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29 September 2020

Awardees On The PHmuseum 2020 Women Photographers Grant

29 September 2020 - Written by PHmuseum

Mexican photographer Mara Sanchez Renero and Dutch photographer Robin Alysha Clemens tell us what last year's recognition meant to them and their careers a year after claiming the 3rd and New Generation Prize respectively.

From Yo soy otro tú, tú eres otro yo © Robin Alysha Clemens

Mara Sánchez Renero is a Mexican photographer interested in exploring the instability of the human condition through images where we can witness the dissolution of constructed identity, while Robin Alysha Clemens' work revolves around subcultures and exploring different worlds. Their projects Iluikak and Yo soy otro tú, tú eres otro yo caught the attention of the judges of last year's PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant who recognised their visual approach and substance. A year after the recognition, we went chatting with them about their careers, their thoughts as female professionals working in the photo industry and their recommendations for the applicants of the PHmuseum 2020 Women Photographers Grant

Hi Mara and Robin! Let's start from gender equality in the photo industry. Why do you think it is still important today to have a conversation about that and what would you change, if possible?

Mara: I believe things are improving. Today the projects carried out by women have more visibility in the industry, they are more present, and calls like the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant help a lot. However, we are still far from seeing ourselves in a condition of equality. From my point of view, the male-patriarchal privilege continues to be far above women's. For this reason calls for women-only help to shorten the distance. There have been many years in which the platforms were mainly for the male gender, there is a long time of disadvantage. I also believe that it is essential to continue with the conversation and action towards change. Today there is a greater awareness of this, although I still feel that it is very intellectual. We understand it from moral reasoning while we still need to really internalize the concept of equality and place it as one of our central values to act accordingly. From my point of view, men need to become much more active and reflect on the privileges they have to find what they need to be able to share or give up with the other genders.

Robin: When I studied photography at the art academy the vast majority of my classmates were female. However, when I look around the professional field it’s definitely still male-dominated. Striving for gender equality is critical, but we have to strive for equality on all levels. Who is the best person to tell a specific story? And why? We have to collectively recognize that not everyone gets the same opportunities so having open conversations about things like gender and race within the industry is still very important.

How did the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant support you in that specific moment of your career, and how has been your professional year since then?

Robin: It was such an honour. The New Generation Prize was the first time I got real international recognition for my work and it has definitely helped broaden my network outside of The Netherlands. To be fair, my professional year since then hasn’t been super exciting since the coronavirus hit soon after. Mostly all my work has been put on hold and the main reason that I was able to keep my head above water was the monetary prize I got from PHmuseum. Since everything is slowly starting up again, I was able to start with a new project about Generation Z. I'm photographing and interviewing a diverse range of Dutch youth about growing up and adulthood. A small preview of this project was exhibited at the Noorderlicht Photo Festival in July.

Mara: Winning a prize like the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant is simply an avalanche of motivation. I had been working on Iluikak for three years, trusting my way of constructing the images. I think there is a need in us photographers to communicate our concerns and to be able to sow in the collective consciousness a window to something we do not know - a question, a reflection - or to generate movement. An award like the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant marks a success in this aspect. At a professional level, it has given me more visibility and it has connected me with different entities, photographers and people from the field. The recognition adds a lot to your trajectory. It is a great help for the career of a photographer and I’m also very grateful for the financial contribution. It helped me to purchase my new camera, the one I needed since a long time.

From Iluikak © Mara Sanchez Renero

Which are the main reasons for which you would recommend a colleague to apply and how do you think initiatives like ours can support female photographers individually and more broadly our industry and public awareness?

Mara: I believe it is essential to participate in calls like the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant. It is a great opportunity to show our projects and observe what happens with our work once it is out there. I also believe that it is important to stay updated, to be aware of the dialogue that is taking place in the industry, and to understand which directions are taking the different trends of expression and topics of conversation. Participating in calls and taking the risks means to grow, mature, learn and recognize when our projects are in tune with certain current.

Robin: As an upcoming artist, I think it’s very important to participate in open calls for festivals, awards and grants. It’s important to expand your international network and initiatives like those organised by PHmuseum can be greatly beneficial for that. Apart from the monetary prize PHmuseum is a great platform to showcase your work to an international audience.

What advice would you give to the photographers applying to the PHmuseum 2020 Women Photographers Grant?

Robin: I think it’s important to clearly show your view as a photographer. What story do you want to tell and most importantly why? Also, think about what it is that makes your project unique. A good press text and clear visual identity are key.

Mara: PHmuseum is a platform that I admire and that I applaud from the beginning. I love its flexibility, it is an entity that recognizes the diversity of visual languages that occur in the world. I would advise them to apply every time they can, and not to be afraid of being rejected because we learn from those moments too. We must observe and observe ourselves, and work towards reaching the sincerest places and states of our photographic doing.

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The PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant, now in its 4th edition, aims to empower the work and careers of female and non-binary professionals of all ages and from all countries working in diverse areas of photography. Learn more and apply before 8 October at phmuseum.com/w20.


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