapes the surrounding environment.
United States
Sara Bennett
Looking Inside: Portraits of Women Serving Life Sentences
United States
Sara Bennett
Looking Inside: Portraits of Women Serving Life Sentences
The U.S. carceral state comprises a massive system and network of prisons that are largely absent from public view. Therefore, it is essential that artists and journalists provide stories and visuals that personalize this dehumanizing system. Sara Bennett, who was once a public defender before turning to photography, has made a series of portraits and testimonies of incarcerated women that help reveal the human cost of mass incarceration.
Slovenia
Vanja Bucan
Concrete Flowers
Slovenia
Vanja Bucan
Concrete Flowers
Vanja Bucan’s Concrete Flowers series transforms the urban landscape into what she describes as a personal ecosystem. These clever, vibrant images play with the possibilities of both the found image and the constructed still life.

Selected by Mutsuko Ota
Editorial Director, IMA magazine
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
The series of work is extremely simple in its process, overlaying old slides onto present landscapes of the same locations, yet its strength is perhaps how easily it can be understood and the shared feeling of sympathy that comes with it. The finger holding the slide in every picture upholds the undeniable human presence. As the people from the old pictures overlap with the landscape today, two timelines merge with each other. The unchanging views and the shifting ways of living, the long passing of time is compressed into one image and the functions of “record” and “memory” of photography are simultaneously activated. In such a way, the photographer and her family’s personal memories evolve into a ubiquitous image for all.
United States
Kevin Moore
George
United States
Kevin Moore
George
The dramatic effects of the images allude to an ominous plot as if we were watching a film. Attractive characters, delicately and thoughtfully designed compositions, details of props and settings, and even the precise controls of the light, all construct a series of images and do not bore its viewers. We also cannot overlook that this distinctly good-old classic atmosphere is another element that renders it so enticing. As the audience reads these images, looking for hidden themes and enjoying the development of their own stories, it engages them with an enigmatic and strangely complicit relationship with the photographer. Although the work also addresses current issues, by replacing the photographic language to that of his own artistic practice instead of a journalistic perspective, it adds a depth to the message and successfully enthralls the audience into his singular world.
Sweden
Lex Eliot Rose
Self-Portrait/Happy
Sweden
Lex Eliot Rose
Self-Portrait/Happy
Currently, we are all facing one common enemy: COVID-19. Although we have been moving about in confusion through this once-in-a-century crisis, we have been plagued by all sorts of other viruses on a daily basis for a long time – issues surrounding gender, race, environment, poverty, religious or ethnic conflicts… the list goes on. However, none of them are yet to be fully resolved because to this day, everyone believe that those problems only somehow concern a specific population and as such, never would the entire world frantically look for remedies or vaccines for these diseases.
This series responding to the famous images by Catherine Opie candidly addresses gender and sexuality issues; the scars carved into the back reveal the complexity of this problem juxtaposed with the personal suffering that the subject had experienced. This one picture is enough to trigger the thought that this is one of the viruses that should concerns all of us.

Selected by Rebecca Morse
Curator, LACMA
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
United States
Catherine Panebianco
No Memory is Ever Alone
Memory works in mysterious ways. We often remember events as still photographic images that have taken up permanent residence in our mind, overtaking the event itself. Catherine Panebianco recognizes this phenomenon by combining significant images from her past with contemporary scenarios, blending the two so that they exist simultaneously in the present.
Argentina
Santiago Martinelli
Decomposition
Argentina
Santiago Martinelli
Decomposition
The camera takes the place of the eye seeing for itself and recording that vision for others. The ophthalmology images that Santiago Martinelli has rephotographed for inclusion in his series “Decomposition” speak to the fading quality of site. The grainy, black and white images of circles, spheres, patches, eyeballs, and knives strike terror in the sited who recognize that vision is perhaps fleeting.
Australia
Gloria Salgado Gispert
Childhood Memories
Australia
Gloria Salgado Gispert
Childhood Memories
The rhythm created by three images in Gloria Salgado Gispert’s “Childhood Memories” series rely on a continuity of form among them, whether it be the patterning of clouds and waves, the transparency of a bubble, or the silhouette of a hand. They are dreamy and universal with each triptych belying a specific narrative in favor of an emotional sequence that implies freedom and play.

