Image © Kai Wiedenhöfer/ Fondation Carmignac Gestion.
In 2009, the Carmignac Gestion Foundation launched its first Photojournalism Award. Since then, it has awarded €150,000 in total to three photographers – Kai Wiedenhöfer, Massimo Berruti and Robin Hammond – for the production or completion of a wide-ranging body of work around a particular region of the world.
Award's director Nathalie Gallon tells BJP why the Carmignac Gestion Foundation launched the prize and what we should expect from this year's edition.
BJP: The Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award is now in its fourth year. How did it get started? And for what purpose?
Nathalie Gallon: At a time when the mechanisms to produce and distribute photo reports are undergoing massive changes, the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award offers documentary photographers the opportunity to work on long-term projects, with full financial backing, in difficult places. Of course, the purpose of these projects is not to provoke, but instead to try to show, collectively, hidden things – events and situations that have, unfortunately, been forgotten. Our goal is to assist photographers who want to go beyond the news headlines. There aren't a lot of photographers that have been able to work for five months in Zimbabwe, or four months in Pakistan, or three months in Gaza.
When we created the award, I was reading Clément Chéroux's book, Diplopie, which looks at the use of photography by the mass media. Chéroux talks about how newspapers used the same images following the 9/11 attacks. For me, it was a revelation: in this book the author was playing with our sense of déjà-vu to show us that one image can hide another. As a result, beyond the simple fact of being stunned, we realise that an event can be read differently. For example, Chéroux presents the work of Gilles Peress, who chose an alternative way to present his work. I thought this was important, and that's why we invited both men to be part of the jury in the award's first edition. It just felt right. Our goal was to prevent the multiplication of a certain type of image, and instead to go beyond each frame.
BJP: It's becoming increasingly difficult for photographers to finance their personal work. Do you believe Carmignac Gestion has a role to play? Why choose photojournalism?
Nathalie Gallon: The Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award comes with an important grant. We also produce a book (with Steidl at first and now with Actes Sud), and we organise a touring exhibition in France and Europe. Photojournalists have told us it was a rare opportunity to produce a project they care about and spend the necessary time on it. They feel this prize gives them the possibility to make a difference – and not just with the exhibition, but also with the book.
This prize is for all photojournalists, no matter where they live or how old they are. The laureate are chosen by an independent jury, according to values Carmignac Gestion shares: independence, transparency, openness and courage. Photojournalism helps us understand and anticipate. This art keeps us awake and alert.
BJP: The €50,000 grant must be used for the production of a project in a specific region of the world. How does Carmignac Gestion choose the focus of each prize?
Nathalie Gallon: The selected territories are those where human distress is apparent and widespread, or where dictators are politically destabilising entire regions. We want to bring the spotlight on places that have been forgotten by the media.
BJP: The Carmignac Foundation also acquires, each year, four images shot by the award winner. These images then form part of a large art collection at the foundation. Can you tell us more about this collection?
Nathalie Gallon: The goal is to bring art to the masses. First, we want to raise awareness among our collaborators, clients and friends. We want to show them artists, photographers and images they might not be aware of. For example, we have works by Shirin Neshat, Nicola Costantino, Serguey Maximishin and Alex Prager. We've also acquired the work of Marcos Lopez, Miguel Rothschild and Deniz Gül, one of the members of a new generation of Turkish artists. Gül examines, with an ironic style, the construction of identity and space through social roles, urban myths and representation.
Half of our collection is made up of documentary photographs from emerging countries. Of course, our goal is not just to accumulate images. We want to enrich and protect the stories told by our laureates, year after year. Our objective is to present different points of views to as many people as possible.
BJP: Three photographers have received the award so far. Tell us more about their work.
Nathalie Gallon: We've just launched our fourth edition, and I can tell you, it's never boring. We've had three winners so far from three different countries. But these three photographers all share an absolute dedication to their work. They've produced three bodies of work that showcase the role of documentary photography in contextualising the social and political histories of the 21st century. We wanted to put the spotlight on territories that have been cast aside (Zimbabwe), forgotten or overexposed to the point where we forget what it really is all about (Pakistan and Gaza). All of this while being faithful to W. Eugene Smith's personal approach to photojournalism: "Honest – yes; objective – no."
Nathalie Gallon of Carmignac Gestion.
BJP: Why choose Zimbabwe for last year's award?
Nathalie Gallon: Zimbabwe has repeatedly used arbitrary and partisan violence against its people. The exhibition and book, which should be published later this year, will look at Zimbabwe's economic collapse and how it is affecting its people. Of course, there are still some very courageous people – human rights lawyers and NGOs – that are trying to make a difference. And we want to show this, too. Robin Hammond, who won last year's prize, has worked tirelessly to bring these images back – images that show us what is left of that country. We're looking forward to the exhibition at the Chapelle des Beaux Arts in Paris from 09 November.
BJP: What about this year's photojournalism award?
Nathalie Gallon: We've made some changes in the way we're gathering entries. In the past, we would ask for actual prints, but this year we'll be projecting the images to our panel of jurors. We're also looking to bring the exhibition to other countries. This year, Robin Hammond's work should be shown in South Africa too and, hopefully, in a few years, we'll be able to organise a retrospective of our laureates' images, presenting a shared history of documentary photography.
DETAILS – 2012 Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award
The 2012 Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award is now calling for entries for projects relating to Chechnya. Photographers have until 30 September to submit their detailed proposals. The entries will be judged by a panel that includes journalist and curator Christian Caujolle; Daphné Anglès of The New York Times; Agence France-Presse's managing editor, Marielle Eudes; gallery director Walter Keller; photojournalists Mari Bastashevski, Elena Chernyschova and Robin Hammond; as well as British Journal of Photography's Olivier Laurent.
The winner will have until March 2013 to submit their finished project, which will then be exhibited in Paris and published as a monograph. The Carmignac Gestion Foundation will also purchase four photographs resulting from the assignment.
For more details and to enter, visit www.fondation-carmignac-gestion.com.
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