October 19 – October 31, 2023
The Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture is a $20,000 prize awarded annually to a photographer whose work demonstrates a compelling new vision in photographic portraiture. The Prize is generously funded by the Arnold & Augusta Newman Foundation and proudly administered by Maine Media Workshops + College.
The Griffin Museum is pleased to present an online exhibition to honor the finalists for the Newman Prize.
Matt Eich – Bird Song Over Black Water
Help me to lie low and leave out, Remind me that vision is singular, that excess Is regress, that more than enough is too much, that compression is all
from Meditation on Song and Structure
by Charles Wright
Bird Song Over Black Water is an ongoing body of work made in my home state of Virginia that will span a decade when complete. The series incorporates portraiture, still lives, and landscapes, but at the emotional core of the work is my desire to share small intimacies with people. While photography is limited to light on surface, I am interested in what lies below the surface of an individual and strive to make images that evoke a psychological space. To achieve this, I often work in a collaborative manner, engaging with individuals to visually represent themselves as they wish to be seen.
The way I make work is largely intuitive. My subconscious only a few steps ahead of my conscious mind on a path to the questions I seek. I trust the images to guide me toward a clear vision one-to-the-next. While my faith in the photographic medium is frequently tested, I still believe it can expand our capacity for empathy. Belief alone rescues me from despair.
Depicting those I encounter with intimacy and respect, I consider the weight of our troubled colonialist past, and how it has led to the isolation and division of the present, while trying to illuminate our collective hopes for the future. The encounters I have, and the resulting images, reflect my own search for moments of human connection, and desire to extend this moment of communion.
Sarah Mei Herman – Solace
In response to my long-term Touch series, I was approached by Emerson & Wajdowicz Studios (EWS) to produce a related project about the LGBTQ+ community in China. Specializing in socially-conscious multimedia design and art, EWS runs a photobook series devoted entirely to LGBTQ+ themed stories – showcasing the diversity and complexity of queer communities around the world.
In September 2019, I returned to Xiamen to portray 14 queer individuals and couples, all of whom I found through my existing network in the city. Alongside portraits of each person, and images of the private spaces they inhabit, Solace features interviews with each subject about life, love and their personal fears. Unable to return to Xiamen during the pandemic, I continued the project in the Netherlands, photographing young members of China’s LGBTQ+ community who had relocated to Europe. The book was published by New York’s The New Press in December 2022.
Lee-Ann Olwage – The Right to Play
What do girls dream of? And what happens when a supportive environment is created where girls are empowered and given the opportunity to learn and dream? The Right To Play creates a playful world where girls are shown in an empowered and affirming way.
Every day, girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms, and practices, poor infrastructure and violence. For this project, I’m working with school girls to show what the world could look like when girls are given the opportunity to continue learning in an environment that supports them and their dreams.
Worldwide, 129 million girls are out of school and only 49 percent of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education with the gap widening at secondary school level. From a young age, many girls are told what their future will look like. The expectation is: you grow up, you get a husband and you have children. And that’s your life.
For this project, I worked with the girls from Kakenya’s Dream, a nonprofit organisation that leverages education to empower girls, end harmful traditional practices including female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, and transform communities in rural Kenya. Their goal is to invest in girls from rural communities through educational, health, and leadership initiatives to create agents of change and to create a world where African women and girls are valued and respected as leaders and equal in every way.
By using flowers to create a playful world where girls are shown exuding pride and joy I aim to re-imagine the narrative of child marriage and in collaboration with the girls to reclaim their futures and dreams.
Angelika Kollin – Mary’s Children
My entire focus in my artistic practice revolves around exploring the essence of humanity, with a particular emphasis on womanhood. The human experience can be incredibly isolating on this expansive planet without functional inter-human connections or a life driven by profound passion. Ultimately, we all seek love, a sense of belonging, and a purposeful existence.
My new project (2023-), “Mary’s Children,” pays homage to individuals who demonstrate unwavering strength and courage in the face of tragic events and challenging life circumstances. The name carries importance, as it symbolizes the genuine heroes and heroines (Everyday Saints) whom I find truly deserving of admiration amidst a world consumed by the pursuit of fame and wealth.