Selected by Simon Bainbridge
Editorial Director, British Journal of Photography
Italy
Simone Francescangeli
Be a Chilean Lumberjack
Italy
Simone Francescangeli
Be a Chilean Lumberjack
The use of diptychs is surprisingly rare in photography, and yet it was a device adopted by several entries to make it to the final stages of Critic’s Choice. Simone Francescangeli’s series here stood out for its magical evocation of the hardships and isolation of a lumberjack living and working in a remote corner of Chile. We are presented with a portrait of a place many of us will never experience, but the series goes beyond the descriptive, splicing together portraits with detailed macro observations that summon up his subject’s inner life, conveying a sense of struggle, stoicism, solitude and introspection through simple pleasures and daily rituals.
Germany
Viktoria Sorochinski
INsideOUTside
Germany
Viktoria Sorochinski
INsideOUTside
I first discovered Viktoria Sorochinski’s work judging an earlier LensCulture contest (Exposure Awards 2017), and was impressed by the nuance she brought to a subject that had been photographed many times before. Her personal connection to her subjects was evident, as was the sense of a photographer on a journey of discovery through her work, both of her own past, and her chosen medium. In this latest series, shot in spring 2020 during the coronavirus lockdown in Berlin, she takes that process a step further, using the extended time alone in one place to turn her lens on herself and engage the inevitable self-reflection within the situation. The results are both beautiful and pertinent, embracing the constraints to work entirely intuitively, exploring a desire to reconnect with nature – something that will feel very familiar to many of us who quarantined in cities.
United Kingdom
Kristina Varaksina
Human Reflections
United Kingdom
Kristina Varaksina
Human Reflections
Like many photographers forced to halt their usual practice during lockdown, Kristina Varaksina began making self-portraits, stripping back her compositions and experimenting with the simple drama of available light captured against her face and body. In this striking image, performing an act of liberation and self-empowerment, there’s a sense of the uncanny, her freshly cut hair seemingly growing back around her shoulders, recalling some forgotten, mythological heroine.

Selected by Susan Thompson
Associate Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Australia
Lisa Sorgini
Behind Glass
Australia
Lisa Sorgini
Behind Glass
Though many entrants grappled with making photographs in the time of Coronavirus-induced quarantine, Sorgini’s poignant series was the most successful. Her portraits of mothers and children together as viewed through windows into their homes brilliantly capture the dissonance of an era defined by both the alienating isolation of social distance and the inescapable intensity of familial intimacy. Rendered in muted tones with soft light, these moments of fleshy physical closeness are marked by a combination of tenderness, claustrophobia, and ennui.
United States
Whitney Hayes
Jayde
United States
Whitney Hayes
Jayde
It is apparent in this series that Hayes’s relationship to her subject, Jayde, is one of collaboration. Hayes skillfully deploys color and light to evoke a strong sense mood that is further enhanced by Jayde’s compelling presence.
United States
Ricky Weaver
Having on the breastplate of righteousness
United States
Ricky Weaver
Having on the breastplate of righteousness
Weaver’s image is psychologically potent, utilizing a layered depth of field to explore the multiplicity of the self. The artist’s use of pose, gesture, facial expression, and dress amplify the sense of tension and emotional heft of this quotidian scene.
“As personal selections by photography critics who have lots of experience and great taste, these picks are like treasured personal recommendations from trusted insiders.”
– Jim Casper
LensCulture Paris Exhibition 2019
Paris Exhibition
The photographers recognized through Critics’ Choice 2020 were to be exhibited in Paris alongside Paris Photo 2020. Given the unfolding COVID-19 situation, we have cancelled all exhibitions this year. When our ability to gather and travel looks more likely, we will make plans to exhibit these award-winners in either New York or Paris in 2021.
Meet our
international critics
Each critic selected three personal favorites.
our
global
critics
Alexa Becker
Acquisitions Editor
Kehrer Verlag Publishers
Germany

Alexa Becker is the Acquisitions Editor for photography and art books for Kehrer Verlag Book Publisher. Having obtained her Master’s in Art History from the University of Heidelberg, she started her career at Kehrer in 2003, where she is responsible for selecting and acquiring new photography-related projects.

