14 February 2020
14 February 2020 - Written by Giuseppe Oliverio
Still wondering whether to apply or not? With so many photography contests out there, we explore just why you should present your work to our annual open call and how you can benefit from it.
© Dani Pujalte. 2019 Photography Grant finalist
The PHmuseum Photography Grant is an annual initiative that recognises the importance of photography and visual storytelling. Over the years it has grown into a leading prize and a reference for photo editors, curators, and those who are interested in visual language. So, what makes it so special and why is it worth it the entry fee?
I. REPUTATION / There are many awards and opportunities out there, yet how many are serious and meaningful for your career? With all due respect to the next street photography award, our team has worked hard year after year to build a certain reputation around our platform and our open calls. Just 8 years after the first open call, we are proud to have recognised the work of photographers like Diana Markosian, Max Pinckers, Poulomi Basu, Tomas van Houtryve, Liza Ambrossio, and Jacob Aue Sobol; to have worked with esteemed judges including Kathy Ryan (The New York Times), Martin Parr (Magnum Photos), Sarah Leen (National Geographic), and Roger Ballen; and to have collaborated with many international organisations and festivals among which World Press Photo, Fotografia Europea, and Vogue Italia.
II. WORK ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY / As a photographer you might be keen to shoot almost everyday, while that's just part of the job. Every so often it's important - if not necessary - to stop and look at your production. Our open call is a great occasion to do so and see where your work stands. So, take this opportunity to reflect on your photographs, prepare a strong edit, and write a good essay. Before presenting your work to our international jury, it is a good moment to get feedback from friends and colleagues, be self-critical, and see where there's margin for improvement. For quick tips, check our list of 8 mistakes to avoid when preparing your submission.
III. MEANINGFUL PRIZES / This is the richest edition we have organised so far, with a full range of prizes comprising cash, exhibitions, projections, online publications, and educational opportunities. Four winners will share a cash prize pool totalling $16,000 with which you will be free to either continue an ongoing project, start a new one, invest in new gears or do whatever you consider more convenient to further your photography and career. Two photographers will get a solo exhibition at PhEST (Monopoli, Italy) and Getxo Photo (Getxo, Basque Country, Spain), two of the most exciting independent photography festival in Europe. Three photographers will get the opportunity to be featured on World Press Photo's Witness and on their Instagram account that boasts 1.3 million followers. All the shortlisted photographers will be projected at Lagos Photo in Nigeria, Verzasca Foto in Switzerland, Jakarta International Photo Festival in Indonesia, and Cortona On The Move in Italy. Long story short, a wide and complete range of initiatives to support your work and formation, with more than 40 applicants who will benefit from them.
© Guilherme Gerais. 2019 Photography Grant Honorable Mention awardee
IV. VALIDATION / The PHmuseum Grant is not here to state that which is the best work this year or if a certain project is better than another. Our open call is indeed meant to be a vehicle to promote photographers and share meaningful works with our audience. That said, being recognised by this year panel of judges will not only shade a light on your photography, but also represent a great boost of energy and enthusiasm to keep doing what you do. Many former finalists wrote and told us so after receiving a good news, and we hope it will be the same for you as well. That said, keep believing in what you do however it goes. Consistency and perseverance always pay-off eventually.
V. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR NETWORK / PHmuseum is an international hub where many photo editors, curators, and gallerists land every week to discover new projects and talents. At the moment of featuring new projects we always have in mind the latest call's entries. At the same time this grant is a great vehicle for us to discover new projects and recommend them to those colleagues who might, for example, be searching for photographers with certain characteristics for an assignment; or for works on certain subjects to be published in magazines or showcased at a festival. Over the years we have seen many photographers benefiting from these "collateral" opportunities. At the same time our panel of judges comprising of Roderick Van Der Lee (Photo London Director), Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger (Professor at University of Arts Helsinki), Tanya Habjoqua (Photographer at NOOR Agency) and Azu (Director AAF and Lagos Photo) will keep their favourites in mind and suggest them to their respective organisations. Same goes for PhEST and Getxo Photo's Artistic Directors or the many colleagues that will see our screenings at international festivals.
VI. LEARN FROM THE OTHERS / Even if previous years' shortlist and results are always available on our platform, one thing is to follow an open call from the outside and one another is to be directly involved. If you apply, you will follow the judging steps, see the shortlisted projects, learn about other photographers and their visual approach, read the judges motivations and so on. Many useful information that can help you better understand what other talented photographers are doing these days, what the judges considers relevant, and most importantly how you can implement them to improve your work.
© Liza Ambrossio. 2019 Photography Grant New Generation Prize recipient
VII. INTERNATIONAL EXPOSURE / Even if the main prizes are assigned by our international jury, we review all the applications to select the work we feature on our channels. Every year more than 400 photographers are indeed featured on our Instagram and Facebook accounts. Even in these days, we are posting selected submissions from the current call. At the same time, we review or publish the work of 120 photographers a year in our News section, and invite more than 60 visual storytellers to present their projects in our online exhibitions. With 300,000 visitors annually and around 110,000 people who follow us on social media, we constantly give exposure to the photographers who are part of PHmuseum and support them in sharing their work with our international audience.
VIII. SUPPORT PHMUSEUM / We are an independent organisation that has been growing organically year after year, mostly thanks to those photographers who have trusted our grants and education programs. We indeed reinvest around 70% of the entry fees in developing our team and platform. When you apply, you participate in the improvement of our free services, while granting us the opportunity to self-finance ourselves without turning to sponsors or investors. Something very important to preserve the integrity and independence of our voice and keep enjoying all the free content including our Festivals, Exhibitions, News, and Stories section.
XI. YOU HAVE TO TRY / In an interview we made a few years ago, Brazilian photographer, curator and cultural producer Iatã Cannabrava told us: “There is this false myth that the artists should not be their own managers, that the world has to discover you and help you out.” We totally agree with him. Have a clear project development plan in mind, and save 5% of your annual budget to apply for grants and awards. Don’t wait to be discovered, take action to place your photography on the map. Beyond the many opportunities, applying represents an effective way to get inspiration, be self-critical with your work, and improve as a photographer. As former New Generation Prize awardee Alice Mann once told us: "It's just about entering so even if you don’t win anything, you have still benefited. Although this may seem simplistic, it’s really some of the best advice I have ever been given! It's all about continuing to try and continuing to improve."
The PHmuseum Photography Grant is an annual initiative that recognises the importance of photography and visual storytelling. To participate, you are invited to submit one or more projects centered around a specific theme, narrative or concept. All approaches are welcomed, from classic narratives to innovative and experimental projects. Learn more and present your work at phmuseum.com/grant before 20 February (11:59pm GMT).