The Jones Family © Liz Hingley.
The Prix Virginia is an international award dedicated to women photographers, which recognises the importance of their work in an industry often dominated by men.
"I generally feel lucky as a woman photographer to be appreciated as the minority," Liz Hingley tells BJP. "[Women are] under-represented, yes – but we are strong. I never feel hindered as a woman photographer."
The young photographer was selected almost unanimously – receiving seven out of eight votes – by a jury that included, among others, The Sunday Times Magazine's photo editor, Monica Allende, curator Christian Caujolle, Agnès Sire of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, and Lucy Conticello of Le Monde's magazine M.
"It is particularly exciting to be the first to win the prize. This is a new body of work for me, which has yet to be published, and I am still unsure about the final editing, so it is wonderful and inspiring to have such positive feedback."
The series of photographs documents the lives of the Jones family, made up of two parents and seven children who are living in their first house on a council estate in Wolverhampton, after residing in caravans for three generations.
Hingley began working with the Jones family during an assignment sponsored by Save the Children and says that is when she "became aware of the need to further understand the fundamental realities of the intergenerational cycle of poverty in the developed world".
"I have been able to continue, over two years, to create a body of work that speaks about the meaning, and the experience, of genuine deprivation within the context of a wealthy country," says Hingley. "For 3.9 million children across the UK, severe poverty is a fact of life.Yet despite its prevalence, Western poverty is often difficult to understand and communicate in comparison with that encountered in the developing world. In a certain way, I feel it is harder as poor families are surrounded by wealth and strive through consumerism to obtain the trappings of an affluent life they cannot afford."
Hingley wanted to emphasise the importance of the home due to the families' history of living in caravans. "I decided to focus the work only in the five rooms of the Jones's house, to unravel the meanings embedded in the material qualities of the environment – the decorations and objects they cherish, as well as the everyday rituals, practices and interactions in which each family member finds personal expression and a sense of autonomy."
Although the family's poverty sends an important message, Hingley did not want this to override the evident feelings of love and proximity between family members.
"I aim to transcend the surface impression of bare floorboards and peeling wallpaper in order to communicate this family's unique culture and each individual character, their genuine love and compassion towards each other, and resilience against deprivation. The photographs seek to convey, with respect and dignity, their attitudes, desires and values. They depict the house as a centre of physical and emotional security, a place of freedom, of imagination, and a means to escape a world that marginalises and stigmatises."
The jury stated it was "particularly impressed by the authenticity and sensitive aesthetic and humanity Liz Hingley brings to a socially engaged subject, addressing it with delicacy, without demonstration, without prejudice, and with equal measures of respect and generosity".
Hingley will see her work exhibited in the courtyard of the Espace photographique de l'Hôtel de Sauroy from 19 October to 30 November, as well as having her portfolio published in Le Monde's magazine M.
The prize includes €10,000, which Hingley will put back into the project to create a book or exhibition in order to continue to publicise her work. "There is still some way to go in bringing it all together into something I feel happy with."
For more details, visit www.lizhingley.com.
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