In a society where celebrities and the affluent often take center stage, these remarkable individuals embody the true essence of heroism and strength. They radiate a light of the Spirit and possess a remarkable strength of Faith, demonstrating courage and openness of heart that surpasses that of many self-proclaimed spiritual leaders and gurus. Unfortunately, their stories often remain untold, overshadowed by the noise of mainstream media.
I want to bring attention and visibility to these extraordinary human beings. The inspiring journey with “Mary’s Children” serves as a confirmation of the boundless capacity for growth and courage within each of us.
Irina Werning – Las Pelilargas
Women in South America wear their hair longer than in most Western countries due to its hybrid culture and influence of Indigenous traditions. In most indigenous communities the cutting of hair represents cutting their thoughts.
Since 2006 I have been searching and photographing women with long hair in Argentina. A leader of the Kolla community once told me: “Your hair is important; that’s your connection to the land. it’s the teaching that’s been passed down from generation to generation”.
As a woman from south America I sometimes struggle with the idea of having to adopt masculine traits to be successful or equal to men, a notion at the very core of machisimo. Gender equality can also be promoted by telling stories that highlight femininity and aspects that unite women in their communities.
I hope that my pictures celebrate this ancestral tradition that connects us to our land, and also honor the beauty and power of womanhood.
Kiana Hayeri – Loss Piles on Loss for Afghan Women
Walk around the capital, Kabul, and it often feels as if women have been airbrushed out of the city. There are fewer women on the streets these days than even a few months ago. More and more, those who still venture out — once in jeans and long blouses — are covered head-to-toe in concealing robes, their faces obscured behind masks. Female shop mannequins have been beheaded or their heads wrapped in tinfoil. Photos of bridal models outside of the beauty salons are spray painted. But the most profound change is invisible: It is the storm of loss, grief and rage that has enveloped the city’s women, they say.
Some women went into hiding, fearing retribution after the Taliban seized power. Others began protesting on the street. Grandmothers in dusty villages walked out of their mud brick homes with relief, free for the first time in 40 years of the fear of stray bullets or airstrikes raining down. Some teenage girls began attending schools in secret, echoing the stories from their mothers’ childhoods that once felt like grim folklore.
For the longest time, I have been so distraught by weaponizing women’s rights in Afghanistan that I can not help but to wonder how has the West actually improved the lives of Afghan women? Conversely, how has it impoverished them? What actions have Afghan women themselves taken to resist their oppression? And what hope is there for their future?
When the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, women were among the most profoundly affected. While the end of fighting offered a welcome respite, particularly for women in rural areas, others’ lives have been severely constricted. Many watched 20 years of gains made under Western occupation unravel as the new government issued edict after edict scrubbing women from public life. While, evidently the Islamic Emirates has been trying to eliminate women from society and shutting down their voices, over several months last year, I spoke to 96 women across the country and from all walks of life to understand how their lives and Afghan society have changed since Taliban came back into power. The result was turned into an interactive piece for The New York Times.
Today, Afghanistan is among the most restrictive countries in the world for women, according to human rights monitors. Girls are barred from secondary schools. Women are prohibited from traveling any significant distance without a male relative, and from going to public spaces like public baths, gyms and parks. Women are banned from attending universities and from working for aid organizations, some of the last hopes left for professional or public lives. In the most recent move, Ministry of Vice and Virtue have ordered all beauty salons in the country to close up shop before the end of the month, putting an estimated 60,000 women out of jobs.
The tone of the portraits was set to resemble the confined spaces that women are bounded to, like “an encaged bird”; a metaphor that many of the women I interviewed used to describe how their frustration, rage and sadness. All of the portraits are set up in the comfort of their personal spaces and naturally lit with a warm light, often through the sun on the verge of setting. The lighting symbolizes the beam of hope the women once had and now is disappearing fast. Every one of the women who agreed to be photographed for this project is incredibly audacious and courageous. They wanted to be heard. Let us not forget them; remember their faces, their names and their stories.