Top image: photography by Justin Leveritt
With a typically robust roster of superbly talented photographers, this year’s Palm* Photo Prize is as good as ever. The annual submission-based exhibition, which does so much to elevate the work of emerging international photographers, has this year reached a new zenith, attracting thousands of submissions that relay local stories from all over the world.
With a free submission process that ran throughout March, the newly revealed 2021 shortlist was selected from over 7,500 images. Spanning amateurs and professionals, the competition will see entries from the 105-name shortlist compete across four separate prizes: the Judges Panel (first and second place), the People’s Choice Award and the East Up and Coming Award. This last one in particular, which is only eligible for photographers not represented by an agency or gallery, typifies the prize’s democratic appeal and commitment to uncovering the best photography talent – irrespective of fame or following.
With a jury comprising Alastair McKimm (editor-in-chief at i-D magazine), Karen McQuaid (senior curator at The Photographers’ Gallery), Gem Fletcher (writer and photo editor), Ronan McKenzie (director of HOME), Megan Tilley (senior photo agent at East Photographic) and Lola Paprocka (photographer and founder of Palm Studios), this year’s shortlisted photographs will feature in a special exhibition at 10 14, a new gallery from East Photographic photo agency.
Below, we selected ten of our favourite images from this year’s shortlist and asked each photographer for some added context. Given the prize’s track record for identifying future stars, we suggest you make a note of these names.
“This photograph of Braily was made at a watering hole in Poughkeepsie, NY. It’s a part of Down by the Hudson, which is my personal ode to this town where I lived, worked, and studied for years. Braily was washing in the local creek and I noticed that their body language shared a striking resemblance to the language of renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child. We looked at some of those paintings on my phone together and photographed all afternoon. It was a back and forth, a playful, flamboyant, hopeful sort of collaboration. What draws me most to this space is its utopian promise. In spite of everything in this country and in this moment, this watering hole offers people some sort of refuge. To me, it’s a modern-day Eden.”
“That whole week I hadn’t seen the horizon. A dense fog hugged the periphery of the coast, softening the light and sounds from the sea. I was chasing notions of containment in my imagery anyway. Past the lighthouse the coastal path cuts through dead foliage that ends abruptly at the cliff edge. The fog horn booms out into the distance rhythmically while the waves move through the bay toward the blackened coastline. The gannets playing in the wind are my only way to understand the scale and force of the wave. I am looking down through the viewfinder at the endless unfolding of the waves against the coast, it is as though this is a scene in miniature. No horizon, barely any scale, waiting to catch it in the act.”
“This picture of Neve was taken in Bradford a couple of years ago while working on a collaborative project about local youth. It was a spontaneous moment which always makes me smile.”
“My mom built the house we grew up in during the 1970s. This wallpaper has withstood decades of change and its paisley-esque avian pattern has always been imprinted within my subconscious. My brother and his family live in Alaska and usually only make it home to Wisconsin once a year, but this year, after weeks of quarantine, we were able to spend most of the fall together.
This image is of my niece McKay getting a trim in the bathroom that has seen many family haircuts over the years. Despite the necessity of quarantine cuts in 2020, McKay has always had her hair cut at home, but it felt particularly special this year since we were all together – growing, learning, and shaping new versions of ourselves while simultaneously appreciating the evolutions we witnessed.”
“I fantasised about becoming a mother for many years, though when it eventually came to me, pregnancy took me by surprise and challenged my expectations. There have been periods of my maternal journey stooped in grief and others trapped by fear. For a time prenatal depression got a hold of me. But my identity as a mother has continued to transform and develop with every challenge and triumph. I find there is a tapestry of hope and disaster where motherhood begins; moments where the border of being a woman and being a mother is crossed.
Making the series Birth of a Mother quickly became an important part of my own journey; connecting me with others and expanding my understanding of the myriad of different experiences women have to go through. The ongoing series so far has resulted in a constellation of images that detail both the collective and individual experience of becoming a mother – highs, lows and all.
Photographing the twins, both pregnant at the same time, felt like capturing a spark of magic. Their individual journeys to motherhood both completely unique and yet miraculously in sync.”
“Sam (middle) and I were introduced through friends, eventually this blossomed into a friendship. What drew me into Sam was her personal artistic process, which is to say the same of her sisters. Gabi (left), the younger, a musician and Zora (right), a multidisciplinary artist. Later Sam was gracious enough to allow me to document her, her family, and the space she shares with them. This image is a result of trial and error, as I wanted to create a portrait that we felt best represented their bond.”
“I took the image on my last trip before the pandemic. We were hiking around Dachstein all the long when we spotted this tranquil spot. My friends took a nap by the sea while I went photographing. I had to climb up a steep slope to get the right angle for the image when suddenly a cow attacked me. My friends till this day laugh about the story, they say I officially became a wildlife photographer. But thank god I pressed the button before I slipped!”
“While making work on the road in the midwest and along the Eastern Seaboard in 2020 I visited my friend Laura who was working at the Veterans Healing Farm in Hendersonville, North Carolina. This photograph was made during an evening spent tracking down an escaped Queen Bee and her hive with beekeeper Heather Draper and her son Jackson (pictured).”
“This image is part of a wider ongoing series Dear Philadelphia, which captures the everyday of the community. At the heart of this body of work, is the desire to show the power of perseverance, love and unity among people.”
“This is part of my ongoing series called Homegrown, where I explore street culture in London. As the project has developed I have grown more fascinated with the rich diversity of people that live in the UK, encouraging me to get closer and pushing me to portray an honest and authentic account. Along with the romanticism of being a photographer on the street, the political importance and responsibility I hold has grown, and subsequently now plays a very important role in my photography.”
The exhibition opens on the 20th of May – 30th August at 10 14 Gallery and will be by appointment only. The Judge’s Panel prizes and East Up and Coming Award will be announced online in June 2021. The People’s Choice Award will be announced at the end of the exhibition in August.