FIRST PRIZE: JON POPOWICH
“This is just an amazingly powerful picture. So many absolutely perfect elements. The hair, the lines in the jacket matching the building. His expression. The too-wide, low angle works in this case. I love it”. – David Alan Harvey
“This is such a terrific photograph by any standard. It is so perfect, and my first thought was that it was staged – A set up rather than a grabbed street shot. Yet if it is a real street photograph by traditional mores, it is pretty amazing. Either way it is a remarkable image”. – David Alan Harvey
Theo’s gorgeous composition on the streets of Medellin is a real treat – awash with soft blue and cobalt tones and full of details to absorb. In every corner of the scene people look out down the street and we take on the role of yet another spectator, equally intrigued as to what might be taking place ahead. In his statement, Theo describes the concept of ‘Magic Realism’ – fiction that integrates elements of fantasy into otherwise realistic settings. It’s a beautiful phrase for describing such an image, where everyday elements align to create something elegant and dreamlike, far from the usual descriptors associated with the streets of Colombia. He does well to avoid those clichés, and the image is alive with life and atmosphere that you feel as well as see – you could almost step into it.
Simona’s is perhaps the most ‘typical street photography’ style image of the selection, channelling the vibrant colours and silhouetted figures recognisable in the work of other artists. Nonetheless she creates a beautiful scene; the slivers of light drawing the eye down to this lone figure, and the limited colour palette resulting in a strong and effervescent aesthetic. It’s a study in light and dark, and positive and negative space – a compositional masterclass – and I think it works brilliantly.
Alejandro’s voyeuristic street image is wonderfully staged; the low, upwards framing totally unexpected, and the compositional elements perfectly balanced. In his statement he describes his viewfinder as the weapon and the power lines as the crosshairs, and it’s a canny metaphor for the series from which this image is drawn, with the subjects acting as his walking ‘prey’. In this particular image I love how the man looks out above us, and the lady glances down the length of the power cables – Alejandro gives us a glimpse of them going about their lives, but gives us only the smallest clues to their environment, and that creates something quite mysterious and powerful.
Robyn’s street portrait is perfectly framed, capturing the self-confident energy of this young school girl in gorgeous low light. Her posture is dynamic and assured, at once posed and natural, and in that sense a hallmark of a skilled photographer finding an ease with her subject. The angled framing against the sports court fencing works well, creating depth in the scene and linking the subject to her surroundings. It’s a lovely, tender portrait.
Stefano’s image is a delightful visual trick. He plays with perspective and geometry, with the real and the constructed, with new and old, with light and shadow, and it’s a joy to unravel it; to decipher the elements from which it’s formed. There’s a lovely parallel between the young girl in the window and the lady in the advertisement – and a satisfying mirror between the silhouetted man left of frame, and the walking man to the right. It’s one of those moments where elements align seemingly effortlessly, concealing the skill in capturing it. One tiny criticism is how the foot of the man on the right is cropped from the frame. A quarter-second later in capturing the shot, and he would have been in full frame, but it’s a pedantic critique on what is a fantastic shot.
It’s nice to see non-linear interpretations of the theme such as this one. Ricardo looks upwards from the street – towards the ‘streets in the sky’ – to find life; in this case a white curtain billowing in the wind, the only break in a geometric, repetitious landscape. It’s a subtle clue to the lives that exist behind this inert metal façade, which paired with the visual satisfaction in the well-framed architectural geometry makes for a strong and provocative image.
Marcus’ image works on both an aesthetic, or thematic level and a cerebral one. In terms of the former, it drips with cinematic atmosphere, like a frame from a classic film noir. This hunched, trench-coated man walks alone through an empty, dusk-lit industrial setting, his destination, and the contents of his suitcase unknown. The mind can wander fluently, building scenarios for who he might be, and where he might be going. It’s incredibly evocative. And then in terms of the intellectual level, I have little idea how the image was constructed – it’s a visual puzzle. Perhaps a reflection in water, but with a soft focus that clouds the ripples, or perhaps a product of post-processing. It’s a beautifully realised and mystifying image in both senses, and for that reason it stays with me.
I find Merethe’s image to be quite painterly – the film grain imitating the discreet brush stabs of pointillism, the complex urban scene distilled down to its key elements; pace and scale. I also read it as a contemporary take on street life, playing on ideas of surveillance and anonymity in public spaces. It’s a heavily stylised and processed image, but here it works elegantly – the visual treatment strengthening, rather than diluting the central message of the shot. I do wonder how Merethe would retain interest were this expanded into a series (I think she would have to contrast this image type with different viewpoints), but as a single frame it’s quite magical.
I love the voyeurism of this scene – a peak into the lives of these anonymous teenagers, just one isolated story in a dense, humming city. It’s a skilfully framed moment of tenderness (our protagonists occupying just a tiny portion of the scene, paralleling the relative insignificance of their story), in a harsh and austere environment – a fleeting moment where the world around them doesn’t exist. In his statement, Luca describes metropolitan kisses as “a key to opening the door to Sao Paulo, depicting its various shades and contradictions”. He goes on to describe the vast size of the city and the relative safety of the subway, and how these elements may give context to such a scene. It’s a layer of information that helps interpret what is already at face value a powerful and alluring image.