Project Description

“URBAN LIFE” – Announcing the winners


We’re delighted to present the results of the Life Framer edition II’ second theme. It was an invitation to inspire the photography community with your urban explorations and the insights they can uncover: cityscapes, observational photography, accidental revelations, street encounters, suburban stories, city scenes… The photography competition was judged by Katherine Oktober Matthews.

Katherine  is an American artist working in Amsterdam as a photo editor for GUP magazine, one of the most established magazines in the field of contemporary photography. As part of the judging process Katherine picked the winners and commented her heart out on the rest of her selection so we can all have some insights into her thinking.  A lot of thoughtful words and valuable feedbacks!

“Choosing a shortlist of 20 images was incredibly challenging. Ultimately, we were looking for images that really captured our imaginations. They had to be technically impressive but more importantly they had to hold our attention. Make us look, and then make us look further. Make us think and feel. We’re bombarded with visual stimuli in our daily lives and most city scenes are familiar and pass us by. It takes something special to stop us in our tracks, and that’s exactly what we were looking for in the entries. We hope the shortlist does just this, and is a suitable testament to the diversity of Urban Life.” Ralph Wilson – Cofounder of the Life Framer Award.

You can discover the winning and shortlisted images below and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. We can sometimes feel very lonesome together in the roaring streets of big cities but thank you all for your support and congratulation to all these talented photographers! 


Winner: Claire Lawrie

“This is a great take on portraiture in an urban setting. The fantastic use of black in the setting, which feels circumstantial though could certainly have been arranged, is visually stunning and feels also symbolic. The wall, the garbage bin on wheels, and the panel closet, are all solid black yet covered in scuffs, dust and markings — all evidence of life in a busy city that isn’t too concerned with keeping pristine. The young mother and her children all look directly into the camera with open expressions, and yet they have distinct personality. The mother is composed and warmly confident; her daughter expresses a smirking cynicism not without a sense of humour. The young girl, holding a baby doll that mirrors the mother’s new baby, embodies a kind of forward look to becoming her mother one day. The mother’s hair is combed perfectly, she seems to be a woman who values a clean and respectable appearance — and yet, here they are, posed down some back-alley next to a dumpster! The image feels incredibly rich with information.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.
Runner up: Aleksei Kazantsev
“This is a gentle and beautiful study of urban isolation. We see across an outer courtyard or road a series of windows of apartments with the old man looking out, but just as importantly, we see evidence of the interior of our ‘own’ apartment: There’s the frame of a window, a lamp and its reflection. The image is made all the more powerful with this dialogue between what we see as the photographer’s living quarters and the old man across from him: it’s not one isolated person, it’s two… at least. Even though (it appears) the man has someone nearby, his life is neatly framed into a little box, and a clear glass plate that he must view the world through. He’s separated, and so are we. He’s looking out from his apartment into the world, looking for signs of life… and so are we. The choice of black and white strengthens this theme, and the inclusion of the lamp and its reflection operates not only as a physical object in the image, but also as a kind of emotional symbolism — the reflection sits closer to the man than to us, creating a connection between us. It also sits like a thought bubble above the old man’s head, making the other surface, the lamp, our own thought bubble. There’s a lot to think about inside this image.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.
Third position: Wurfel Gesche
“This image has incredible aesthetic power. The colours and geometry work together to create something that not only appeals but creates intrigue, pulling me in. I want to know more. Because it’s so striking visually, it has the feeling of a scene that’s been architected, and yet it also looks utterly liveable and lived in. The little details like the knocked over blue trashcan in the corner add to that feeling — not to mention of course contributing to the excellent composition and colour palette.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted photographers:  Joel Han, Jemma Blundell, Giorgio Cecca, Allan Dransfield, Chen Liu, Patrick Coleman, Daniel Cheetham, Marta Cortada, Vivienne Luo Wang, Robert Hermann, Anne Paternotte, Alice Rainis, Larry Hallegua, Bryan Stokely, Pau Buscato, Lucas Olivet, Wong Ngo Kwan.


A prestigious jury, 4 international exhibitions and $12000 in prizes.

Photographers retain full and exclusive rights to their submitted work. Entries are judged anonymously so that execution, originality and overall impact shine through.

