“Photography is the simplest thing in the world, but it is incredibly complicated to make it really work” – Martin Parr

We’re delighted to present the results of our third theme of Life Framer Edition V, judged by the celebrated British documentarian and past president of Magnum Photos, Martin Parr.

By removing the restrictions of any particular theme or narrative direction, an Open Call creates space for all sorts of strange and wonderful photography that might not find a home under a specific topic. But it also creates a challenge – how does a judge form their selection without the bearings of a theme to guide them? How do they arrive at a cohesive selection of images? The answer of course is to rely only on the universal qualities of good photography – technical execution, storytelling and originality – and to celebrate quite the opposite of cohesion: diversity. And so we find here a selection of 20 thematically and stylistically varied images that stand alone for their skilled production, interest and creativity, and that between them represent a thrilling collation of contemporary photography. Congratulations to the selected photographers and to everyone else: enjoy!

Join the discussion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Congratulations to all the talented photographers featured, and thank you to everyone who submitted their work.


“I love this random arrangement of the nude hikers. Everything is in place and it almost looks as if it has been modelled, but we know it was all there in real life.” – Martin Parr


“What a beautifully observed photos where the horse’s head overlaps into the clouds. It becomes very dream like and quite surreal..” – Martin Parr


“In Cletus’ statement he describes the origins of this image – how he has formed a trusting relationship with a group of young Nigerian laborers and photographs them as they go about their work. Clearly this image is posed, but there’s a wonderful fluid spontaneity to it that can only come from a certain intimacy between photographer and subject. The pose is playful and yet there’s an intensity in this man’s gaze – the bare skin and bowed heads in the background hinting at the hardship he endures, and that idea reinforced by the scars on his cheeks, subtly echoing the veins in the leaf he holds. It’s a bare, powerful image, beautifully executed with a strong symmetry and crisp monochromatic palette.” – Life Framer


“This frame is simply bursting with detail – layered shapes and colors and textures that pull the viewer’s gaze on a circuitous journey around the frame. It might be an overwhelming mess were it not for Willem’s perfect composition – the elements arranged such that each occupies a distinct portion of the frame. He manages to capture the pure energy of a carnival in an original and striking and dramatic way, and to capture a dynamic, candid moment with a certain order. And that’s no mean feat at all. It’s a magical image that bursts with life.” – Life Framer


“Like a frame from a cinematic post-apocalypse – the viewpoint drawing backwards to reveal a hopeless, unending nothingness – Matthew’s composition is evocative and mysterious. This car burns brightly against the dull and dusty ground and sky, thick smoke billowing off frame to meet the lines of grey cloud above. Grain and vignetting are usually effects to avoid, but here they add to the feelings this image conveys – of the world closing in in a way it can only do in a vast, empty desert.” – Life Framer


“Kunal’s image is from a series called Absolution, and the themes that word calls to mind are apparent as his model stands defiant in deep water. There’s something arresting in his powerful pose – is he resolute in the face of drowning? Is he gesturing to a higher force? It’s simple and direct – just ocean, sky and body – while maintaining a sense of ambiguity, and it’s a stirring combination. Silent and enigmatic.” – Life Framer


“Eloi’s street portrait is a dazzling personification of modern America – bold and brash and beautiful. Proud and loud. By shooting from a low viewpoint he emphasizes her stature, cleverly juxtaposing her against the Empire State Building (we think) and in doing so accentuating her larger-than-life spirit. It’s a superbly executed character study that speaks of both the subject, and her cultural environment.” – Life Framer


“Like a real-life version of Magritte’s The Empire of Light, here day and night exist in surreal limbo, like two frames spliced into one. The scene is in fact of a Norwegian village which for six months of the year is shielded from sunlight by the towering peak it sits beneath – a strange phenomenon which Federico captures from a remote viewpoint, the distance emphasizing that idea that all might not be what it seems. As the tiny figures play in a small pool of light reflected from mirrors high in the hills, watched on by a statue of some local eminent figure, you can’t help but be drawn into the peculiarity of this tiny corner of the world.” – Life Framer


“Fern’s dazzling, vibrant portrait is a work of contrasts – the brash 90s tracksuit and sugary drink jarring with the haute couture hair characteristic of the 18th century, and the model’s jaded gaze at odds with his immaculate presentation. In her world eras, styles and social classes are held in an electric tension. Fern describes how the work is a comment on the cyclical nature of fashion and trends – new becoming old becoming new – and she captures that idea with a playful vigour and confident studio execution.” – Life Framer


“Imbued with an exquisite, soft light, Kovi’s environmental portrait of mother and daughters is a wonderful, delicately observed, ode to motherhood. Her defiant, protective stance and the logo emblazoned across her chest say it all, but the surroundings Kovi carefully captures – the chain link fence and trash blowing in the dry wind – are a world away from the glitz of comic books and superheroes. Hers is a very real strength – loving and nurturing but not without a wariness of others, no doubt in response to past adversity. While her youngest daughter glances into the distance, occupied in her own imagination, those same traits are subtly imitated in the posture of her elder.” – Life Framer


“This is a gorgeous naturalistic document of parenthood. The messy reality of it – the face-down balloon, the discarded flip-flops – is delivered with careful execution, with an effective muted color palette and neat, satisfying composition. I’m drawn to the expressions of these young girls – the one aware and a little unsure, the other lost in something far more interesting than the photographer. It’s an image full of life, personality and honesty.” – Life Framer