Founded in 1995, Kehrer Verlag in Heidelberg Germany specializes in books in the fields of photography, fine arts, and culture, working together closely with international artists, authors, museums and cultural institutions.

Anna Dannemann
Senior Curator
The Photographers Gallery
United Kingdom

Anna Dannemann is Senior Curator at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2016-19) and has organized several solo exhibitions, among them Simon Fujiwara’s Joanne (2016), Charlotte Dumas’ Anima & The Widest Prairies (2015), Viviane Sassen’s Analemma (2014), and William Burroughs. Anna regularly contributes to catalogues and other publications, and received an MA in Art and Visual History from the Humboldt-University of Berlin.

Azu Nwagbogu
Founder and Director
LagosPhoto Festival and the African Artists’ Foundation (AAF)
Nigeria

Azu Nwagbogu is the founder and director of the African Artists’ Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 2007 and based in Lagos, Nigeria that is dedicated to the promotion and development of contemporary African arts and artists. Nwagbogu also founded the National Art Competition in 2008, an annual arts competition in Nigeria; the Lagos Photo Festival, an annual international photography festival; and Art Base Africa, a new virtual space to discover and learn about contemporary African Art and diaspora. He owns a diverse collection of modern contemporary art and has curated private collections in Africa for the past 20 years.

He was a juror for the Dutch Doc and the POPCAP Photography Awards, World Press Photo, Prisma Photography Award (2015) and Greenpeace Photo Award (2016). He was nominated as curator for the Prix Découverte Rencontres d’Arles (2014) as well as Photoquai (2015) and Photolux Festival (2015). He curated “Dey Your Lane! Lagos Variations” for the Bozar Museum in Brussels and “Tear My Bra” for Les Rencontres d’Arles 2016. Azu Nwagbogu lives and works in Lagos.

Charlotte Cotton
Curator & Writer
United States

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.

Corey Keller
Curator of Photography
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
United States

Corey Keller is the Curator of Photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). She joined the museum in 1999 and held a number of positions before she was promoted to her current role in 2012.

At SFMOMA, Keller organized the critically acclaimed exhibition “Brought to Light: Photography and the Invisible, 1840-1900” (2008), which explored the use of photography in 19th-century science, particularly focusing on the representation of phenomena invisible to the naked eye. Accompanied by an award-winning catalogue, the show traveled to the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Austria.

With SFMOMA curators Janet Bishop and Sarah Roberts, Keller co-organized a large-scale exhibition celebrating the museum’s 75th anniversary in 2010, as well as its accompanying major catalogue. She was instrumental in organizing the much-discussed symposium “Is Photography Over?” (2010) and also participated as a panelist. Other exhibitions that Keller has curated include “Henry Wessel” (2006) and “1906 Earthquake: A Disaster in Pictures” (2006). She also coordinated the San Francisco presentations of “William Eggleston: Los Alamos” (2005), “Looking In: Robert Frank and The Americans” (2009), and “Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century” (2010), among others. She oversees “Picturing Modernity,” SFMOMA’s ongoing presentation of its world-class photography collection.

Darius Himes
International Head of Photographs
Christie’s
United States

Darius Himes is the first International Head of Photographs for Christie’s, joining in November 2014. Prior to that, he was Director of Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco (2011-2014). In his curatorial career, he has collaborated with a wide range of photographers, from Lee Friedlander to Alec Soth and Katy Grannan. He has also worked with some of the top institutions across the United States: The Art Institute of Chicago, David Zwirner Gallery and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Himes has contributed writing to Aperture, American Photo, Blind Spot, Bookforum, BOMB, PDN, and Lay Flat. He also co-authored the title, "Publish Your Photography Book," a popular guide (now in its second edition) to the illustrated book publishing industry.

Fiona Shields
Head of Photography
The Guardian
United Kingdom

Shields has over twenty years’ picture-editing experience across a range of newspaper titles and has served as picture editor of The Guardian for the last nine. She recently took up the role of Head of Photography for the Guardian News and Media Group. Throughout her career, she has been involved in the coverage of some of the most historic news stories of our time: 9/11, conflicts around the world, the Arab Spring and much more. Besides her work at the newspaper, she’s delivered talks at photo festivals and to students of photojournalism. She has judged the Sony World Photography Awards, the UK Picture Editors Guild Awards, and the Renaissance Photography Prize among others. Most recently she served as a nominator for the Prix Pictet and joined the jury of the highly regarded Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.

