The Italian photographer's "extraordinary project" on border control has won 2017 and the top spot from an international jury of experts
“Salvatore Vitale’s extraordinary project How to secure a country is a forensic examination of national security in one of the safest countries on the planet. This work challenges the concept of power and control, shining a light on wider issues of mass migration and fear,” says Emma Bowkett, director of photography for the FT Weekend Magazine and a jury member for the PH Museum 2017 Grant this year.
Along with Sarah Leen from National Geographic, Ihiro Hayami from Tokyo Photography Festival, and the photographer Alejandro Chaskielberg, she picked out the Italian photographer for the top prize, for his project exploring the National Security Program in Switzerland, his adopted home. Two years in the making, the series has been funded by a Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia grant, and Vitale has scooped £7000 by winning the PH Museum prize.
“Salvatore Vitale has managed to gain access to one of the most difficult places to photograph; border control,” comments Hayami. “He tries to capture, or examine, the abstract concept of security through the fragments of scenes and successfully presents, in a new way, such a concept. It is a strong and suggestive work that stands out, especially in the current political climate.”
Antonio Faccilongo took the £3000 second prize with Habibi, a story about Palestinian women using sperm smuggling and IVF to conceive children with husbands serving long-term sentences in Israeli jails. In the past three years, 60 babies have been born this way. “The project was a fresh and surprising way to envision the effects of the Palestinian crisis on families,” says Leen. “Faccilongo has found subtle and intimate ways to tell a story about a secret.”
Jacob Aue Sobol took the £1000 third prize with Road of Bones, a story venturing deep into Siberia and the lives of its inhabitants. “Road of Bones is an intimate and familiar narration of one of the most inhospitable places on Earth,” commented Chaskielberg. “It is an extraordinary work that persists in our memory for its rawness and simple reading. In this project, people and objects merge through the textures. The visual power of this work is relentless and unites photography with graphics, ink painting, and animé.”
The New Generation Prize of £1000, for a photographer under 25 years of age, was assigned to Italian-Moroccan photographer Karim El Maktafi by a jury featuring Kate Bubacz from BuzzFeed News; Fiona Rogers from Magnum Photos; Poulomi Basu, the photographer and founder of Just Another Photo Festival ; and Alejandro Kirchuk from PH Museum. El Maktafi’s project, Hayati, investigates and reflects upon the identities of “second generations” – children of immigrants, born and raised in Italy.
The Cortona On The Move prize, selected by the festival director Arianna Rinaldo and offering a solo exhibition at this year’s edition, was won by Sandra Mehl for the project Ilona and Maddalena. “Sandra Mehl’s voice is realistic, ironic, sweet and sour at the same time,” says Rinaldo. “The story is simple: two young sisters living in the South of France, in a low-income family. They are young girls, from a working class neighbourhood.
“Sandra’s natural gaze is non-invasive but quite intimate, non-pietistic but slightly melancholic. It is as if the girls are speaking to us in their spontaneous words, offering a glimpse into their life that breathes of desires and dreams, of hopes and fear. And ordinary story, poetically moving, that speaks a universal language, and reveals the warmness and fragility of life.”
The jury also awarded six honourable mentions in the main prize – War of a forgotten nation by Emilie Urbano; Kajnikaj by Kaja Rata (featured in February on bjp-online.com); The Hunter by Alvaro Laiz; Let Us Now Fall Asleep by David Denil; Heaven’s gain by Justin Maxon; and Every night temo ser la dinner by Sofia Ayarzagotia. Isadora Kosofsky’s Vinny and David, David Severn’s Thanks Maggie and and Luke Withers’ Wireless received honorable mentions in the New Generation Prize category.
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