Announcing the Winners!
We’re delighted to announce the 38 winners, finalists and juror’s picks of LensCulture’s Black & White Photography Awards for 2021. These remarkable photographers have produced outstanding work in 21 countries on five continents, representing a wealth of stories and memory-searing images from cultures around the world — from Cameroon to Canada, Germany to Japan, the US and UK to Brazil and Mexico and beyond.
Take the time to explore each one of these award-winning photographs and series. You’ll discover some hard-hitting stories about addiction and violence, resilience, life in notorious prisons, and the challenges of giving birth during a global pandemic. You’ll also find expressions of joy and tenderness, visual poetry, celebrations of natural beauty, as well as excellent conceptual works that challenge the truth of memory, and call on the past to imagine the future.
These winning projects also celebrate the many ways that black-and-white photography can be relied upon to make stunning objects of art and abstraction, evidence and imagination, and timeless celebrations of life.
We hope you find inspiration here. Enjoy!
Series Winners
1st Place Series
United States
Maggie Shannon
Extreme Pain, but Also Extreme Joy
2nd Place Series
Michał Dyjuk
Cows can smell the scent of death
3rd Place Series
Peter Franck
lost, found and seen
“There was such great composure, honesty and impact in not just the images submitted, but their accompanying written work. So many of the entries and artists are deserving—it was challenging to select just a few. The works didn’t just grab my attention, but kept it, allowing time for contemplation and digestion.”
Rose Shoshana, Juror, Owner/Director Rose Gallery
Single Image Winners
1st Place Single
United States
José Ibarra Rizo
Bre and James Forever, 2021
2nd Place Single
Amirhossein Nami
3rd Place Single
Luiz Maximiano
Transgender Violence

Each of our jury members selected one photographer to be awarded special distinction. Here are the jurors’ special selections, with a brief quote from each expert explaining what they especially appreciate about these photographers and their work.
Elena Helfrecht
Selected by Bruno Ceschel
Director Self Publish Be Happy
Bruno Ceschel
Director Self Publish Be Happy
United Kingdom

I have been fascinated by Elena Helfrecht’s work since seeing her MA project Plexus. She has the ability to make enigmatic and beautiful black and white photographs that evoke complex personal and collective histories. With her new ongoing series Unternächte she goes back to her native Bavaria to explore themes like death, family, rituals and female clairvoyance. The photos are evocative, powerful and unsettlingly gothic.

Eric Kunsman
United States
Selected by Grace Deveney
Associate Curator of Photography and Media Art Institute of Chicago
Grace Deveney
Associate Curator of Photography and Media Art Institute of Chicago
United States

Eric Kunsman’s Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Race, Class, & Economics in Rochester, NY, documents the ongoing presence of a technology that is obsolete for many: public payphones. Kunsman’s photographs speak thoughtfully about the relationship between a city’s resources, and those who are impacted most deeply as public services vanish. The strength of the photographs lies in how they evoke an entire social and political landscape, one that affects people deeply through the geometry and forms of the space.

Gloria Salgado Gispert
Selected by Sandra Stevenson
Associate Director of Photography CNN
Sandra Stevenson
Associate Director of Photography CNN
United States

What I appreciate most about Gloria’s piece is her attempt to capture school life. Each scene, photographed eloquently, shows the hierarchy and social dynamics that occur between the students — which transcends cultures and countries.

Giuseppe Potente
South Africa
Selected by Rose Shoshana
Owner, Director Rose Gallery
Rose Shoshana
Owner, Director Rose Gallery
United States

I was moved by the strength of these women who traveled across boundaries and against great odds to find work that propelled their lives (and those who they love) forward. As a whole, this series exhibits stories of great resilience and the reality of many in our universal system of inequality: the need to leave the place they call home behind, and migrate for survival.

Jacob Black
United Kingdom
Selected by Ihiro Hayami
Director T3 Photo Festival Tokyo
Ihiro Hayami
Director T3 Photo Festival Tokyo

As an outsider who does not understand the context of British wilderness, it is difficult to fully grasp the meaning buried underneath; however, I am attracted to the worldview created by the photographer which owes its success to a choice of black and white. Viewers are invited to a mystical journey that is constructed by fragments of motifs. For those of us who live in cities, the city has somehow become a natural environment and the forest has turned into a heretical existence. In Japan there is an idiom called "On ko chi shin," meaning "He who would know what shall be, must consider what has been." The artist's attempt in this work echoes our subconscious mind as we try to figure out how to live in the future.

Matthew Barbarino
United States
Selected by Jacob Aue Sobol
Jacob Aue Sobol

I choose Matthew Barbarino — not because his images necessarily are the best, but because they are honest, they are real. His friends are heroin addicts and he shows us their desperation, but also their love. The pictures are taken from an insider’s point of view, so we avoid any kind of voyeurism. We are right there with them, we are one of them. To me that’s what it’s all about — to connect the subject and the audience in a natural and humanistic way.

