Image Bather #5, from the series Bathers, UKR/IZOLYATSIA, 2011 has been awarded a 1st prize at Grand Prix de la Decouverte '13 International Fine Art Photography Award and acquired by Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF) for its permanent collection.
'Winning' as an artistic concept is a sort of anathema, in fact any acknowledgement of 'success' can potentially undermine our previously unsung achievements. Following this thought to its inevitable conclusion, the concept of tangible, material success could be seen as a little self-defeating. This might be why we empathise with the humble acceptance speech at awards rather than the hysterical, weeping gratitude of Halle Berry or the testosterone fuelled self-aggrandisement of James Cameron .
Entering competitions or juried awards does rather set us up for a fall; we choose to enter, select the work we wish to be judged (self editing is very hard) and seek the affirmation of strangers. Every year when I go to collect my 'unselected' prints from the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize in London, I share the experience with other lost souls, a little crushed, defensive and bitter from this cruel rejection. "How could the jury not feel the same way about my work as I do?" Its baffling. The way I explain it to my fellow sufferers is that it is only the child in us that feels rejected. I feel that participating in the competition process and even to show work at all as adults, is to seek to replace that comforting feeling of unconditional maternal praise from childhood. The rejection therefore is like drawing a pretty picture for your mother when you were 6 years old and she says, " no that's not good enough" and hands it back to you, rather than putting it on the fridge.
The point is we should not try to please or 'win', like we try to win a race. Trying to pre-empt the feelings of the jury just to be selected, leads to us entering images or worse, creating images, that may not represent our true natures. More importantly it leads to an aesthetic monotony of work for consideration and we become complicit in a lack of progress.
A couple of years ago, I entered an image for the wrong reasons; it was selected for the portrait awards at the National Portrait Gallery, London and I had a very difficult private view. Consequentially, there was a picture I didn't actually like, hanging in the NPG for 3 months seen by thousands of people.
Werner Herzog said, "I'm not out to win prizes - that's for dogs and horses."
When we were children my sister used to think she was a horse; at our school sports day she was entered into a race around the field...she cantered the whole way round and came last and we all had to wait, quite a long time, until she finished to a polite ripple of applause. I come from a family of high achievers.
I do not fully understand the mechanisms that led me to create or rather choose to record Bather #5 (I declared this in the statement submitted with the work). I feel we become the photographer that chooses one moment from another and this changes as we evolve in the same way that we interpret the world regardless (without a camera); entirely infected by our life experience. Ambivalence and ambiguity are the image's strength and weakness and I don't pretend to be fully in control of the forces that led to its creation. I feel I can talk about it as if it does not belong to me.
Honesty is still harder to communicate with digital work that records the present in the present, film and the power of nostalgia still possess the high ground. This image is unadulterated, un-retouched, the technical profile is un-altered from the moment of capture and it is full frame with no cropping; I am attempting to communicate some authenticity in this way, silently.
It felt like a risk to take this image and a risk to enter it for scrutiny; my expectations were non-existent of its acceptance, which was a motivation for its entry. I am very pleased to be attending the award ceremony and exhibition launch in Paris from the 6th and 7th November at Salon de la Photographie.
Many thanks and gratitude to the Grand Prix team and jury for their consideration and especially BNF for the honour of being included in their collection.