Jim Casper
Editor-in-Chief
LensCulture
The Netherlands

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.

Joanna Milter
Director of Photography
The New Yorker
United States

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.

Khalifa Al Obaidly
Director
Qatar Photo Festival
Qatar

Since 2002, Qatari photographer Khalifa Al Obaidly has concentrated on Qatari tradition and culture through his work, focusing on the twin themes of desert and sea. In addition to photography, his career also spans many different projects across science, art and heritage work. Originally studying marine biology at the University of Qatar, Al Obaidly has worked at a number museums including the Aquarium at the Qatar National Museum, working on a project to construct a museum of photography with a collection of work. He has also served as an assistant director at the Islamic Art Museum (project) through the Qatari National Council for Culture, Art and Heritage. Most recently Al Obaidly developed an artist-in-resident program to support local artists and connect them to the international art scene. He is currently the director of Photo Festival, an initiative to celebrate young photographic artists in the region.

Lars Boering
Managing Director
World Press Photo Foundation
The Netherlands

Lars Boering is the Managing Director of World Press Photo, the world’s leading international contest in visual journalism. He has been actively involved with photography for many years. He has (co)produced exhibitions with photographers, Festivals, museums and art foundations.

In 2008, he founded Lux Photo gallery: showcasing photography that demonstrated creative integrity and intent, originality, narrative and aesthetic quality and a high level of craftsmanship. At the end of 2014, he stopped working for the gallery.

He also worked as the director of the Federation of Dutch Professional photographers, improving the working position of photographers helping them to safeguard their copyright. In 2014 he merged all member associations into one strong professional organization called Dutch Photographers (DuPho).

In 2010, he co-founded the successful master class ‘Advanced Storytelling’ at www.noorderlicht.com, where he still teaches.

Louise Fedotov-Clements
Director, FORMAT Festival & Artistic Director QUAD
United Kingdom

Louise Clements is Artistic Director of QUAD, a centre for contemporary art and film, and Co-Founder and Artistic Director/Curator of FORMAT International Photography Festival, one of the UK’s leading contemporary photography and media festivals. As a curator, she has initiated and curated many commissions, publications, mass participation art, film and photography programmes and exhibitions around the world. Louise regularly writes about photography for catalogues and magazines in both print and online media including:Next Level, South Korean Photography, co-editor of Hijacked III UK/AUS, PHOTOCINEMA, and she is Editor at Large for www.1000wordsmag.com. She is an international photography juror and nominator, and a regular portfolio reviewer at festivals and galleries throughout Europe, America and Asia.

Manila Camarini
Photo Editor
D La Repubblica
Italy

Manila Camarini is the chief photo editor for D La Repubblica, a magazine attached to the newspaper la Repubblica. Born in Milan in 1973, Manila Camarini started her career as a photographic agent working for major Italian newspapers. She has held the role of photo editor for Panorama Travel Mondadori and Condè Nast Traveller. In 2003, she worked as a professional journalist and photo editor for D La Repubblica and in November 2014 she became chief photo editor for D Lui.

Mary Virginia Swanson
Photography Marketing Advisor
United States

Mary Virginia Swanson is an author, educator and advisor who helps artists find the strength in their work, identify appreciative audiences, and present their work in an informed, professional manner.

Unique among authorities in our field, Swanson’s in-depth knowledge, professional reputation and connections throughout our industry offers a broad range of perspectives on both the making and marketing of photo-based work. Her public seminars, lectures on marketing opportunities and in-depth workshops & retreats have proven to aid photographers in moving their careers to the next level.

Swanson co-authored with Darius Himes the acclaimed “Publish Your Photography Book: Revised & Updated” (2014) and continues to stay current on the growing market for photobooks, reflecting both the relative ease of self-publishing and the rise of the collectible photographic artists book.

Swanson’s website is mvswanson.com and she’s on Instagram as @maryvirginiaswanson.

