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Bob Books Photobook Award: Winner Announced!

© Anton Polyakov

With ten photographers shortlisted last week from across the globe, the BJP & Bob Books teams are pleased to present the winner and two runners up of the first ever Bob Books Photobook Award.

We are excited to announce the winner and runners up to the first ever Bob Books Photobook Award!

Through the passion reflected in the quality of work submitted, the competition has undoubtedly proven that the interest in photobooks is flourishing and very much alive within the photographic community.

Without further ado, we present to you the winner and runners up:

Winner: Anton Polyakov – Transnistria conglomerate

‘Transnistria conglomerate’ by Anton Polyakov, a project exploring life in the “country that does not exist” has claimed the award’s winning spot. The series which is as much a foray into what it means to be Transnistrian as it is an attempt at revealing the identity of the photographer himself, is a profound documentation of the changes and everyday occurrences that are shaping the state.

“We were instantly captivated by Anton Polyakov’s work” says Ibolya, Managing Director of Bob Books. “His images draw you into the daily lives of people living in a very unusual situation. Anton gives a voice to the citizens of Transnistria and brings them into our consciousness with enormous skill. We can’t wait to see more of his work and look forward to working with Anton to bring his wonderful project to life in print form.”

Anton who with the help of the team at Bob Books will produce a series of photobooks of the project over the coming weeks tells us: “This award is recognition as a photographer and it motivates me to keep doing my work in the future. It was very important for me to show my personal story about Transnistria – through the eyes of the person who was born here and lives here to this day”.

Anton writes about his winning project:

”As the Soviet Union broke up, Moldova became an independent state, but the small section known as Transnistria, where Russian is the dominant language and pro-Russian sentiment prevails, sought to break away. In 1992 Moldova as an independent state decided to return Transnistria and started a military conflict.”

© Anton Polyakov. Russia is the main guarantor of security in the region. Most people living in Transnistria want recognition of the region from Russia. As a result of the referendum held in 2006, most people voted for independence and potential future integration into Russia.

“Despite its non-recognition, Transnistria is a presidential republic, it has its own legislative and executive authority, a state border and army, its own constitution, flag, emblem and anthem. The citizens of Transnistria have their own currency and passport, although they are not valid anywhere except in Transnistria. For the past twenty-six years — all of my life — the people of Transnistria, a region spanning approximately 125 by 20 miles, have lived in a frozen state, members of a country that, for the rest of the world, does not exist. During this time, the new generation has formed and I belong to it.

We grew up in a melting pot of Moldovan, Ukrainian and Russian influence, and don’t separate based on ethnic affiliation. We remain a conglomerate of cultures, yet also a culture all our own.”

“In this story I tried to concentrate on people in their daily life — people of different generations, different epochs, the inhabitants of urban and rural areas. For some of them it’s a completely new country without its own past, for others it is a continuation of the country that was once called the Soviet Union. As a resident and the coeval of Transnistria, I wanted to show that behind the label of “country that doesn’t exist” there are people who managed to adapt to this situation and to live in a country which is recognized only by its own citizens.”

As the grand-prize winner, Anton will receive:

  • £500 print credit from Bob Books to produce a set of photobooks based on Transnistria conglomerate
  • Professional guidance from Bob Books on the creation of his photobook
  • An Editorial feature on BJP Online
  • Promotional support from BJP via social media
  • A Showcase on the Bob Books website
  • Promotional support from Bob Books via social media

And now for the runners up in no particular order.

Runner Up: Harikrishna Katragadda – You can’t step into the same river twice

© Harikrishna Katragadda. A scavenger dives into the river for coins and pieces of molten gold and silver at Manikarnika ghat in Varanasi.

Harikrishna Katragadda has been selected as one of the two runners up for the award with his series ‘You can’t step into the same river twice’ which uses materials found along the Ganges River to tell its story through cyanotype prints. Harikrishna tells us more on his project:

”The river Ganga, a site of profound sacredness and ritual performance, is also one of the most polluted rivers in India. Untreated sewage, toxic industrial effluents and remains of dead bodies are dumped into it, along its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. Ambitious efforts to clean it up for the last three decades have not only failed, but have also left the river filthier.”

© Harikrishna Katragadda. According to a Hindu tradition, it is forbidden to cremate the bodies of pregnant women, children, monks and snake-bite victims. Their bodies are disposed in the Ganges with the belief that their souls will attain salvation.

“You can’t step into the same river twice consists of cyanotype prints made with light impression and mark-making, using site-specific materials along the river in Varanasi and Kanpur. The resulting photographs that bear burns, tears, creases are not mere images, but become an abstract facsimile of the contaminated sites. They reflect the erasures and eruptions that affect the relationship between the river, the landscape and its inhabitants.”

Runner Up: Neus Solà – Poupées

© Neus Solà

Neus Solà has also been selected as a runner up for the award with her series Poupées which takes a profound look into the lives of adolescent girls growing up in one of the poorest districts of Perpignan, France. Of her project, Neus writes:

”Poupées (“dolls” in french) is a documentary photography project which proposes a reflection on the concept of identity and freedom of young gypsy girls of the suburb of La Cité of Perpignan, France, an exclusively gypsy district considered one of the poorest in the city. With the intention to draw a visual testimony of the young gypsy females of this community, I’ve fixed my gaze on the preliminary steps of their transition to adulthood, in a desire to show the wildest side of their existence, in contrast with restrictions that they will have to shoulder once they lose their virginity and become women.

© Neus Solà

I entitled this project “dolls” as a metaphor associated with the gypsy patriarchal system. On one hand, the title alludes to the innocence and purity characterizing the universe of female children, which is in close connection with honour and virginity; on the other side, it refers to the concept of a woman-object through the early hypersexualization of these girls while, paradoxically, they have to live with the essential standards of their tradition. Adolescence comes to an end after “handkerchief testing” which will prove the virginity and honesty of the girl at the hands of the ajuntaora. The loss of virginity is a rite of passage that will end in a little world of spontaneity and independence, marking the entrance into a steeped submission reality.”

Both runners up will receive:

  • £100 print credit from Bob Books
  • Promotional support from BJP via social media
  • A Showcase on the Bob Books website
  • Promotional support from Bob Books via social media

That wraps up the first ever Bob Books Photobook Awards. We would like to once again congratulate Anton the grand prize winner along with Harikrishna and Neus, the runners up, and everybody who submitted their work to the competition. The quality of work submitted went beyond all expectations and we very much look forward to seeing what the future has in store for everyone who participated.

The Bob Books Photobook Award is a Bob Books competition, with promotion and coverage of the winners provided by BJP. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.