For the second iteration of the Wolf Suschitzky Photography Prize applicants were invited to submit work on the theme of Life in 2020. Attracting over 140 submissions from Austria and the UK the diversity demonstrated in their responses to the theme and technique were remarkable. A jury of UK and Austrian experts has selected two winners, Lea Abendstein from Austria and Mike Ying from the UK in addition to a shortlist of four artists from each country who will be invited to exhibit at the ACF London when it is safe to do so. In the meantime we would like to invite you to view this virtual exhibition featuring a selection of the winning and shortlisted works. Click on any of the images below to view a slideshow of works by that artist.
Mike Ying’s dynamic portrait series How did you find me conveys the situation and difficulties of dancers out of work during the Covid-19 lockdown, situated not in studios but displaced at bus stops and London underground walkways. A love of life and the joy of performance in constantly changing, colourful environments and a different pictorial design in each work reveal a vivid image of its protagonists. The subjects of Ying’s portraits speak with their gaze and the power of body language. The title How did you find me is a question that the performers had asked during the portrait sessions. But the question has a distinct double meaning to it, as the question was asked out of relief and joy, not simple curiosity. They had been found again, put to use again, able to perform again. This series is not only about the portraits of people in 2020, but the futures beyond 2020, and their unstable foundation. All performers were contacted through social media, and has been an ongoing project since June of 2020.
Lea Abendstein's beautiful, multi-layered collages give us a sense of the interior experience of the pandemic lockdown, and its impact on mental health, familial structures and everyday life. Her collages oscillate between the feelings of life in a world before and after the pandemic. Powerful imagery and semantic subtlety are combined skilfully in one work.
The self in her work functions as a substitute stage to study social and re-enact the reciprocity of individual and society. It is an experimental scene in which observations are evaluated and tested. According to Abendstein by cutting herself out of photos taken during the last few months and collaging them together, the void becomes obvious without negating the pre-existing form. The missing 'mes' in combination with each other transform the singular gaps of each picture into a new shape, a new opening, a new silhouette - a placeholder for what might come.
Vox populi means the voice of the people. It is often used as the supposed voice of the majority of the people. This is further translated as the will of the people and used to justify government actions. Vox pops is the term used in the media for a portrait and quote package usually made on the street.
Les Monaghan's (UK) photos feature an unseen majority rarely represented or asked for their opinion on current events. The young, the disabled, the housebound and those who wish to remain anonymous. Their voices form the Invisible Vox Pops (2020) series created in Doncaster, South Yorkshire during the Summer and Autumn of the pandemic. Their lives are unreported and therefore policies often do not take their lived experiences into account. Yet their feelings, their needs, their fears probably chime with many. These are real, but unseen, lives in 2020.
Maximilian Schneller who, like Wolf Suschitzky, works with black and white street photography, creates fresh, playful portrayals of daily life under Covid. His images of the effects of the pandemic combine thoughtfulness with irony and a dose of surrealism. Initially he strugged with taking photos of masked faces, however he found that photographing the ordinary helped him navigate the pandemic. Whether its waving at friends through a window, taking a martial arts class outside or feeling lost on the underground, these photos demonstrate our ability to adapt or at least try to cope with the current situation.
Children of Covid examines the emotional and physical implications of COVID-19 on children between ages 4 and 12, whilst combining the practices of documentary and fashion photography. The photographs are accompanied by text, written by either the child or parent, detailing the way COVID-19 has altered the subject’s psyche, ultimately constructing a new way of living in 2020. Together, the photograph and text work to depict an alternative reality forced upon the children by the pandemic. This new reality is raw, emotional, surreal, and most importantly, unexpected.
A residency at the Jigongshan Museum / International Art Park in China 2019 collided with the world-changing events that were supposed to originate in Wuhan, just a two-hour drive away. It was there that the photo series “me myself and I” was created, in which impressions from architecture, nature, rules of conduct and social contacts inside and outside China were condensed and questions in the area of tension between individualism and society as well as competition and solidarity were discussed. The work became a Kassandra call, the echo of which would spread over the coming year.
An excerpt from Maurizio Cirillo's submission text:
The year 2020 is marked by uncertainty and a global crisis.
The world is upside down and nothing is the way it was before.
The question of what freedom, democracy and independence mean is once again becoming increasingly explosive, especially in these times.
The proposed works are observations.
They are sketches of everyday life.
They are snapshots.
What remains when suddenly everything falls silent?
When images freeze?
What would a portrait of our time look like?
Everyday life changed.
Again and again we talk about the New Normality.
I stroll around, explore my neighbourhood.
I keep drawing the same circles in my surroundings.
I observe with my camera.
My shots are mostly deserted.
I think with them.
I want to let the viewers participate in my experience.
My tool is walking.
Walking means rebellion for me.
Walking is protest.
It is quiet.
Have we lost our relation to the environment?
The work is not analytical, not scientific.
It is the opposite: it is subjective and deeply personal.
I think about the earth, about the world on which we stand.
You can almost hear the wind blowing softly.
Images of darkness.
A man, nature.
Michaela Nagyidaiová is a documentary photographer raised in Bratislava and based in London. Due to her interest in personal stories and projects, she often works with themes that rethink the notions of home, migration, identity, hidden histories, and family roots. The works featured here were begun during lockdown by digitalising archival imagery portraying the way her parents used to spend summers in Slovakia throughout socialism, when the travel abroad was extremely limited, time-consuming, and difficult to undergo.
The photographs, heavy with nostalgia for her youth in Slovakia, don’t address Covid visually. The fact that the whole world stopped due to a pandemic made her realise how much she longed for her native environment. In these works she revisits locations she has long wanted to return to, and to reminisce about friends, her childhood and happy memories that are not even her own.
Katharina Bayer's series ‘in your room’ is an ongoing sequence of photographs in which she asks people she knows fleetingly to be allowed to portray them in their most private spaces. She is interested in questions of the definition and threshold of the private retreat, the oscillating relationship between tension and relaxation as intimacy emerges, the friction between spatial proximity and personal distance.
Maisie Hill's works represent both symbolic and personal experiences of 2020. Photographing small creatures in a domestic setting highlighted the surreal aspect of the time, hinting at the sensations of claustrophobia against a background of mortality. While the photos of her daughter Pearl, who has long been the subject of her work, are an attempt to portray the hardship of the covid crisis as a psychological shift, a new understanding of expectations, freedoms, rather than physical pain or desperation. These images acknowledge the deep quiet that was savoured, creating images that are calm as well as open-ended.