We’re delighted to announce 39 talented photographers as the winners, jurors’ picks and finalists of the LensCulture Portrait Awards. These remarkable photographers come from 16 countries on four continents, and their work reflects the dynamic range of contemporary portraiture being made around the world today.
In fact, this year, many of the winning images and series push well beyond the traditional boundaries of photographic portraiture to achieve unexpected results.
Highlights from this year’s winners include: family portraits that bring together 5 generations in one picture; collaborative portraits of vulnerable people who need to stay anonymous to protect their identities; conceptual self-portraits that question the sacrifices of trying to fit in to societal norms; pop-art portraits as political metaphor; fiction and alter egos; alternative process portraits; fringe groups who rumble in the forests; photos made on the road or in professional studios; fine art collages; as well as celebrations of pure beauty and light, and lots more.
We hope you discover some new sources of inspiration and contemplation, surprise and delight. Enjoy!
I was instantly captivated by Jeremy Snell’s sparse, hypnotic images of young Ghanaians fishing in a lake. The story behind them is heartbreaking. Boys as young as six are forced to fish, using their small and nimble hands to untangle nets. Rising at 4am every day to set the nets, they are denied the chance of an education, and ultimately a childhood. The innocence portrayed in these images—through the use of warm, diffused light and muted tones—makes them all the more deceptive. We are well used to stereotypical images of Africa as a deprived or exotic continent, but the approach here is different. While the photographs are seemingly beautiful and exotic, the mood of solitude and loneliness is overwhelming. The photographs appear richly cinematic while at the same time reminding us that for some, there is no happy ending.
By focusing on wax print fabric—a form with roots in Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Javanese, Dutch and African traditions, Yemeni-Bosnian artist Alia Ali has created a portrait of various cultures at crossroads. In her series FLUX, photographs with a heady visual impact simultaneously approach dense topics: how politics, economics and histories collide in fabric patterns and techniques. Her series identifies sitters solely by abstracted tunic, headdress and backdrop, placing the colonized African identity in the forefront. Textiles evoke the everyday, and yet in her hands they act as poetic signifiers referencing migration, imperialism, ownership, and who has voice.
Gloria Oyarzabal created a compelling project that powerfully connects the past to the present through photographs and archived images. Exploring the practices of gender history and knowledge-making, Woman Go No’gree is a thought-provoking and insightful project that confronts the impact of African colonialism on our idea of femininity, reminding us that gender is a sociocultural Western construction. She invite us to rethink new ways of looking.
This image stood out to me, above all the others. It’s not a portrait in the traditional sense, to me it tells a story but in just one image. There is a certain air of calm about the photo, the subject is obviously in a pensive meditative prayer state, there is an obvious and also subtle vulnerability to the image too, the fact that he doesn’t have a Kippah on his head, along with him also being bare chested or naked. There is a reflective element to the image that is obvious with him being in water, but there are so many subtle references and stories going on within the image, I could stare at it for ages and still not feel as though I knew everything about it.
I was immediately drawn to its mysterious and poetic sensibility, the quiet tension in the composition, the shapes and patterns, and its psychological atmosphere. It is subtly revealing, saying much about what is unseen, and for me, represents a thoughtful, alternative approach to portraiture.
Marieke van der Velden’s photo series “Dutch Matryoshka’s” brings back memories of flipping through family photo albums or visiting a home with a wall of family portraits shot through the years. Bringing together five generations of women from one family is impressive enough, but she’s photographed eight families like this! Her images welcome the viewer into these women’s homes, allowing us to appreciate their different environments and unique details in each setting. Her images have a warm and genuine feeling that I thoroughly enjoyed.
This photograph is a portrayal of love and tenderness between a mother and a daughter or perhaps two sisters. Each is covered only by a headdress, which can also be interpreted as a bandage. They are beautiful and serene and intimately together. Their eyes are closed as if in prayer or meditation with their heads creating a heart-shape. The soft lighting and simple grey backdrop help the viewer focus on the giving and receiving of love, the true healer.
