Drawing on Walter Benjamin's writing and simmering land disputes in central India, the "cautionary tale of where we are heading as a global society" scoops the £8000 award
“In Centralia, Poulomi Basu continues to focus her gaze on the interrelation between violence, state power, and gender,” says Monica Allende, member of the jury for the PHM Grant. “By intertwining multilayered fictional narratives she aims to challenge the viewer’s perception of reality, as well as established neocolonialist histories.
“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.”
Shot in the forests of central India, Basu’s work reflects the fractured, confused existence in an area in which both the land and its resources are under dispute. It was picked out from a 35-strong shortlist by a jury of photography specialists – Genevieve Fussell, senior photo editor at The New Yorker; Roger Ballen, photographer and artist; Emilia Van Lynden, artistic director of Unseen; and Monica Allende, independent photo editor and cultural producer.
The £3000 second prize went to Paolo Ciregia for Perestrojka, a series of manipulated reportage photographs he compiled during the Ukranian war. “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.”
The £2000 third prize went to Igor Pisuk for Deceitful Reverence, a long-term autobiographical project showing intimate self-portraits and scenes from everyday life. “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.”
Six photographers received honourable mentions in the main prize – Vasantha Yogananthan for 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.
The £2000 New Generation Prize, which is awarded to a photographer under 30 years of age, went to Greek photographer Panos Kefalos for Saints, a personal journey into the lives of Afghan families living in Athens, Greece. Two honourable mentions were awarded, one to Simone Sapienza for Charlie Surfs on Lotus Flowers, and another to Leonard Pongo for The Uncanny: Chapter IV.
The Cortona On The Move Prize, which grants a solo exhibition at the Italian festival in July went to Bieke Depoorter for As It May Be, a multimedia project which looks at Egyptian society after the 2011 revolution. Arianna Rinaldo, Cortona OTM’s artistic director, awards this prize, and she commented: “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 insides 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.”