08 May 2018

Poulomi Basu wins the PHM 2018 Grant with Centralia

08 May 2018 - Written by Simon Hall

Her project, which invites us to reflect on our own prejudices and educated preconceptions, was awarded the first prize by our independent jury. Greek photographer Panos Kefalos wins the New Generation Prize for Saints, while Belgian photographer Bieke Depoorter's As It May Be will have a solo show at Cortona On The Move this summer.

© Poulomi Basu, from the series Centralia. PHM 2018 Grant first prize winner

The independent jury composed of Genevieve Fussell (Senior Photo Editor at The New Yorker), Roger Ballen (Photographer and Artist), Emilia van Lynden (Artistic Director, Unseen), and Monica Allende (Independent Photo Editor and Cultural Producer) have awarded the £8,000 PHM 2018 Grant first prize to Indian photographer, Poulomi Basu for Centralia, a documentary project that she describes as “a cautionary tale of where we are heading as a global society.”

Drawing on the literary works of Walter Benjamin and contemporary documentary practices, Basu offers a window into the simmering fight for land and resources deep in the forests of central India, stripping images of trite visual cues and instead presenting a fractured existence that reflects the confused, and at times apocalyptic, atmosphere of the region.

“In Centralia, Basu continues to focus her gaze on the interrelation between violence, state power, and gender. By intertwining multilayered fictional narratives she aims to challenge the viewer's perception of reality, as well as established neocolonialist histories” explains Monica Allende. “In an era of post-truth and fake news, where we battle for control of “official” narratives, Basu’s work forces us to reflect on our own prejudices and educated preconceptions. Despite addressing such complex issues, the work is both illuminating and engaging - a testament to her innate ability as a documentarian. The result is a beautifully executed story which is thoroughly deserving of the winning grant.”

© Paolo Ciregia, from the series Perestrojka. PHM 2018 Grant second prize winner

Paolo Ciregia claimed the £3,000 second prize with Perestrojka, a series comprised of manipulated reportage photographs taken from his own private archives compiled during the Ukrainian war. At a time when our vision is bombarded by images of conflict, Ciregia looks to create a different iconographic repertoire, revising the way we tell the story of devastation without erasing the historical and cultural roots of such events.

"Perestrojka links the documentary with the imaginary” says Roger Ballen. “In this series of photographs Paolo Ciregia has been able to transform the so-called real with a particular vision that borders on fact and fiction. As a result, the images are challenging and singular."

© Igor Pisuk, from the series Deceitful Reverence. PHM 2018 Grant third prize winner

The £2,000 third prize was awarded to Igor Pisuk for Deceitful Reverence, a long-term autobiographical project that explores difficult themes such as isolation, loneliness, and abandonment. Showing intimate self-portraits and capturing ordinary scenes from everyday life, Pisuk employs the photographic medium as a form of therapy, creating a stark visual poem to reflect on his own inner and outer worlds. Deceitful Reverence is a deeply personal rumination on addiction” comments Genevieve Fussell. “Rendered in stark black and white, the photographs pulse with energy and certain mental and emotional states of mind. Though mystery pervades the project with subjects often blurred beyond recognition, I found myself drawn in by the moods Pisuk evokes. At once graphic and raw, his approach to image-making felt fresh and alive” she adds.

Vasantha Yogananthan (A Myth of Two Souls), Farshid Tighehsaz (From Labyrinth), Giulio Di Sturco (Aerotropolis), Dylan Hausthor, (Wood Grain Lick), Emeric Lhuisset (L’Autre Rive), and Tommaso Protti (Terra Vermelha) all received Honorable Mentions.

© Panos Kefalos, from the series Saints. PHM 2018 Grant New Generation prize winner

The £2,000 New Generation Prize – awarded to a photographer under 30 years of age – was won by Panos Kefalos for Saints, a personal journey into the lives of Afghan families living in Athens, Greece. Together raw, gritty, and sinister, the images take on an air of eeriness as children play and dream amidst inescapable hardship, with war and conflict never far away. Roger Ballen says of the work: "Saints is a highly evolved photographic exploration of the human condition. It goes beyond the documentary to the universal. A truly moving exposé."

Simone Sapienza (Charlie Surfs on Lotus Flowers) and Leonard Pongo (The Uncanny: Chapter IV) each claimed an Honorable Mention.

© Bieke Depoorter, from the series As It May Be. PHM 2018 Grant Cortona On The Move prize winner

The Cortona On The Move prize, which grants a solo exhibition at the Italian festival in July this year, was awarded to Bieke Depoorter for As It May Be, a multimedia project that documents Egyptian society in the years that followed the 2011 revolution.

Arianna Rinaldo, Cortona OTM’s Artistic Director and sole juror of the prize, comments: “To enter the lives of the other is not easy for a photographer. To document without intruding. To accept criticism directly from the subjects portrayed. To fill in layers of doubts and blanks. Depoorter allows all this with her project As It May Be. Conceived as a book since the beginning, the images portray the inside of homes and families in Egypt who opened their doors to the photographer on various visits. Writing on the images themselves is not a novelty in contemporary documentary photography. What is peculiar in Depoorter's project is that the levels of intervention are not only from the people portrayed but also people on the street. Citizens of this country that with their words add interpretation, comments, and thoughts on what and how the image is done. It is an open conversation in which the photographer not only humbly offers her own work for a deeper analysis from the inside. But also allows the work to change, to conceal or reveal different elements on the basis of third person intervention. A true act of collaboration which allows the viewer to enter into the stories and hear multiple voices.”

More news will follow on our Facebook and Instagram channels. In the meantime, we wish to send a sincere congratulations to all the photographers who presented their work to this grant's edition. We'll present many of them here in News, and in the other curated sections of our platform during the next few months.

To see all the awarded projects go to

Written by

Simon Hall

Reading time

6 minutes

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