23 November 2021

Ana Vallejo Receives the PHmuseum 2021 Women Photographers Grant Main Prize

23 November 2021 - Written by PhMuseum

Her project Neuromantic explores dysfunctional coping mechanisms affecting the quality of relationships as a result of trauma. The New Generation Prize was awarded to Chingrimi Shimray for Our Belongings. Read all the judges' motivations.

©Ana Vallejo, Neuromantic

Ana Vallejo, from Colombia, received the Main Prize of 5,000 euro for the project Neuromantic. Here, she elaborates on the long-lasting effects that exposure to trauma has on the ways genes express stress in the brain, and how this can be passed on through generations perpetuating dysfunctional cycles. The work combines insights of neuroscientific and psychological studies with a personal vision that stems from the realisation that photography can be used to process personal traumas.

Jury member Mirjam Kooiman explains the panel’s decision as follows: “What a way to start an artist statement: ‘My name is Ana and I am a love addict.’ The jury was impressed to see the honest and raw vulnerability on display in Ana Vallejo’s latest project Neuromantic (2020 – ongoing). With her personal experiences as a starting point, Vallejo courageously maps how trauma affects our emotions, mental health, and the way we bond in romantic relationships. In an age of indefinite dating options through apps, the virtualization of erotic experiences and the Internet as a realm to freely express our wildest desires, but also in a time of restrictions in physical contact, feelings of isolation, all hidden behind social media’s cruel façade of perfection, Ana Vallejo dares to break through the ‘picture perfect’. While her collages both literally and figuratively tape together research papers, pictures of people from her sphere of relationships, diaristic fragments, notes and other materials, what binds these physical compositions is a somewhat distinctively digital aesthetic of life lived through the abyss of our screens. We are taken by her efforts not just to visualize her own experiences so openly, but moreover by encouraging her audience to share their experiences too through an online survey, creating a public safe space to open up the debate on the often-silenced topic of mental health. The jury hopes that the Women Photographers Grant enables Ana Vallejo to fulfill her wish to turn this project into a web experience as well as into a physical installation, through which she can continue to engage people in what can ultimately become a collective reflection on our continuous and universal crave for love.”

The 2nd Prize was awarded to Myriam Boulos, from Lebanon, who presented the project What’s Ours, dealing with the intertwined struggles that the Lebanese population is currently facing as a result of the revolution. Through an insider perspective, the work seeks to discern how individuals attempt to reclaim their streets and bodies. Juror Dilys Ng illustrates: “Myriam Boulos’ What’s Ours takes us on a rare and extraordinary journey through life in Lebanon. Through visually poetic and razor-sharp documentary images, Boulos boldly confronts a divided society and shows us what is often invisible to the Western world. We're excited to see Boulos continue this body work with the same fervor.” 

©Myriam Boulos, What's Ours

The 3rd Prize was assigned to Italian artist Alessia Rollo for Parallel Eyes. This project focuses on the construction of an alternative gaze revolving around South Italian culture, which has been understood as backward and ill-informed for decades. Judge Damarice Amao describes the choice of the panel: “With her ongoing project, Parallel Eyes, Alessia Rollo proposes an intriguing and powerful journey through her own culture: the one from South Italy usually seen as too traditional and too superstitious in comparison to the North, considered as the heart of modernity and progress of the country. Fighting against the scorn and the stereotypes but also against the assumed rational discourses of the anthropological gaze generally fixed upon South Italy culture, Rollo develops a new imaginary thanks to her iconoclast gestures of visual re-appropriation.  As the mysterious rituals she refers to, Rollo paints, scratches, draws, nails on the ethnographic photographs she collected, but she also photographs by herself in order to reveal the invisible and powerful forces that shape her culture. Rollo finds one of the possible ways – hers - to reverse the deeply rooted stigmata. The Jury wanted to encourage and reward this personal investigation combining a deep sense of poetry and visual imaginary serving her political awareness.”

©Alessia Rollo, Parallel Eyes

Honorable mentions go to Rehab Eldalil for The Longing Of The Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken, Sayuri Ichida for Fumiko, Eleana Konstantellos André for The Chupacabra Takes Your Sins Away, Liza Ambrossio for The Witch Stage, and Terra Fondriest for Growing Up Ozarks.

The New Generation Prize was allotted to Chingrimi Shimray, from India, for the project entitled Our Belongings. Set in the core of the Tangkhul landscape, in the area of the Indo-Burma border, the work explores the relationship of space, time, and selfhood by means of kept objects. Judge Poulomi Basu motivates the panel decision: “We are very proud to support  Chingrimi Shimray because she is a unique female voice coming out of North East India. She is reclaiming narratives and telling indigenous stories through their own meanings and interpretations, in this particular case through objects as totems of past, present and future. The work is both collaborative and full of wisdom for such a young artist to take on. We felt it deserves to be supported. We need to support young women making promising work.”

©Chingrimi Shimray, Our Belongings

Honorable mentions for the New Generation section go to Laura Chen for Words From Dad, Fabiola Ferrero for I Can't Hear the Birds, and Saja Quttaineh for Visual Unconscious.

Furthermore, Japanese photographer Sayuri Ichida has been awarded her first career solo show. The work Fumiko will be exhibited next January at PhMuseum Lab in Bologna, Italy, in coincidence with ArteFiera, one of the most respectable art fairs in Italy. PhMuseum Curator Rocco Venezia explains the choice: "Fumiko features several display opportunities and this is surely one of the aspects we highly value in Sayuri Ichida’s work. Her research delves deep from her personal trauma to stimulate a contemporary debate on fate and memory. By juxtaposing her family archive with her newly made images, Ichida creates a sophisticated narrative that is opening up for a collective reflection on the difficult process of accepting death. By looking at this work we remember that soon or later we will all be experiencing some kind of loss, but most importantly we rediscover that what matters the most is how we keep our positive memory of our dear ones alive”.

©Sayuri Ichida, Fumiko

Again this year the finalists’ works were projected at the Photo Vogue Festival in Milan. These are visible in the digital layer of the festival here. Moreover, six photographers were assigned a 1-hour free portfolio review with a mentor of their choice from the PhMuseum Education Program, while other three photographers will be interviewed and featured on Vogue Italia.

Our best congrats to all the applicants and prize recipients, who made this 5th edition possible. We highly recommend you to browse their work in the results page here and on the PhMuseum platform.

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