Join us in congratulating these 39 talented photographers as the winners, special jurors’ picks and finalists for the 2020 LensCulture Exposure Awards! After reviewing many hundreds of amazing entries from over 140 countries, the jury selected these remarkable photographers who share their stories from 18 countries on five continents. They inspire us with their ways of seeing the world and each other.
Viewed as a whole, the work represents an exciting range of photographic genres: portraits, reportage, staged and constructed stories, documentary, fine art, conceptual, editorial, perceptual, sculptural and personally intimate photography. They cover everything from very current events on the world stage, to quiet moments from people and places that continue to celebrate old world traditions — plus lots more.
Through these photography awards, our aim is to discover excellent photographers from diverse backgrounds and experience levels, and connect them with global audiences and career-changing opportunities. We’re thrilled to exhibit the top winners of this competition in New York City in April 2020, coinciding with the inaugural Paris Photo New York, an international fair dedicated to photography.
Please take your time to look carefully at each of these award-winning projects. We have a hunch you’ll find work that makes your heart beat faster.
It is a delight to select this series by Namsa Leuba, whose work I have followed ever since she came to my attention on graduating from ECAL. I immediately connected with her strong sense of art direction. She carefully builds her portraits with colours, codes and props that signify the visual trope of exoticism, fashion, and the Western gaze. This work so beautifully floats questions of identity politics, of ‘otherness’ and binary representation. For me, there is something sensitive, feminine and always challenging about her work.
Sasha Maslov’s series holds intrigue and charm. With their surprising contrast of colour in the grey urban environment and their bright individuality, the ladies Maslov photographs stand silent and proud in their formal uniforms. The photographer allows us to reflect on the individual characters and their houses. Why does the profession still exist? These women’s jobs have remained unchanged over the decades while the transport and infrastructure system around them has transformed. Their isolation seems to suggest that they are the last of their kind.
The way Maslov has set up the images feels almost intentionally theatrical, as if they are stage sets, and the interior shots deliberately draw us in. The subjects reside in a public space where people usually quickly pass by. With a blur of colour or drawn curtains, we can only wonder at what’s inside.
This photo conjures thoughts of other great photos that I love and have seemingly been placed by Keith Virgo in a blender to create something new. Obviously Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes, which I can (and have) looked at for hours at a time, but also something playful is happening here. The mystery of an image like Duane Michals’ ‘The Illuminated Man (1968)’ come to mind, and while it all feels perfectly composed (is he really ascending and levitating above a bird mid-flight?) it also has a vernacular or stock photo quality to it reminiscent of highly staged athletic photography or editorial work from the past. In the end it simply boils down to an incredibly crafted image that keeps my mind questioning what exactly is going on here, and why? What more can I ask of a photo but for sustained contemplation and constant re-engagement?!
Rory Doyle’s Delta Hill Riders documents daily life around African American cowboy culture. In portraits and reportage, we are given a warm, graceful glimpse into this underrepresented community, challenging popular notions around the myth of the American cowboy. I’m drawn to one image in particular of two young boys riding a horse at sunset, thinking about what’s in store for the next generation.
Chinese artist He Bo’s compelling work responds to global acts of terrorism and violent assaults. Unlike artists who work in the real world to photograph, He Bo gathers found images from press and social media sites to form otherworldly composite portraits of terrorists and their victims. The substrate portrait is formed with a multitude of micro images of the terrorists and the incident. The melded portrait is layered with tiny Morse Code close up images of the victims’ mouths, giving voice to those no longer alive. He Bo examines terrifying, deadly attacks, yet elements of the images lend unexpectedly captivating and humanistic meaning that compels the viewer to look longer and reflect on these acts of terror. He Bo extends the language of photography with thought-provoking works that critically comment on our place in a time of violence.
Each time I look at the images in River Notes by Riitta Päiväläinen, I feel compelled to pause and look more carefully, and to reflect on the intricate intertwining of all life forms on the planet. It’s a simple idea brought to life with quiet elegance and finesse.
Päiväläinen takes us to isolated areas in wild nature, empty of signs of humanity except for these organic-looking ribbons of delicate fabric looping through the branches of trees and reflecting in the surfaces of moving water, implying interconnections without beginning or end.
