13 February 2021

What PHmuseum 2021 Grant Judges Look For In The Submissions

13 February 2021 - Written by PhMuseum

Our independent panel shares relevant insights on what they will consider relevant at the moment of reviewing the entries and assigning the prizes.

Some Kind Of Heavenly Fire © Maria Lax

Whether you are a photojournalist, fine art, or commercial photographer your work can touch upon so many topics and have many layers of interpretation contained within it. Never underestimate the political and social side of images. It’s omnipresent, embedded in our diverse cultural backgrounds, and it can be powerfully transmitted to the viewer. As a photographer, it’s your responsibility to have control over the message you aim to convey. Having a broad understanding of your subject of interest is essential if you want to place your work in a broader historical and contemporary context. The judges will recognise immediately if a body of work has this maturity or not and this is not only reflected through the images but also via your project’s statement. For this reason, we recommend you to learn more about this year’s panel of experts and read what they are looking for to make further considerations about your work presentation. Is there an aspect of your research and experience you are not mentioning? Have you selected the right images to deliver your final intentions?

Autograph’s senior curator and head of curatorial & collections Renée Mussai confirms the importance of going through these steps: “I am especially interested in seeing work that shows a strong commitment to visual justice, addressing diverse politics of representation photography that feels urgent, different, and necessary. I hope to see well-executed, technically accomplished imagery that moves me, that has the ability to touch viewers’ sensibilities… Courageous, visually bold, artistic practice infused with socio-political, cultural, personal substance and meaning to provoke debate”. Renée’s words raise another relevant element to consider, which is essentially interrogating yourself on what’s the necessity behind your work. Why have you decided to tell this story instead of another one and how is it connected to you?

Image from Field Book © Jordan Putt

Once you find clarity about your position as a narrator, that vision will reflect back onto your photographs. This immediacy is an element editor of Aperture Magazine Michael Famighetti is searching for: “I hope to see photographs that surprise and provoke – images that challenge me to see the world differently and that clearly convey sharp ideas and a thoughtful vision”. Similarly, Australian photographer and Member of Magnum Photos Trent Parke, comments: “I’m interested in ideas, emotion, and imagination. Show me something that surprises me”. This unexpected element is what will distinguish you from all the other applicants. Yet, what does “surprise” looks like? While many could think it has something to do with a shocking and highly provocative approach, the reality is that you often don’t need crude and disturbing images to provoke a reaction. It comes back to what we mentioned before: being authentic and true to yourself, always asking the right questions. For instance, have you ever wondered how your work can serve a purpose? That can be clear from the beginning if you use a photojournalism approach, while it can require more time if you have a contemporary art approach.

Image from Last Letters: A Photographic Investigation of Taiwan White Terror © Billy H.C. Kwok

Analysing the topics of your project can help you to identify their relevance today. This is an advantageous approach, especially if you want to impress photographer, editor and curator Julieta Escardo’s whose attention will focus on finding the right tension between conceptual pertinence and well-executed photographs: “I am interested in good stories, those that challenge, and open new questions. I like it when after seeing a photo essay, I am left with the curiosity to know more about the subject, to learn more about its protagonists. The technique is fundamental. Whatever the resource used, it has to be in tune with the concept and capable of enhancing the idea that motivates it. Lately, I am more attracted to narratives that speak softly, almost whispering. Images that suggest more and explain less”. Evoking instead of illustrating is one of photography’s hardest challenges. However, when everything comes together, one realises how essential making and looking at images is in order to think critically. Our grant is an opportunity to reflect on these themes. Keep the judges' words in mind and submit your best work. There is time until 18 February to take advantage of this opportunity and be considered for a wide range of prizes that can support you in doing what you love.


The PHmuseum Photography Grant has established itself as a leading prize in the industry over the past eight years, renowned for celebrating the importance of contemporary photography and supporting the careers of emerging artists through monetary prizes and various opportunities across international festivals and online media. You are welcome to present your work before 18 February 2021 at 11.59 pm (GMT). Learn more and apply at

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