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09 June 2020

Former Winners Share Their Experience With The Mobile Photography Prize

09 June 2020 - Written by PHmuseum

Learn more about the experiences of the photographers who got involved in the activities we organised through last year's open call.

© Victoria Clarke - Victoria's images was selected as part of Familiar Stranger, PHmuseum first photobook, and in the related exhibition in Italy.

In 2019 we launched our first open call for mobile photography, motivated to explore one of the most interesting phenomenons of the decade as well as to offer a prize that would be inclusive and meant both for photographers and non-photographers. A year later this is what the first participants have to say about their experience and the first round of activities, which included a collective exhibition and the publication of a limited edition photobook, both curated around the concept of Familiar Stranger.

I applied to be part of a movement” says Melbourne-based photographer and filmmaker Ling Ang. A similar idea motivated Mexican photographer Alberto Lara, who was eventually awarded the Mobile Picture of The Year first prize. “I submit work to prizes that are judged by acclaimed professionals,” he says. “In your specific case, I felt that the many opportunities offered could help me to connect with other participants and creators from different parts of the world”. That is exactly what happened once he joined us for the exhibition opening in Bologna, Italy back in January where he had the chance to meet many colleagues.

© Alberto Lara - Alberto's image was selected as part of Familiar Stranger, PHmuseum first photobook, and in the related exhibition in Italy. It was also awarded the 2019 Mobile Picture of The Year first prize.

Coordinating a collective project was a great motivation for us at PHmuseum, yet an important challenge at the same time. Curating images of many authors in a single narrative - both for the book and for the exhibition - has implied an important effort in order to grant continuity (and the same time a certain independence) to the individual voices who took part in the open call. Italian photographer Luna Simoncini recalls: “At the beginning, the idea of being mixed with other authors frightened me a little, I thought the images would get too confused with each other. Then I realised how the images together created a single fluid narrative giving the whole project an emotional visual impact”.

Adding on this collective idea, London-based photographer Ksenia Burnasheva underlines: “I feel like my work became a part of a bigger stream, part of a whole. We are telling each our own story yet creating multiple beautiful new dialogues in-between”. Likewise, for Canadian photographer Victoria Clarke, the process of putting on paper images conceived firstly as a pure digital object “can be seen as immortalisation of the innovation that has been generated. Moreover, the production of the book opens up the range of spectators and reaches out to a different audience”. Commenting on the book launch she underlines how the “discussion of the narrative and book with Erik Kessels was bold and inspiring. Having a world-renowned artist commenting on our collective work, on what it entails relative to his experience, and advising us on future endeavours in photography was an inspiring opportunity” and more broadly “it was like a virtual experience brought to a human stage”.

© Ling Ang. Ling's image has been selected as part of Familiar Stranger, PHmuseum first photobook and exhibition at Spazio Labo' Italy.

Certainly, a consistent audience was reached also by the exhibition we curated in collaboration with Spazio Labo’ and presented during Arte Fiera in January 2020. Here the public was invited to enjoy a selection of 22 main images while being encouraged to interact and shuffle around another 480 images installed over several shelves and scroll through the 11,000 images submitted to last year's open call on several screens.

Alberto Lara, recalls why the experience of being there during the exhibition was so important: It was my first show outside Mexico and the first time I ever left my country. While there I breathed many emotions, numerous people attended the opening and they came to give me feedback and words of appreciation. The best of all was meeting with other creators from different parts of the world enriching me with different perspectives”. Finnish photographer Juha Wikström also selected for both the exhibition and the book, recalls: “It was a wonderful experience for me. I felt very welcomed and I had a great time meeting the PHmuseum team, judges and other fellow photographers. We had a good time and I got new friends and colleagues to keep in touch with”.

More generally, Juha Wikström believes that “this experience has had an encouraging and empowering impact on my growth as a photographer. It raised my bar as I saw so many great images and met new excellent photographers”."Within the diverse gatherings you may find yourself, I believe this experience showed me the possibility and potential to develop - says Victoria Clarke. It opened a window as to who I really am and I feel I learned where I positioned myself as a photographer”. Ksenia Burnasheva interestingly adds: “I might have been disregarding mobile photography as a serious medium and my understanding has shifted since”.

© Luna Simoncini. Luna's image has been selected as part of Familiar Stranger, PHmuseum first photobook and exhibition at Spazio Labo' Italy.

Discussing mobile photography's impact on the medium has been indeed one of the central elements discussed during the first edition. On this topic, Alberto Lara comments that “mobile photography is wrongly associated with images that do not go beyond everyday life, while we should consider it more broadly. This would open to other possibilities and perhaps it can transform the medium into something even more accessible for many”.

So taking up the challenge to develop a body of work with your phone can open up new perspective for your photography, as it happened for Luna Simoncini. “It was about two years that I was investigating this medium and I had just finished a new series. The Mobile Photography prize happened at a perfect time for me”. Quite relevant is also the opinion of Ling Ang, who noticed: “I've always loved these so-called 'limitations' of our mobile phones but more so to explore the possibilities of how we can tell stories with them”.

© Juha Wikström. Juha's image has been selected as part of Familiar Stranger, PHmuseum first photobook and exhibition at Spazio Labo' Italy.

The second edition of the PHmuseum Mobile Photography Prize is currently open for submissions offering $5,000 in cash prizes, features in a 200-image photobook, space in an exhibition to be held in January 2021 at PHmuseum Lab in Bologna, Italy and much more.

You need a bit of talent and a touch of luck to become one of the next prize winners, but all it really takes is simply to give it try, as Juha Wikström concludes: “Go for it! You'll never know what can happen. I didn't believe I had a chance but there it was, my picture on the wall and in the book. How cool is that!” London-based photographer Ksenia Burnasheva also notices that “having a relevant online community or platform like PHmuseum where you can share your work and where a curatorial process takes place, is the best way to get others to see, evaluate and provide feedback”.

For those of you a bit more hesitant, Alberto Lara has a nice final thought:“It is normal to feel insecure when you're about to enter a prize and submit your work to professional review, but if you have the opportunity to apply, take it! Be bold enough to challenge and explore the medium”.

© Ksenia Burnasheva. Ksenia's image has been selected as part of Familiar Stranger, PHmuseum first photobook and exhibition at Spazio Labo' Italy.

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Alberto Lara Avila is a 20 years old Mexican photographer. He is currently enrolled in photography and social communication School. His work embraces portraiture and fashion, occasionally focusing on self-portrait as a way to have an internal personal dialogue.

Ksenia Burnasheva is a Russian born, UK based photographer. She has graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2014 and has been working on both commercial and personal projects.

Luna Simoncini is an Italian professional photographer who graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Macerata. Experimenting with different photographic techniques, from polaroid to smartphone, her practice focuses mainly on self-portrait and portraiture, putting particular attention towards the female world.

Ling Ang is a filmmaker and artist with productions that have spanned across the UK, Singapore, Spain, Japan, India, the US and Australia. She has mostly created documentary based work but in recent years have been exploring also with multimedia installations.

Juha Wikström is a Finnish photographer focused mainly on street and documentary photography and portraits. He has been photographing as long as he can remember thanks to his dad. Juha has been working in the advertising and marketing business for over 26 years.

Victoria Clarke is a Canadian photographer that strives to use her phone to shoot spontaneity, randomness imperfections of everyday life. Without a particular focus, she seeks for movement, beauty and poetry.

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