LensCulture Art Photography Awards aim to recognize and reward visionary artists who are using photographic images and processes as powerful tools for personal expression.
Our global call for entries went out in 15 languages during this critical time when the pandemic upended daily life everywhere — and we were delighted with the amazing amount of creativity that was shared with us.
In this year’s winning selection of 41 photographers from 17 countries, you will discover an abundance of vivid artistic expression: Meditative and poetic work. Artful documentary. Photographs as sculpture and collage. Hybrid combinations of old techniques and digital drawing. Creative frenzies emerging from isolation and confinement. Fantasies of teleportation and time travel. Heartbreaking true stories of loss and grief. Thought-provoking staged and conceptual scenes. Humor. Outrage. Self-reflection. And, of course, celebrations of pure beauty, nature, love, and light.
We hope you will take the time to find inspiration from each and every one of these new discoveries. Enjoy!
— Jim Casper, Editor in Chief, LensCulture
Alison has found a way to soothe her pandemic blues by bringing together the limitations of her current moment with the freedom of former ones, chock full of warm feeling, fond memories, and simpler times. I admired her DIY aesthetic of sharing these photographic memories, casually taped and pinned in her everyday environment. Their humor does not belie the poignancy of the wanting and longing that we all feel right now. In a sea of photographers looking at their pandemic lives, Alison delivers something fresh, relatable, and exquisite.
I think the artist’s way of presentation is brilliant, where people’s lives of the present and old days in a small village are combined through the images of needlework of women. The artist adds a quality of handmade craft to her photographs which vividly shows the movements and acts of the women in the community. The work sheds light on the history of the village women which have been easily forgotten in the official record.
I found Hauksdóttir’s distinctive, beautifully evocative series of fragmented landscapes to be one of the most cohesive series submitted. Their sculptural forms slowly and quietly revealed themselves. They are timeless, intriguing, mysterious, subtle and contemplative.
Diego Moreno’s series Malignant Influences would not leave me alone. I kept on returning to the series because I did not understand what was happening but it left a kind of screen burn on my mind. Not understanding and curiosity led to a nightmarish door, an invitation to think on what both disturbed and attracted me. On each return to the work I was taken on a different journey as the images unlocked the push and pull of the unconscious and they evoked feelings I will or can never fully understand. Within this work we see a dark storm, and its brilliance as a series is that it offers us no sense of security in that which is most sacred, the family.
In this hybrid photography work, the Greek artist Ioanna Sakellaki incorporates a new kind of subjectivity, intimacy, and criticism about death and loss. Perfectly merging performance and staged emotions, Ioanna has developed and broadened the language of photography as she reflects about memory, religion and mythology. “The Truth is in the Soil” is a dense and moving body of work: a deep contribution to the collection of tales of human struggle for meaning. She shows a broad emotional range, with pain, loss, empathy and beauty side by side.
Kira Krász describes her work as “focused on the interplay between images and their physical properties.” The layered and roughly assembled qualities of this piece underscore this aspect of her practice, while also stretching to accommodate and describe the unique psychological spaces that many of us have grappled with over the course of the pandemic. The artist depicts herself and her partner in multiple, varied poses; each figure is printed on separate pieces of recycled paper that mimic the blocky, modular shapes familiar to anyone who has played the video game Tetris. Tightly stacked together at the bottom of the image, these interlocking figures evoke a question increasingly relevant to life under lockdown, namely: how does one occupy a prescribed amount of space in relation to another body, another self, over a prolonged period of time? Squaring each other to fit as the space will be tiny the days will be long is a compelling and lyrical meditation on the ongoing negotiation between intimacy and autonomy; fitting together and friction.
The work of photographer Hal stirs contradictory emotions. On one side the claustrophobic aspect of the set-up (people, families, couples, huddled together in a forced plastic-wrap embrace, together with their homes and cars) creates a sense of anxiety and surprise. Surprise which is immediately overtaken by awe in front of such ingenuous, complex and time-consuming installation. On the other hand, hinted by the title and the artist’s words, we can relax and re-interpret the scene as a symbolic representation of the connection between human beings. We are connected by love (represented by the embrace) and the interconnection expands to all and everything around us (the wrapping effect), and we are thus gifted with a simple and straightforward message of optimism that entails covering everything with love (and thus living in a better world). Furthermore, considering the times we are living, the embrace and the plastic, carry an additional, unintended meaning, reflecting our craving for hugging and touching, which have become so scarce in COVID times.
Kawecki’s photographs from his childhood home is a touching body of work of the presence and absence of his beloved grandmother. He describes the portraits he takes of her as a collective work, his and hers together and they blossom with feelings of love, nostalgia but also sadness. The combination of a strong personal story and beautiful photographs is something that I find deeply touching.
I was taken by the mysterious and evocative art works by Weiye Su when I first saw them, and they continue to exude their charms with repeated viewing. I like the fusion of the minimal, almost primitive, technique of pinhole photography with collage and digital drawing. The test strips of pinhole prints included in the collage are muddied with chemicals and light leaks, calling to mind cosmic storms, ancient mountains, volcanic eruptions and the wild power of nature.
Lesley A. Martin is creative director at the Aperture Foundation and publisher of The PhotoBook Review. She has edited numerous photobooks, including Takashi Homma’s Tokyo (2008), Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance (2011), LaToya Ruby Frazier’s The Notion of Family (2013), and recent books by Richard Misrach and Gregory Crewdson. Lesley cofounded the Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards and has curated exhibitions for Aperture. Her writing on photography has been published in Aperture, FOAM, Ojo de Pez, and Lay Flat among other publications and she currently teaches a graduate course on the photobook at the Yale University School of Art.
