Each year, the quality of the work submitted for the Conscientious Portfolio Competition makes picking the winners a tough job. But it has to be done, and it is a luxury problem to have. This year, guest judges Alice Rose George and Ann-Christin Bertrand helped me do the job. Theirs was a true “blind tasting”: With the photographer names encrypted in the files name, the winners were picked based solely on their artistic merit (It’s fairly blind for me as well: While I do put together the list of the 25 finalists, my own chronic inability to remember names essentially has me look at the files not knowing who they are by). I do think that the combination of a free competition (in other words, no pay to play) and the final selection done “blindly” makes the competition fairly unique. Oh, and you don’t win anything – other than an interview and some exposure. It’s really all about the merit and recognition.
“I find myself going back again and again to these portraits by Dorothee Deiss. Yes, they are inherently fascinating because they show people with what seems to be some physical or mental handicap, but they don’t let you go after the initial surprise. At first they may disturb because they aren’t ‘normal’, but the sensation moves surely and quietly to acceptance and a growing curiosity. Who are these people? What do they feel? How am I to face them? They seem so brave and trusting and vulnerable. They look directly back at the photographer. It’s almost as if they would reverse the roles. The light is bright, more like an examining light than one in a formal portrait; it reveals the mistakes of the flesh but is not mean. And the background is not black, which would be harsh and drama-making, but is a light grey or neutral shade that frames the subjects comfortably — not too tight as to be imposing or distorting, not too wide as to be distancing. The quality of the image making, the surprise of discovering these individuals, and the intelligent and unflinching eye of the photographer make these photographs my choice for the Conscientious Portfolio Prize.”
“This wasn’t an easy decision to make. While going through the series several times, I realised that the series by Bahar Habibi was the one I stopped to look at the most. For me, this portrait of a country and its people seems particularly successful. The project combines sensible portraits and landscapes, but also sometimes slightly absurd seeming situations, using in a well-thought-out aesthetic in every image. Content and form join together very well.”
My choice is A Shameless Longing by Josh Quigley (his whole site shows the project):
“Behind the cookie-cutter facades of their anonymous homes, people go about their private businesses in all kinds of ways, and it’s hard to see what’s wrong with that. Except, of course, that large parts are kept hidden away, possibly only hinted at with carefully constructed euphemisms, for reasons that aren’t entirely obvious (beyond cultural fiats that deserve to be questioned rather severely). People procreate to have babies, or they do everything that’s involved in the act of procreation except for having that baby. Josh Quigley depicts all that in a way that makes the overly beautiful facades looking a tad freakish, while what’s going on behind is given all the attention it really deserves. There’s no ogling, there’s no sensationalism, there’s just a celebration of the human condition, in all its different forms.”