Niv Shimshon
Selected by Jim Casper
Editor-in-Chief LensCulture
Jim Casper
Editor-in-Chief LensCulture
The Netherlands

These portraits by Niv Shimshon stop me every time I see them. They are simple, direct, uncluttered, honest. Each of the people pictured here seems to project a sense of serenity and “belonging” right where they are — which says as much about the photographer himself as well as the subjects. There is a relaxed but solemn air to these “formal” 4x5 portraits filled with natural light and tack-sharp focus on the humanity of the people.

“Once again I find myself engaging with an army of photographers challenging the expectation of what black and white photography can and should do today.”
Bruno Ceschel, Juror, Founder/Director Self Publish, Be Happy
Black & White Photography Awards Jury 2021
Ihiro Hayami
Tokyo International Photography Festival
Tokyo, Japan

Ihiro Hayami is the founder and director of the T3 Photo Festival (Tokyo International Photography Festival), which is celebrating its latest edition in October 2021. He is the former chief editor of the Japanese photography magazine PHaT PHOTO, and was the gallery director of RINGCUBE in Ginza. Ihiro’s curatorial exhibitions include Alejandro Chaskielberg’s Otsuchi Future Memories, Alex Prager’s WEEK-END, and more. Over the past few years he has served as juror, lecturer, and reviewer at various international photo festivals and photography universities.

Rose Shoshana
Owner, Director
Santa Monica, United States

Rose Shoshana founded ROSEGALLERY in 1992, establishing a renowned space focused on works which enrich the canon of modern and contemporary photography. ROSEGALLERY has centered its programming both on pictures which instill the history of photography (such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Dorothea Lange) and works that ever expand the potential of photo-based art (such as John Chiara and Lebohang Kganye).

Rose Shoshana’s work with ROSEGALLERY extends beyond exhibiting photographs: often collaborating and collecting support for artists to create projects that perhaps the artists could not have realized on their own. Shoshana has worked intimately with renowned artists and institutions, including William Eggleston, Bruce Davidson, Graciela Iturbide, Evelyn Hofer and Mark Cohen. Several of these projects became a part of the Tate Modern’s rotating program, Artist Rooms.

She is one of the founding members of the Getty Museum’s Photographs Council and has worked with The J. Paul Getty Museum on several of their major exhibitions. She has published and edited several books, and she worked with Jo Ann Callis on realizing her first monograph Early Color, published by Aperture.

Jacob Aue Sobol
Magnum Photos
Copenhagen, Denmark

Jacob Aue Sobol is an award-winning photographer and member of Magnum Photos. He has published several monographs of his unique, expressive style of black-and-white photography and exhibited his work widely. His images focus on the universality of human emotion and the search for love within oftentimes harsh surroundings.

Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1976, he has lived in Canada, Greenland and Tokyo, before returning to Denmark in 2008. He has traveled extensively in the years since, photographing in Siberia, Thailand, Mongolia, America, and China while staying based in Copenhagen.

His book "I, Tokyo” was awarded the Leica European Publishers Award in 2008. In 2012 he began photographing along the Trans-Siberian Railroad and spent the next five winters photographing in the remote Russian province of Yakutia for his project "Road of Bones." He has ongoing projects in Denmark ("Home") and the United States ("America").

Sandra Stevenson
Associate Director of Photography
New York City, United States

Sandra M. Stevenson recently joined CNN as Associate Director of Photography, after working for 15 years as an award-winning Writer/Visual Editor/Curator at The New York Times. Formerly, she was the program coordinator for the Black Filmmaker Foundation. Sandra was a contributing writer for the book "Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives."

Bruno Ceschel
Self Publish, Be Happy
London, United Kingdom

Bruno Ceschel is the founder and director of Self Publish, Be Happy — an organization dedicated to shaping contemporary photography and visual culture through publishing, online and offline events, and education programs since 2010.

Through SPBH Editions, his organization challenges the traditional boundaries of bookmaking to realize exceptional artist projects in the form of limited edition publications, multiples, artefacts, prints and posters.

His book “Self Publish, Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto” was published by Aperture in 2015.

Grace Deveney
Associate Curator of Photography and Media
Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, United States

Grace Deveney is associate curator of photography and media at the Art Institute of Chicago. Located in downtown Chicago, the Art Institute is one of the world’s great art museums, housing a collection that spans centuries and the globe. Deveney is also the associate curator of the Prospect.5 triennial in New Orleans, where she is creating photography exhibitions in public spaces throughout the city. She is the former assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where she curated several exhibitions. She has also served as a curatorial researcher at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jim Casper
Amsterdam, 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.

Thank You
Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who entered the Black & White Awards 2021. This year has been a very challenging year for many people in and beyond our community, and it was gratifying to discover so many talented people who continue to make good work while enduring difficult situations. We want to take a moment to express our appreciation for your ongoing participation, and we look forward to seeing what you will do in the coming year.
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