Alumni on Winning the PHmuseum Grant

A year after the recognition, PHmuseum 2017 Grant alumni Salvatore Vitale, Jacob Aue Sobol and Karim El Maktafi tell us what winning a prize meant to them.

© Salvatore Vitale, from How to Secure a Country (PHM 2017 Grant main prize winner)

With the increasing numbers of awards out there, it can be difficult to chose which one to enter, and understand what winning a prize could mean for your career. For this reason we went to talk with the PHM 2017 Grant winners to have a better understanding of what it really meant to them. 

“Each award/prize/grant is different and suits a different kind of artist/photographer" says Italian photographer Salvatore Vitale, winner of the main prize. "I’m not applying to photo competitions often, but in this particular case I thought it could be a good move because of the quality of the jury, the outstanding list of previous winners - which gave me a glimpse into the quality and the accuracy of the award itself - and the opportunities it could have given me in terms of network, feedback and – last but not least – value.”

Thanks to his highly recognised project How to Secure a Country, Vitale had a fantastic year with exhibitions at several international festivals, from Switzerland to Japan. Thanks to his editorial project, YET Magazine, Salvatore was already known in the photography scene. Even so he commented “being awarded is one of those things that can change the perception people and professionals have of your work”.

© Jacob Aue Sobol, from Road of Bones (PHM 2017 Grant third prize winner)

With the industry struggling to offer consistent revenue sources for photographers, the cash prizes - which in this edition have been increased to £15,000 - could be a tangible way to finance yourself, as recognised by Magnum photographer and third prize winner, Jacob Aue Sobol: “The cash prize helped me finalise the Road of Bones project on the second journey through the Siberian Taiga” he explains.

Looking from the perspective of the 2017 New Generation prize winner, the young Italian-Moroccan photographer Karim El Maktafi, applying for our grant can be a helpful option to build your career: “I think that showing your work around is fundamental. Prizes like this give you the chance to submit the project to an excellent jury and to gain visibility, even if you don’t make it to the final round.” Winning the prize was a turning point for El Maktafi, and has been key for the development of his awarded project Hayati, as he states: “One of the main problems for a young professional photographer, is the self-production in economic terms. With the money of the prize, I had the possibility to produce the dummy of the project and to go to Morocco to continue my research. I also had the chance, through the mentorship program, to work with and receive advice from Maggie Steber.”

So how should you prepare in order to present your work before this year’s international jury, comprising internationally recognised professionals such as Roger Ballen? Here's some practical advice from Salvatore Vitale: “You must feel ready and very sure about your work before submitting it to a prize. Set your motivations and think about the real possibilities it can offer to you. Write a statement that summarises your work well, and underline the reasons why you are applying for this particular prize. Be careful in choosing the cover picture for your submission and be as clear as possible in articulating your thoughts.”

© Karim El Maktafi, from Hayati (PHM 2017 Grant New Generation Prize winner)

This is something that seems quite relevant to Jacob Aue Sobol as well: “Think about what story is important for you to tell - he says - and put it together in your own way. Make your personality and the subject come together - in that way the viewer will feel closer to your images and connect with them. They will no longer look at people in your pictures as someone foreign from a remote place - rather they will emotionally identify with the subject and feel closer to the story you want to tell.”

There is time until 30 January to take advantage of the Early Bird deadline, while the final deadline is set for 21 February. Take the appropriate time to reflect on this advice, and prepare your project. Once you feel ready to submit, or if you wish to learn more, just visit phmuseum.com/grant... and good luck!

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