These portraits of people who live in Naples feel as if they could have been made on the set of a movie. Each character comes to life in a single frame, and seemingly sets the stage for an intriguing narrative. The portraits are beautifully lit and composed, and they capture a range of attitudes and personalities that seem real and memorable.
Russ O’Connell is the Picture Editor of the prestigious Sunday Times Magazine in London. He has worked for some of the biggest consumer publications in the UK market as a Photographic Editor and Director. Collaborating with the biggest photographers in the world, both in the UK and abroad, he regularly commissions assignments ranging from high-end celebrity portraiture, to in-depth reportage and long-form documentary photography. Russ has judged numerous high profile photographic competitions for the likes of: The Sony World Photography Awards, Royal Photographic Society awards, BJP, Amnesty International, and is on the judging panel of the Ian Parry Scholarship.
Eve Schillo curates exhibitions that span photographic history and appear in galleries dedicated to American, Latin American, Modern, Contemporary, and Japanese Art, as well as those devoted to photography. She has worked on a range of exhibitions during her tenure at LACMA, including Cuban photography after the revolution, an ongoing self-portraiture series, multi-media work by author/artist William S. Burroughs, Pictorialist displays, and the still and moving imagery of Katy Grannan and Charlie White. Recent projects include an exhibition celebrating Mexican photographer Mariana Yampolsky; This Is Not a Selfie; Sarah Charlesworth: Doubleworld; Larry Sultan: Here and Home; and Road Trip: Photography and the American West.
Andrew Wingert is an Associate Director of Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York. Founded in 1995, the gallery specializes in contemporary photography and represents a number of influential and critically recognized photographers and artists. Andrew has participated in numerous domestic and international art fairs over the years including Paris Photo, The AIPAD Photography Show, Photo London, Art Brussels, UNTITLED Miami and The Armory Show.
Caroline Hunter is a picture editor for The Guardian Weekend magazine and has 20 years experience commissioning photography (from concept to celebrity, portraiture, still-life, beauty, fashion and documentary photography) and reviewing photo-essays and proposals. Caroline is regularly invited to review portfolios at international photo festivals and has also acted as a judge for a number of photography competitions. In 2017, she was a nominator for the Deutsche Börse prize.
Since 2010, Manolis Moresopoulos has been the artistic director of the Athens Photo Festival, a leading international festival of photography and visual culture. In and beyond this role, Manolis has been responsible for numerous exhibitions and photography-related activities, including book projects, learning activities, artist exchange programs, and talent development initiatives. Over the past few years he has served as nominator, juror and reviewer for many international festivals and organisations, and regularly lectures on the theory and practice of photography. Manolis is always looking for new or emerging artists working with photography for possible future collaborations.
Samantha Cooper is the senior photo editor at WIRED. Previously, she was a photo and video curator at Instagram and a creative producer and photo editor at Airbnb. Samantha has developed a Webby Award-winning film for Airbnb and produced photography that was selected as an American Photography 35 winner for WIRED. She has exhibited work and curated photography exhibitions throughout San Francisco, and she has taught photography at the Harvey Milk Photo Center in San Francisco, California. Samantha holds a BA in Film and Video from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She currently serves on the City College of San Francisco Industry Advisory Board for photography.
Dina Mitrani opened her gallery in 2008, focusing exclusively on fine art photography and photo-based art. The gallery exhibits work by emerging and mid-career international artists with a mission to engage the community in artistic dialogues and cultural enrichment. Besides exhibitions and artist lectures, Dina organizes emerging-artist workshops, gives gallery talks to educational groups, and has collaborated with independent curators to produce important photography exhibitions in the Miami area. She is currently working towards opening a new Center for Photography, Film and Video in the Little River neighborhood of Miami, quickly becoming a new art area of the city.
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!