Dr. Mark Sealy is interested in the relationships between photography and social change, identity politics, race, and human rights. He has been director of London-based photographic arts institution Autograph ABP since 1991. He has produced numerous artist publications, curated exhibitions, and commissioned photographers and filmmakers worldwide, including the critically acclaimed exhibition “Human Rights Human Wrongs” at Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto in 2013 and at The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 2015.
Sealy has written for many international photography publications, including Foam Magazine, Aperture and the Independent Newspaper in London. He has written numerous essays for theoretical publications and artist monographs. In 2002, Sealy and professor Stuart Hall co-authored “Different”, which focused on photography and identity politics. His notable projects include the exhibition “Self Evident” at Ikon Gallery Birmingham, “The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding / Decoding” for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto and seminal projects on the works of James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Mahtab Hussain, Maud Sulter and Sunil Gupta are just a few of the many exhibitions he has curated. He was also the guest curator for Houston Fotofest 2020 working under the title of African Cosmologies Photography Time and the Other.
His recent book, “Decolonising the Camera: Photography in Racial Time”, was published in 2019 by Lawrence and Wishart. His PhD was awarded, by Durham University England and focused on Photography and Cultural Violence. Sealy is currently serving as Principal Fellow Decolonising Photography at University of the Arts London.
Pauline Benthede is the Global Director of Exhibitions at Fotografiska and Chairman of Fotografiska’s Exhibition Committee. She has worked at Fotografiska since the inauguration of Fotografiska Stockholm in 2010 and is today strategically and creatively responsible for the exhibitions that tour Fotografiska Stockholm, New York and Tallinn, and strategically responsible for exhibitions in the planning of future Fotografiska museums. She has produced, managed and/or curated a significant number of exhibitions with international artists such as Andres Serrano, David LaChapelle, Inez & Vinoodh, Hassan Hajjaj, Sarah Moon, Cooper & Gorfer, Ren Hang, Patrick Demarchelier, Martin Schoeller, Motohiko Odani, Anton Corbijn, Bettina Rheims, Isaac Julien and Sebastiao Salgado, to name a few.
Pauline Benthede holds a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from Gothenburg University and studied curating at Stockholm University and photography history at Umeå University.
Matthew Flowers (b. 1956) is a British contemporary art dealer and the Managing Director of Flowers Gallery, London, Hong Kong and New York. Flowers Gallery, which is now in its 50th year, is one of the longest-standing international contemporary art galleries and currently represents over 50 international artists and artist’s estates, working across a wide range of media. Established in 2008, the Gallery's dedicated photography programme is recognised for its engagement with important socio-cultural, political and environmental themes. Throughout his career Matthew has been on boards and committees of international art fairs and arts institutions and spent 12 years as a non-executive Director of DACS (visual artists’ rights management organisation).
Natsumi Araki is a curator and associate professor of inter-media art and global art practice based in Tokyo. Since 1994, she has been involved in the organization of exhibitions and educational programs as a curator for the Mitaka City Arts Foundation, Mori Art Museum, and Tokyo University of the Arts. Exhibitions she has curated include “Odani Motohiko: Phantom Limb,” “Go-Betweens: The World Seen through Children,” “Dinh Q. Lé: Memory for Tomorrow,” and “Roppongi Crossing 2016: My Body, Your Voice.” She most recently curated “Listen to Her Voice,” a group exhibition of 11 women artists at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Kathryn Humphries is the art director of Harper’s Magazine, where she produces and edits features. She currently teaches in the art history department at the School of Visual Arts and has taught at the International Center of Photography and the Educational Alliance Art School. She has served as a reviewer for the New York Portfolio Review; the International Center of Photography’s Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism, New Media Narratives, and ICP-Bard MFA programs; and United Photo Industries The Fence, among others. She holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and an MFA from CUNY.
Michael Foley opened his eponymous gallery in the fall of 2004 in New York after fourteen years of working with notable photography galleries including Fraenkel Gallery, Howard Greenberg Gallery and Yancey Richardson Gallery.
The gallery has since been invited to participate in over thirty international and national art fairs including Paris Photo, Pulse, AIPAD, VOLTA, and the London Art Fair. Gallery exhibitions and artists have been reviewed and written about in numerous publications including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Artforum, Modern Painters and ArtNEWS.
Foley is the founder of The Photo Community, which offers classes and commentary on contemporary photography. He continues his interest in education by serving on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography where he teaches and lectures on issues in contemporary photography.
Arianna Rinaldo is a freelance professional working as a photo editor, reviewer, curator and teacher. She is the Director of OjodePez, the documentary photography quarterly published by LaFabrica, Madrid. She is also the artistic director of Cortona On The Move, an annual international photo festival, taking place in the beautiful region of Tuscany, Italy. In 2014, she was the guest artistic director of DOCfield14, a city-wide celebration of documentary photography in Barcelona, involving more than 40 institutions and organized by Photographic Social Vision.
Ângela is a Portuguese artist and and independent photography curator, pos-doc researcher at Escola de Belas Artes Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro Brazil, developing studies on contemporary visual practices that problematize the hybrid forms of photography. Ângela Ferreira is Co-Founder of the Portuguese PhotoFestival Encontros da Imagem, where she has collaborated as Artistic Director and Curator. She has lectured on contemporary photography throughout Europe and Latin American countries, particularly in Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia, and acted as a curator for both national and international exhibitions. She is curatorial member of Photography Museum in Fortaleza, Brazil and artistic advisor of the FotoFestival SOLAR, Ceará, Brazil.
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.