04 December 2018

Maria Sturm Wins the 2018 Women Photographers Grant

04 December 2018 - Written by Simon Hall

Her winning project, "You Don’t Look Native To Me" shows excerpts from the lives of young native Americans from around Pembroke, Robeson County, North Carolina, where 89% of the city’s population identifies as Native American.

© Maria Sturm, from the series You Don't Look Native To Me. 2018 Women Photographers Grant Main Prize winner

A jury comprised of Aïda Muluneh (Photographer, Filmmaker and Curator), Alessandra Sanguinetti (Photographer), Karen McQuaid (Senior Curator, The Photographers' Gallery) and Pamela Chen (Creative Lead, Instagram) awarded the Main Prize of the second PHmuseum grant for female and non-binary photographers to the project "You Don’t Look Native To Me" by Romanian photographer Maria Sturm, who wins £5,000 in cash plus a publication on YET Magazine and exposure on the PHmuseum channels.

Judge Aïda Muluneh explained the jury’s decision: “From all the submissions, it was not di­fficult for us to be drawn to the work of Maria Sturm, capturing Native American youth and exploring the notion of identity in the American landscape. One of the key factors for selecting her work was not only based on her technical skills, but on her approach in capturing images that offer the viewer a sympathetic and non-clichéd insight into her subjects. There is a saying that "a photographer doesn’t take the photo but it is given by the sitter". This is true in each of her frames which are juxtaposed between moments and the trust that she has built with those that she has captured. In essence, her collection offers us a glimpse into a long-term project that portrays a community at the crossroads of the past and the future.”

© Sinead Kennedy, from the series To Set Fire to the Sea. 2018 Women Photographers Grant Second Prize winner

The second prize of £2,000 was assigned to Australian photographer Sinead Kennedy’s To Set Fire To The Sea, a project that explores the Australian Government's policy of mandatory and indefinite detention for asylum seekers. Karen McQuaid commented “Sinead’s work documents a subject that brings with it many harrowing human stories. I was extremely impressed by her ability to approach this subject without the heavy weight of a prescribed visual language. She has in no way shied away from investigating these traumatic stories, but she has allowed herself freedom and breath to decide for herself how she pictures them. Expanding what might constitute documentary, she weaves stories and facts drawn from direct conversations with friends who are still in, or have been released from detention. Her image and text combinations are at points incredibly powerful, never more so than in ‘Ho‑man knife’. The object floats in a stark still life and one cannot help presume a use for the unfamiliar object. The reality of its function is devastating.”

© Sabiha Çimen, from the series KKK (Quran School For Girls). 2018 Women Photographers Grant third prize winner

KKK (Quran School For Girls) by Turkish photographer Sabiha Çimen claimed the third prize of £1,000. The work shows the daily life of girls attempting to memorise the Quran in Istanbul, Turkey. Alessandra Sanguinetti says of the project: “Sabiha leads us into the life of rituals and quiet rebellion in a strictly religious girls’ boarding school with a classic and disarmingly poetic approach. She presents the girls with gentleness and empathy while managing to capture the tension between the girls childlike, awkward play and the intense adult rules, expectations and limitations that are upon them.”

© Alice Mann, from the series Drummies. 2018 Women Photographers Grant New Generation Prize winner

The New Generation Prize - assigned to a photographer under 30 years of age - was awarded to Alice Mann from South Africa. The prize grants a mentorship with Magnum Photos Global Business Development Director, Fiona Rogers, an automatic nomination to World Press Photo's 2019 Joop Swart Masterclass and £2,000 in cash. Her project, Drummies, portrays the all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa, one of the country’s most marginalised communities.

“To see Alice’s project for the first time is to step inside a world within a world” says judge Pamela Chen. The work is at once visually delightful, and the judges peeled back deeper layers of the thoughtful and nuanced storytelling within. A knowing glance over the shoulder. A casual pose in the hallway. The girls themselves are active participants in their own story. Too often, an investigation of a subculture can veer towards the voyeuristic and sensational. But here in Drummies you see a collaboration between subject and photographer: in itself an act of the very pride and self-confidence that the project seeks to reveal. The photographer never wavers in this lyrical yet disciplined approach as she navigates the contrasts in symbolic themes around her. Her proposal demonstrates a clear path for developing the next chapter of this story. Thank you Alice, for capturing a sense of magic in this realm of reality.”

Vogue Italia Prizes, which grant a feature on, were assigned to Deep Land by Roselena Ramistella (selected by Alessia Glaviano, Brand Visual Director), Äimärautio by Kati Leinonen (selected by Chiara Bardelli Nonino, Photo Editor) and Hiding From Baba Yaga by Nanna Heitmann (selected by Francesca Marani, Photo Editor).

© Ayline Olukman, from the series Psyche. 2018 Women Photographers Grant Verzasca Foto Prize winner

The Verzasca Foto Prize, which off­ers a solo exhibition at the 2019 edition of the festival, was assigned by the festival’s whole female team to Psyche by French photographer Ayline Olukman. They commented on their choice: “Through a personal and sensitive vision of the female universe, Psyche transports us into a dreamlike universe, narrating the caducity of human life and its relationship with its surroundings: in its similarity and in its diversity. The story is built with an incisive delicacy and with the lyricism of soft colors (which crystallises in an almost fairy-tale atmosphere). Alternating scenes inspired by the great masters of painting, but without losing freshness, Ayline Olukman manages to surprise us through surreal landscapes and portraits of non-canonical perspectives. Verzasca Foto Festival, being held in a small mountain valley surrounded by stones and deep woods, has always been interested in projects where the interaction between man and nature stands out. The artist’s intention to look for natural states of mind and human sensations in natural elements, through a fusion with the landscape, therefore convinced us to choose this project. The final selection was made by the girls on the Verzasca Foto team. ”

The jury also awarded five honorable mentions in the Main Prize category, namely You Have Nothing To Worry About (Melissa Spitz), Seven Sisters (Karolina Gembara), Out-Of-The-Way (Elena Asanova), Abkhazia (Ksenia Kuleshova), Santa Barbara (Diana Markosian). Like A Bird (Johanna Maria Fritz), Journey To Impurity (Maria Contreras Coll), and Underland (Tamara Merino Bloch) received honorable mentions in the New Generation Prize category.To learn more and see the awarded works, visit The next call, open to all photographers, will open in January 2019.

To learn more and see the awarded works, visit The next call, open to all photographers, will launch in January 2019.

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

7 minutes

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