Further comments

Shortlisted entry: Joel Han

“This image typifies the kind of ‘tiny human lost in a vast universe’ feeling that I think is felt so easily in a megalopolis. The incredible white-out of the building and sky, contrasted against the dark colours of the men creates the perfect visual opposition of an astronaut lost amidst the black universe. It’s isolating, and perhaps even more isolating once you realise that they’re in fact against a building, where people live and work on the other side of the glass, and yet, they’re still fundamentally cut-off or separated.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted entry: Jemma Blundell
“This young woman vacuuming the sidewalk in front of her building is a visualisation of two opposing forces within cities: interminable filth of the detachment of public space, and the desire to care for something that’s “ours”. The sidewalk is public domain, trod upon by countless unconcerned pedestrians, and yet it is also the doorstep of some buildings. It could be that the image is only metaphor of absurdity and futility, as opposed to a documentation of a woman actually cleaning the sidewalk, but it’s kind of besides the point. The crowning feature of the image is the expression of peace upon the woman’s face. Her pose and posture give the impression she’s not really seriously committed to the work she’s doing, so it does have the feeling of posed imagery, but it gives the subject a kind of elegance in performing her duty. I do wish that the rest of the frame was better used — towards the edges and corners of the images, the content feels more ‘accidental’ and not as much under control. Remember: in a finished photograph, we consume everything inside the corners of the image.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted entry: Giorgio Cecca
“This image hits directly with a visual disturbance — a great portion of it is “missing”, seemingly cut out until you see the slight markings on what is eventually recognised as a white wall. The yellow grass and flat shrubs in the surroundings seem to refute the identity of ‘urban life’, yet the distant buildings and construction crane offer evidence of life, as well as a reminder that urbanity differs along with landscapes. The cacti in the foreground offer a strong sense of place, particularly contrasted against the blankness of the wall, the very embodiment of a lack of information. Between the wall and the sky, this image takes a risk by offering very little by way of context to understand the place or its concept of urban life, but the flora do indeed give a lot of context! And the flatness of the land condenses the information, so it has to be parsed out carefully. The photographer counts on a slow reading, asking viewers to go beyond the superficial first look — you think you know me, but you got me all wrong.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted entry: Allan Dransfield
“This is obviously an incredible scene from urban life. Watching this man traverse the cables feels dangerous and yet, the placidity across his face somehow communicates that his behaviour is innocuous and even quotidian — making his actions even more incredible. The cables, the flora, and the buildings in the background all give a great sense of place. It’s an incredible find of location, and the moment is well chosen. My only ‘wish’ with the image is that there was something more to keep me looking at the image longer. The high-wire act is something like a circus act; at first hypnotic, and with each successive look slightly less so. As my eyes search around the image, seeking another thing to intrigue — some small detail to attach to or a fascination with the composition or something — I can’t quite find the thing that keeps me looking beyond the amazement.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted entry: Chen Liu
“This is a great abstracted scene from urban life. I get a sense of place from just the painted lines on the street, which tells me so much: the density of life, the modes of transport that people use to get around on just this small fragment of land — bikes, pedestrians and cars.. at least! The perspective transforms the street scene into a series of lines and colours,  evidence of a wide swath of human activity without necessarily needing to show all that much of it. I wish it gave something a little more to take it to the next level beyond that though — it’s a lovely image, but it’s easy to read and absorb quite quickly. Perhaps as part of a series, there would be more to dwell on, so I only mean this when viewing the photo as a single image.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted entry: Patrick Coleman
“This is a very elegant image, pulling colour and shapes into a minimalist form. It feels like a romanticised urban ideal, and there’s nothing wrong with a little romance. For an ‘ideal’ though, there is a little bit too much of the ‘ugly’ kind of noise in the shadows of the image, so I wish it was technically a little stronger. The supreme isolation of the woman in the fantastic red dress gives her (and the image) a kind of poetry, but I’m not sure that the image benefits from all the dead space on the left. Would the image suffer if it was cropped to square format, for example? I don’t think so, and this tells me that the composition should have been considered a bit more. Overall, a beautiful image, but at this level of competition, it needed to be a little more bulletproof.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.


Shortlisted entry: Daniel Cheetham
“A great shot of urban life and urban bling. The harsh lighting and vibrant colours are exactly what I’d expect from Gilden or Parr, and it’s got the same kind of sense of humour, simultaneously warm in its proximity as well as kind of shining a spotlight on the ridiculous. Since we can’t see anything of the woman’s face, we’re left to focus on her fingernails, and the shiny reflectiveness of her camera phone. The delicate posture of her holding the phone — her nails forcing a certain kind of hold — along with the tiny gesture of her pinky outstretched tell us a lot about her sensitivities with the world. We can ‘read’ her a bit more through the dyed colour of her hair, her canary yellow sweater and shiny bracelet. Because she’s visiting a tourist spot, we can speculate certain facts about her, but we get this slice of urban life which is tied directly to the fact that people are often only passing through.” – Katherine Oktober Matthews.