Mazie Harris
Assistant Curator of the Department of Photographs
Getty Museum
United States

Mazie Harris, Ph.D., is an assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where she conducts research and manages the acquisition, loan, and display of photographs at the Museum from the past and present. Her scholarship has been supported by the Terra Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Art, and the Library of Congress. She has worked with photography collections at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Harvard Art Museums.

Michael Famighetti
Editor
Aperture Magazine
United States

Michael Famighetti is the Editor of Aperture magazine. In 2013, he organized a relaunch and reconceptualization of the publication, which won a 2018 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. He is the recipient, with guest editor Sarah Lewis, of the ICP Infinity Award for Critical Writing and Research for “Vision & Justice,” the summer 2016 issue of Aperture.

In addition to editing the magazine, Famighetti commissions and edits books for the Aperture Foundation, including volumes by William Christenberry, Robert Adams, John Divola, Jonas Bendiksen, Kwame Brathwaite and Joel Meyerowitz, among others. He is currently a visiting critic at the Yale University School of Art and a participant in SVA’s Mentors program.

His writing has appeared in Frieze, Bookforum and Aperture, among other publications. He is a member of the American Society of Magazine Editors and has been a guest reviewer and speaker at many international festivals and institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The New York Times; Vogue Italia; FOAM, Amsterdam; the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Bamako Biennial, Mali; Kyotographie, Kyoto; Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark; and Fotografiska, Stockholm.

Mutsuko Ota
Editorial Director
IMA magazine
Japan

Mutsuko Ota is Editorial Director of IMA magazine. Born in Tokyo, 1968, she started her career as an editor at Marie Claire and worked at several men’s magazines such as Esquire, GQ and others as a feature editor. Besides collaborating with several magazines as a freelance editor, she became involved in various fields including art projects, book and catalogue editing, and film promotion. She became the editorial director of IMA magazine in January 2012. In 2004, she helped produce a physical space called IMA CONCEPT STORE in Tokyo, with the goal of popularizing art photography in Japan.

Rebecca Morse
Curator
LACMA
United States

Rebecca Morse is Curator in the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where she recently organized the exhibitions Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld and Larry Sultan: Here and Home. Previous exhibitions include Amanda Ross Ho: Teeny Tiny Woman, Cai Guo-Qiang: Ladder to the Sky, Rodarte: States of Matter, The Artist’s Museum, and Florian Maier-Aichen organized for The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) where she was Associate Curator through 2013. She has written about the evolving relationship between photography and sculpture, contemporary photography in Los Angeles, and photography’s changing role in contemporary art beginning in the 1980s.

Simon Bainbridge
Editorial Director
British Journal of Photography
United Kingdom

Simon Bainbridge has spent much of his 25 years in arts journalism as editor of British Journal of Photography, taking over in 2003 and transforming the weekly trade journal into an award-winning monthly magazine. He has curated five exhibitions: Paper, Rock, Scissors: The Constructed Image in New British Photography at Flash Forward Festival 2010 in Boston (with colleague Diane Smyth); Time & Motion studies: New documentary photography beyond the decisive moment at Hereford Photography Festival 2011; Portrait of Britain (nationwide, 2016-18); and Ones To Watch at Peckham 24. He is working on two books; the first one based on the acclaimed public art project, Portrait of Britain, with Hoxton Mini Press, the other a book on portraits of artists. In additional, he has served as a judge or nominator on more than 100 photography contests, including the Deutsche Börse, Prix Pictet, Amnesty International Media Awards, ING Unseen Talent, CAP Prize and Organ Vida, and has been an expert at dozens of portfolio reviews across Europe.

Susan Thompson
Associate Curator
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
United States

Susan Thompson has spent over ten years as a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where she has organized numerous exhibitions, including most recently Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now (2019–20); Simone Leigh: Loophole of Retreat (2019); and Anicka Yi: Life Is Cheap (2017). Her writing has appeared in various volumes, including Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away (Guggenheim Museum, 2018), The Black Dada Reader (Walther König Books, 2017), and Photo-Poetics: An Anthology (Guggenheim Museum, 2015). Thompson holds an MA in modern art from Columbia University and a BA in art history and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Thank You!

Congratulations to all 48 winning photographers! And sincere thanks to every photographer who participated, and to each of the experts who contributed their time and expertise.