23 January 2021
23 January 2021 - Written by PHmuseum
Can an open call change the course of your career or mean a lot after many years of work? We have asked the 2020 winners to share their personal experiences and offer advice to this year's applicants.
X-ray Vision Vs. Invisibility, 2020 1st Prize Winner © Noelle Mason
At PHmuseum we value the effort and creative vision each artist brings to our community. This is why when we launched our grants program nine years ago, our aim was to create something special, relevant and as inclusive as possible. Today our annual initiative has grown into being a stepping stone for photographers, launching and supporting their careers. What does it mean from a practical point of view? Here you can get an idea from the precious words of Noelle Mason, Pierfrancesco Celada, Fred Ramos and David Nana Opoku Ansah, the photographers who received the main prizes last year.
For the creative sector, 2020 has been a particularly challenging year. American photographer and 1st Prize recipient Noelle Mason comments on the importance of being in the position to keep producing work in these circumstances: “It came at a really strange and crucial time for the world, which made it seem like a kind of cognitive distance in a way. In part the award allowed me to imagine that things would continue to resemble a familiar past and gave me hope that the isolation and shutting of doors might be more of hibernation than an end. Like those in the past, this award has brought attention to my work but somehow it seems less important right now than just the ability to make work through interviews, publications and exhibition opportunities. However, even more necessary the prize allowed me to buy some supplies and set up my home studio so that I could continue to work on projects throughout the wave of shutdowns that we continue to experience, something which has had a greater impact on my well being than anything else. This year has been quite good professionally despite all of the coronavirus madness. I have had several opportunities to make more work and reflect on the work that has been made”.
When I Feel Down I Take A Train To The Happy Valley, 2020 2nd Prize Winner © Pierfrancesco Celada
Beyond the monetary endowments, receiving a prize can be very important from a psychical point of view. Mexican photographer and 3rd Prize recipient Fred Ramos admits the importance of the recognition and how it can motivate you to do even better: “The pandemic has affected the whole world, especially the most vulnerable people such as migrants. Thanks to this grant I have been able to continue with my project in such an important year to show the difficult situation of Central American migrants. PHmuseum has always been a reference of the photography that I believe in and this achievement represents another step towards the creation of the photographer that I dream of one day being”. On a similar page is Italian photographer Pierfrancesco Celada who won the 2nd Prize says: “I worked on the project for nearly seven years with a lot of psychological ups and downs and changes in direction. Having the project recognised by a highly qualified international jury was very important for me personally. Now I aim to continue working on the series, adding additional chapters to it”
While Ghanaian photographer David Nana Opoku Ansah remarks how the prize gave him confidence and the opportunity to reflect: “Being awarded the New Generation Prize came with the awareness of how important it is to stay true to yourself and work with intentions. It made me realise how necessary having a process is and gave me the confidence I need to push my work to the extreme and experiment. Since winning I was able to connect with people from different fields in the image-making industry and I received several interview requests from people wanting to know more about the work and what went into the process”. Undoubtedly a great advantage for early career practitioners.
The Dark Triangle, 2020 3rd Prize Winner © Fred Ramos
The variety of opportunities that the PHmuseum Photography Grant offers is what makes it different from any other photography prize. As Pierfrancesco Celada underlines: “The grant provides important financial support, great exposure and additional exhibition opportunities not only for the winning projects but also for all the shortlisted works, all of great quality”. Noelle Mason adds: “You are given the occasion to reach audiences, which you never thought you would have. It also gives you the freedom and confidence to experiment and try new avenues and venues for your work”. While David Nana Opoku Ansah comments on the benefit of applying as a young professional: “You will get to meet mentors and other experts that guide you through your work, how to approach projects and interviews”.
Excited and ready to start your application? Pierfrancesco Celada advises to carefully edit your project before submitting: “It is never easy to edit down a project to a selection of twenty images, especially for long term projects. Participating in the award is a great opportunity to challenge your own perception of your work. Having your series scrutinised by a qualified jury can bring unexpected satisfaction”. So, if you want to catch the jurors’ attention Noelle Mason recommends: “Be bold with your work. Don’t try to figure out what the others might want, do the work that feels important at the moment. Think outside of the fetish of the image in photography and try to stretch the meaning of your work to include the parameters of the medium itself within it”. Believing in your work is so essential when it comes to communicating its intrinsic value and David Nana Opoku Ansah stresses it: “Make sure you submit something you love that has a lot of intention behind it. Don’t be scared to go extreme with the work”; and we couldn’t agree more!
Area Boys & Brotherhood, 2020 New Generation Prize Winner © David Nana Opoku Ansah
Our open call is meant to support your work and help you grow. Take your time and select something that represents you and your voice as an artist. You might also be interested in reading our article on the mistakes to avoid when applying to a photography grant here. As Fred Ramos puts it quite simply: “If you believe in your work, apply. Do not waste this opportunity.”
The PHmuseum Photography Grant 2021 aims to discover, produce and promote the best in contemporary photography. This year’s grant offers $14.000 in cash prizes, three solo exhibitions, a residency bursary, projections at international photo festivals, educational opportunities, and a lot more. You have time until the 18th of February to submit your projects. We are looking forward to discovering and sharing your work with our community. Learn more and apply at phmuseum.com/g21
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