Editor’s note: One of the images in this story, of a man who died of COVID-19, may disturb some readers.
Andrea Torrey / All about the photo awards
An old Pratika camera and a 7-year-old French girl who fell in love with photography launched the All About Photo Awards competition. This little French girl, Sandrine Hermand-Grisel, has already grown up and, with the help of her “entrepreneurial soulmate” (husband Fabien), has created the All About Photo website and the annual All About Photo Awards.
Hermand Grisel, who comes from an artistic family who spends weekends researching art museums, says the website and the competition are part of the path she has had to take since the first time she held the camera.
Peter Katton / All about the photo awards
“As a girl, I took my camera everywhere,” said Hermand-Grizzly, 47, who lives in San Diego. “I covered the walls of my bedroom with pictures of the masters of photography. My room became a museum of photography, unlike my friends, who had posters of their favorite actors or music groups.”
This year’s theme of the Eye of the Mind competition – a reference to the essay of the same name by renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson – attracted more than 6,000 entries from 700 photographers from 23 countries and five continents. Hermand-Grisel says she chose the subject to take submitted photos, “which go on and engage our minds and souls,” which you can “look at over and over again.”
Donel Gumiran / All about the photo awards
So, out of 6,000, who won the grand prize? Tom Price, the London-based photographer for his Porter photo, a photo that Hermand-Grisel called “stunning” and “technically perfect in composition and color palette.” But at first she confused her.
Tom Price / All about the photo awards
“Price’s image puzzled me because of the object, the color, and the surreal feel. An Indian worker carrying disproportionately pink containers on his head is standing in no man’s land that looks like an American landscape. What was he doing there?”
She then read the caption, explaining that Price was using an outside company to recreate a barren landscape around the migrant worker, away from the crowds he would normally get lost in (although Price did not say where the landscape part of the piece was, emphasizing that the point is to see the object itself). Price calls it a visual commentary on the experiences of migrant workers, designed to have a surreal feel to consider. This is the picture that will continue in your mind, says Hermand-Grisel.
“As an immigrant himself, the feeling of dislocation resonates with me, and Price’s original and unconventional approach to the difficult subject of migrants has made it even more powerful,” says Hermand-Grisel. His photo “Porter” is part of a series he made while living in Calcutta from 2015-2016.
Price, who has lived in a number of countries when he is not in his home UK, says his first stop when exploring a new place is the open market because it “offers a glimpse into the cultural heart of one place”. And that’s where he took his winning picture: Barabazar Market, in particular – one of the largest wholesale markets in Asia, which is so crowded and huge, Price says you feel like at a football match where all these bodies are they are pressing against you and you have no choice but to move with the flow of people. “
What struck him immediately were the men who calmly carried huge quantities of goods on their heads through crowds of people. These men are mostly migrants, Price says, from poorer countries like Biha, with no alternative but to work in places away from home to make ends meet. Price initially asked them to pose in an empty alley to separate them from the crowds in which they orient themselves every day.
But he found that he had not yet received the message that these workers were on a kind of pilgrimage, away from home and headed to unknown places. He worked with FeatherWax, a retouching company, and CGI to create vivid landscape backgrounds as a way to really visualize that feeling that these men are outsiders.
Joshua Irvandi / All about the photo awards
The winner in second place has a very real theme: death from COVID. But the image of Joshua Irvandi on a single corpse, alone in an Indonesian hospital, which they wrapped in plastic, believing it would prevent infection (although the Centers for Disease Control says there is minimal risk of catching COVID from a dead body). This is a picture that makes you stop and think about the catastrophic effect of the pandemic on the world, says Hermand-Grisel.
“We saw devastating images on the news every day,” she said. “I lost a friend in April, and my stepmother was under a ventilator as we judged the second round. But whatever personal experience each of us has, this wrapped corpse, alone in a hospital room in Indonesia, is simply devastating.”
Constanta Portnoy / Reward everything for the photo
What surprised Hermand-Grisel for this year’s recordings was the optimism and idealism in many of the images. With everything that has happened in the last year – COVID, racial justice protests and fires in the United States and Australia, to name a few – she was expecting disturbing, violent or just sad moments. And yes, she says, there must have been pictures like the grim portrait of Irvandi that make you “think, think, comprehend.”
Phuoc Hoai Nguyen / All About Photo Awards
But, she says, there were also images that take us away from the heavy casualties in 2020, such as a father playing with his daughter in Argentina and a gracefully cast fishing net in Vietnam.
Suzette Lomayer often participates in this blog and in NPR’s health bulletin, Shots. She is based in Arlington, Virginia, where she can usually be found writing with a dog next to her.