For me, these well-imagined scenes induce a sense of wonder, and remind me of the effortless flow of nature. Her materials also suggest the idea of bandages to form connections, to heal, to recognize interdependencies — reminders of the fragile balance that is at risk in the very real climate crisis happening now, affecting everything at once in every part of the Earth.
If I had to paint a landscape in which a soul is searching for a connection to a world mirroring the unknown, La Profondeur des Roches could be the answer. The works by Guillaume Amat heighten my curiosity and encourage me to look more closely and to take a detour out of the usual narratives I come across. There are layers of visual trickery in each image, and each seems to be hiding a clue. This is emphasized by an incidental performative presence of the photographer, which adds a personal, human element to the otherwise barren landscapes. Overall, the work is refreshing and reflects a diligent well thought out process in translating ideas into images.
By capturing urban trees with a multiple exposure on one negative, Frank Machalowski transforms the common object into a monument, standing isolated in a concrete desert. Through the technique, the clear and known structure of the tree gets distorted, even seems to vibrate. The tree - almost captured like a drawing on paper - seems to be fragile and vulnerable, but at the same time appears as a monument of resistance against a high urbanization level. It is a work that convinces in both form and content.
Paul Moakley is an Editor at Large for Special Projects at TIME. He served as Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise of TIME from 2010 to 2018. Paul Moakley produces special projects such as the recent "Opioid Diaries" and TIME’s Person of the Year. He was part of the Emmy award winning team for TIME’s interactive documentary Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience. Previously he was senior photo editor at Newsweek and photo editor of PDN (Photo District News).
Mee-Lai Stone is a Picture Editor, Culture for The Guardian. She is part of the international team that selects and produces daily online photography galleries, essays, features and single images to be shared with The Guardian’s global audience of readers.
Mirjam Cavegn is the founder of Bildhalle, one of the most respected galleries for photography in Switzerland. Interested in both established and emerging innovative contemporary photographers, Mirjam shapes an ambitious gallery program through solo and group exhibitions as well as participation in international art fairs. Previously, she developed photo books for international publishing houses and was photo editor for various media companies.
Rebecca McClelland is Executive Producer & head of department for Art Production within Saatchi & Saatchi, managing a team of creative producers & image searchers. Rebecca is responsible for leading & crafting visual outputs of several of the world’s leading creative companies like Airbnb, Sunday Times magazine, BBH, Wallpaper*. As an award-winning visual story teller, with 17 years experience in advertising, luxury & long-form current affairs, Rebecca is renowned for helping clients develop a dynamic visual language.
Ada Takahashi is a principal with the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco. She focuses on the gallery’s curatorial efforts, liaising with artists, and on the gallery’s presence at international art fairs. The Koch Gallery program emphasizes contemporary photography as well as experimental work from the 1920s and 1930s. In recent years, the gallery’s exhibitions have included work by Edward Burtynsky, Michael Wolf, Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, Tamas Dezso, and Mimi Plumb. The contemporary program is shaped by a desire to expand the dialogue around significant aesthetic and social issues of our time.
Paul Schiek’s work as an artist has been collected and shown throughout the United States and internationally and is included in many private and public collections. In 2012 his practice made a significant shift towards photo book publishing. After self-publishing his first book, he formally founded TBW Books and today the company has published books by some of the world’s leading photographers working in the field including Jim Goldberg, Gregory Halpern, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Richard Misrach, Wolfgang Tillmans, Susan Meiselas, Katy Grannan, Curran Hatleberg, and Kristine Potter. Schiek is a regular contributor to Apartamento Magazine as well as a frequent lecturer on the topics of photography and bookmaking.
After 6 years of experience in the museum industry, Gwen Lee co-founded Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF), a biennale international photography platform in 2008. Since then, she has curated & organised numerous photography exhibitions both in Singapore and overseas. In 2014, she curated Flux: Contemporary Photography from China at Art Science Museum. In 2016, she curated a special photobook exhibition with Steidl publishing at DECK, and a solo exhibition of Daido Moriyama at DECK. On regular basis, she gives talks on professional development for photographers, and participates as a juror and portfolio reviewer in Asia and Europe.
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 39 photographers! And our thanks go to everyone who entered the competition. 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!