30 January 2020

Judges on the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant

30 January 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Our international jury - Tanya Habjouqa, Roderick van der Lee, Azu Nwagbogu, and Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger - tell us what they will be looking for when the time comes to review the submissions of our latest open call that celebrates the importance of visual storytelling.

© Hiro Tanaka, from the series Chicarrón. 2019 Photography Grant Shortlisted Project

Is this open call the right one for me? What will catch the judges attention? With which project should I apply? These and other similar questions can be answered by looking at the judges' bios and professional history. Yet here you can get some further hints as we asked the PHmuseum 2020 Photography Grant's jury for a short quote that could synthesise what will be important to them when it comes to reviewing the submissions and selecting the 25-35 finalists.

"It's a gut feeling; a visceral reaction" says Tanya Habjouqa, photographer and member of Noor. "Something that is raw, intimate, honest. That also speaks on multiple layers, like a novel. Something smart, that sequentially can reveal a different hint every time you look at it. That was invested in, which feels more collaborative rather than top-down. That surprises me. That takes a risk. That you simply just feel." A nice hint that should encourage you to present something new, personal, or innovative.

Roderick van der Lee, Fair Director Of Photo London and founder of Unseen - two of the most important photography fairs in the world - agrees with Tanya on the importance of a project's emotional connection. "I am looking for something beyond the technical components of a composition to transport me into another world" he says. "Another perspective, into a new train of thoughts or feelings."

© David Vintiner & Gem Fletcher, from the series Futurists. 2019 Photography Grant Honorable Mention

On different note, judge Azu Nwagbogu, Director of African Artist Foundation and Lagos Photo, will give particular value to the importance of having clear ideas and a well-structured project. “My first instinct is simplicity then layers and work that is able to bring both together". Your project is a bit too complicated or not articulated well? It might be a good occasion to work on it and submit a strong, clear edit to catch his and the other judges' attention.

Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Professor of Exhibition Studies and Spatiality at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts Helsinki commented instead: "I'm looking for images that challenges the stereotypical photographic representations. I am also curious to see pictures that make spectators think how photographic images function in the contemporary world." A relatively sophisticated approach that could also be a way to encourage those photographers who are experimenting with photography and exploring new ways to use the medium.

The Final Deadline is set for 20 February. There's still time to take advantage of these hints and consider the best way to present your submissions. To learn more about the judges and start your application go to and good luck!


The PHmuseum Photography Grant is an annual initiative that recognises the importance of photography and visual storytelling. Over the years it has grown into a leading photography prize, with Jacob Aue Sobol, Diana Markosian, Max Pinckers, Poulomi Basu, and Tomas van Houtryve among the past recipients. Now in its 8th edition, the initiative is designed to support the production and promotion of visual projects through cash prizes, educational activities and exposure across international festivals, and online media.

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