“There’s a wonderful sense of magic realism to this image – the well-composed but mundane elements that divide the scene into distinct zones brought to life by this ghoulish face trapped in the dog-eared fabric. It’s wry and playful but a little dark and ominous too, and it’s an appealing combination. Sometimes photography excites with its high concepts, other times with it exact execution. But here it’s Stefano’s success in capturing spontaneity in urban banality. An oft-overlooked moment of everyday surprise that would pass most of us by. It’s a form of visual poetry – an ode to the quiet rhythms of the street.” – Life Framer


“Alexander’s conceptual portrait is mysterious and enigmatic, seemingly influenced by classical art iconography, but also the forces that shape our modern world. There’s a purity in the subject’s white billowing dress, and the fruits and flowers in front of them (established art tropes for innocence, beauty and virtue), but the open sea and waves crashing behind, and those same tropical fruits also bring to mind ideas of immigration and colonialism, of stolen innocence and exploitation. The tall knife stands as a further ominous hint to these themes. It’s a complex, monolithic portrait, simultaneously contemporary and ageless, full of symbolism to interpret.” – Life Framer


“Oluwasegun’s diptych confronts very relevant ideas of power, race and historical narratives head-on. His juxtaposition of a wealthy white man from modern America’s founding history with himself – a young black man emulating the pose – is a stark reminder of the racial dynamics that have shaped, and continue to shape Western society. History dictated by those in power. Oluwasegun’s approach is one of broad imitation, but he is careful to veer clear of parody – the pose remains, but the fashion is updated, and rather than the similarities, it’s the differences that drive home the tragedy that not more has changed. He puts a mirror to the past to describe the present day, and it’s a hugely effective, and necessary, juxtaposition.” – Life Framer


“Henriette’s portrait is arresting – her confident tight cropping and subject’s direct gaze distorted and refracted by shards of broken glass that cut menacingly across the frame. Aside from its assured execution and loving little details such as the way the green flora trapped in the glass matches the color of her eyes and shapes of her lashes, there are interesting ideas at play – of the complexity of our identities, and how we present facets of ourselves to the outside world. She plays with these themes with kaleidoscopic imagination.” – Life Framer


“Just as Martin Parr explores the absurdity of modern life, here Fabian captures a peculiar scene – fake grass carefully laid out atop a barren, rocky outcrop, seemingly a convenient resting place for two weary hikers. The man’s red jacket pops against the bright synthetic green – a hyper-real version of the hills that roll into the distance. Perhaps it tells a story of man’s desire to tame his wild surroundings, to sanitise and control the natural world. Or perhaps it’s just a wonderful odd moment, a wry depiction of leisure time in an unlikely place.” – Life Framer


“Vikram’s portrait is ripe with intrigue – the glass window acting as an obvious metaphor to describe a simultaneous proximity and distance. We see this girl clearly, and yet there are no clues to help us decipher her – her location, her circumstances, her feelings. It feels romantic and nostalgic, real but somehow dreamlike, aided by Vikram’s monochromatic treatment and straightforward composition. There’s a sense of longing – the wooden frame and glass pane creating a barrier like a prison window. As our subject yearns for the outside, we as viewers yearn for the inside; to understand.” – Life Framer


“Fabian’s image shows seven North Korean orphans sat underneath portraits of their country’s leaders. On the one hand it’s fun and playful – in its counter-framing, with all interest pulled to the edges of the composition, and how these seven children sat in an orderly line, dressed to match and echoing the repetitious pattern of flowery wallpaper behind them, gazing off into the middle distance like their leaders they sit below. But on the other it provides a thoughtful comment on their lives and what we learn about North Korea from the news – these children not yet old enough to understand the societal structure they live in, an order and rigidity that seems so alien to the majority of us in this world. They seem a little unsure, lost navigating a complex world without parental support. Beyond the political connotations it’s a tender document of human life, and one can’t help but be swept up in it.” – Life Framer


“Mia describes the background to this image – how she took over a Kenyan photography studio in the slum of Kibera to photograph locals in their Sunday best before church. She beautifully captures the ramshackle nature of such an environment, and that playful juxtaposition between the idealised backdrop of immaculate mowed lawns and sculpted hedges, and the reality. The girl’s backwards pose is striking – Mia choosing to focus on her bright flowers and pristine dress as she gazes into this dream world, as if she could step right in. It’s a wonderfully observed scene and a thoughtful comment on faith and circumstance.” – Life Framer


“Caleb’s style is direct and austere – close-up, unflashy and honest. As if to place as few barriers between the viewer and his characters as possible. Puffy and swollen, and with a cutting stare, this boy’s face is at odds with his sharp suit and proud flower on his chest. Beaten but dignified. Delicate but severe. Gentlemanly but hard-edged. He is a mix of contradictions and that’s where images like this succeed – we can’t possibly know him but we are drawn to question, to try to understand a fragment of his life hundreds or thousands of miles from our own. I’m drawn to the idea of ‘sonder’ – “the realisation that each passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own” – and it’s something Caleb captures in a raw and human way.” – Life Framer

A prestigious jury, 4 international exhibitions and $24000 in cash prizes.

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