Former Winners on the PHM Women Photographers Grant

A year after the recognition, Raphaela Rosella, Heba Khamis, Sanne De Wilde, and Fabiola Cedillo tell us how the prize supported their career development, speak about gender equality in the industry, and provide insightful advice for applicants this year.

© Sanne De Wilde, 3rd prize winner PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant

A couple of years ago, we felt the need to create a grant aimed at supporting female and non-binary photographers. There were many reasons behind this choice: the hope of renovating the debate on gender equality in our industry; the interest in understanding where the current unbalance comes from and finding possible solutions to change the game; and the interest in discovering and promoting more stories narrated from a female perspective. It has been only a year since we launched this initiative, yet we've already notice how the grant is becoming a really powerful vehicle to promote a positive change. How? We went to talk about it with last year's awarded photographers.

Australian photographer Raphaela Rosella, who won the 1st prize with a decade-long project highlighting the disparity that women in her life have faced, remarks how "this particular grant can place your work in a certain spotlight, making it part of an important conversation that values female perspectives". On a similar note Heba Khamis, the Egyptian photographer awarded the 2nd prize, says: "the prize was remarkably important: it gave me the confidence to keep going with the project which later also received a 1st Prize in the World Press Photo Contemporary Issues Stories category, and honourable mentions in a few other prizes. All this came after PHmuseum, which I am sure promoted my name and my work."

It is not only emerging photographers who deal with doubts about their new work or the process of making it - this is also true for more experienced visual storytellers. Belgian photographer and 3rd prize winner Sanne De Wilde believes that "it’s very important to receive this kind of help and support. Imagine working every night and day and not having anyone saying 'I believe in what you do'." Raphaela likewise had to face a similar feeling, admitting, she is "often riddled with self-doubt so to be awarded the first PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant felt like my work was validated." While Fabiola Cedillo, the Ecuadorian photographer who won the New Generation Prize, commented that receiving recognition for her work helped her "to become even more motivated, present and active; to keep creating new stories or to deepen those I have been already working on".

© Heba Khamis, 2nd prize winner PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant

Beyond the validation of your work, and the motivations to keep developing your projects, the monetary prizes also represent a meaningful contribution. "While conducting my studies I was working as a cleaner to support the making of new work" Heba reveals. "To be awarded was a payback for all my previous efforts - it allowed me to go on a second trip to Cameroon. While Geo Magazine sent me on assignment for a week, with the money I received from the PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant I was able to stay one month and continue with the project on a deeper level, discovering new realities about the breast ironing issue." Raphaela adds that "the grant has enabled me to continue doing what I do. The past year has been quite full on. I had a baby and I spent a lot of my pregnancy travelling to Sydney to visit Tammara, Rowrow and Gillianne [some of the female protagonists in her project] who were all incarcerated. Just having the financial means to be able to be there for the girls has been invaluable."

© Fabiola Cedillo, New Generation Prize winner PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant

Yet the role of our grant is not only to provide benefits: the initiative also, and most importantly, brings to light the conversation on gender equality in the industry. Speaking about this, Raphaela comments that to "deny that gender inequality doesn’t extend to our industry would be foolish. Initiatives like Women Photograph are definitely paving a path in the right direction but we still have a long way to go." Sanne echoes this concept by saying "we’re only at the beginning: it takes time to solve a situation that has been unbalanced for many years, as well as to redefine equilibrium. This is why it is very important that initiatives like the one you’re proposing are existing". At the same time, she makes a very important consideration, to motivate all her female colleagues. "Now that there are many more opportunities for women now that we can do everything that men can, there is a lot of expectation and a feeling that you have raise your full potential for all the women that couldn’t in history. You have to go all the way."

© Raphaela Rosella, 1st prize winner PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant

So how do you know this is the right grant for you and how do you approach the submission process? For Heba, it was all about the jury and understanding our organisation. She thought that "PHmuseum is giving more space to long-term projects so I felt this could have been a good opportunity to get support and recognition for someone like me who goes deep and wishes to spend a certain time on a specific topic." Fabiola instead remarks on importance of editing as "you have to be very careful when it comes to choosing the final edit of images to submit" and they have to be supported by "the honesty and clarity in the text you are using to introduce your photographs." While Raphaela's advice is: "don’t make/show work to please others but make/show work that you believe in." Simple yet very powerful advice, which in our opinion should be at the foundation of every photographer's career.

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The PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant 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. Moving into its second edition, its mission is to support the growth of the new generations and promote stories narrated from a female perspective, while responding to the need to work for gender equality in the industry. To learn more and apply, visit phmuseum.com/grant. Early Bird Deadline: 27 September | Final Deadline: 17 October

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