Running for over 15 years, the BJP International Photography Award discovers the best in contemporary talent around the world, as selected by a prestigious jury of curators, editors, and directors from leading institutions. This year, in the Single Image Show, 20 images by 17 artists, are on view at Seen Fifteen.
The BJP International Photography Award takes the temperature of society through images. With the depletion of natural resources and increasing political divisions across societies, we must find a way to come together. The latest winning images celebrate the nuances of our identities, community and spirituality, from Malawi to Wales to Bermuda, united under one roof.
Among the winners is Jessica Gianelli, whose self-portrait, To Be, considers Black women’s authorship and agency in relation to their own images. Continuing questions around performance, selfhood and Black female bodies, Mia Salvato’s winning image is derived from a set of erotic pictures of Black women in the Archive of Modern Conflict collection that are claimed to have been made by an anonymous police officer in Cleveland. By layering text and test prints onto the original prints, Salvato spurs viewers into an awareness of the power dynamics at play within them. Elsewhere, Maggie Shannon’s black-and-white photographs depict couples, women and midwives during labour. The images were made during the Covid-19 pandemic, when social distancing restrictions giving birth had an additional complexity to the situation.
As we confront threats to our collective future – from the climate emergency to politics, conflict, and economic crises – we naturally see a focus on socio-political issues. Karoliina Kase’s shot of a bird caught on a fence points to the impact of our intensive agricultural system and its devastating impact on biodiversity. We also see an interest in traditional practices and spirituality. Tony Mak’s study of ‘tomb sweeping’ in a Cantonese cemetery is an example of this, as well two images by Keerthana Kunnath, whose project, The Kaleidoscopic Self , explores the divine in South Indian Hindu culture.
As we live through continued ecological uncertainty and technological change, this year’s cohort of winners demonstrate that photography is truly the medium of our time. It is a form of communication that everyone recognises, yet so fluid that it can turn our gaze anywhere: inwards to ruminate on our own psychology, or outwards to observe society at large, helping us comprehend the present and envision the future.
Congratulations to all of the winners.
WITH THANKS TO THE JUDGING PANEL
This year’s winners were chosen by a panel of industry heavyweights including writer and curator David Campany, Fotografiska New York’s Amanda Hajjar, Pier 24 Photography’s Allie Haeusslein, Foam’s Claartje van Dijk, and Seen Fifteen’s Vivienne Gamble, and BJP’s editorial director Izabela Radwanska Zhang. David Campany noted “the closeness of attention” paid by this year’s winners: “In the end photography is about paying attention, which is easier said than done,” he says.
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