The jury of the Steenbergen Stipendium 2019, the most important prize for talented photographers in the Netherlands, has nominated five final art academy student projects. For the selection, apart from overall photographic quality, the jury uses the degree to which the work reflects the world we live in as an important selection criterion. 'Photographers still like to embrace moving images but, this year, we mainly opted for photo series. These series are predominantly focused on experimental elements, love for traditional techniques, and an eagerness to learn more about subjects outside of the student’s immediate environment’, says jury chairperson Merel Bem.
The Steenbergen Foundation offers the winner of the jury prize an incentive of 5,000 Euros. The works will be exhibited at the Nederlands Fotomuseum from 16 November 2019 to 9 February 2020. At the same time, the nomination of the projects identifies innovation within photography and it offers insight into how the new generation is using the medium. This also makes the museum’s exhibition a benchmark for the development of photographic talent.
The five nominees are listed below. The jury has given a short explanation for each project.
Jesper Boot (1996, the Netherlands), Power, www.instagram.com/jesper_boot
Utrecht University of the Arts, Utrecht
What does power look like? For his project Power, Jesper Boot studied photos of political figures and the cliché, rather mind-numbing manner in which they are generally depicted by the media. You could think of badly lit and poorly exposed settings featuring men and women in dreary suits behind tables littered with microphones, in front of a background displaying international flags or the EU logo, or as they are walking down corridors going from one meeting to another carrying thick files. We can all conjure up these standard images in our minds. Boot has dissected the visual language to its core and subsequently tried to create it himself. Boring? Absolutely not.
Boot must have thoroughly enjoyed mimicking these kinds of media images. For example, he used the cheapest materials to turn his parents' house into a rather pathetic-looking conference centre. Boot depicts politics as one big theatrical performance. And, although he didn't have to look far to achieve this, he first had to recreate this crazy world in a subtle way so that we could see how archetypal it actually is.
Enrico Garzaro (1988, Italy), Life Long Camera, www.enricogarzaro.com
Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam
Enrico Garzaro focused completely on making different types of cameras, a choice born out of his longing to record every day of his life, or actually his entire life, in one single analogue record. The installations built by Garzaro are magnificent and substantive at the same time; they truly tell a story. His handmade cameras are not only created for the viewer’s aesthetic pleasure, they also work. In this case, they recorded the duration of Garzaro's final project exposition, and created images the photographer can use after the project is complete. His fascination with capturing time is not a momentary whim but a core drive that determines and propels his work.
Viktor Naumovski (1996, North Macedonia), Standing in the Sun, www.instagram.com/vvnaumovski
Royal Academy of Art, The Hague
With Standing in the Sun, Viktor Naumovski grabs the attention of his audience right from the outset. The short film (approx. ten minutes), a surreal coming-of-age story about a North Macedonian boy and his family set against the backdrop of a gutted, post-war Skopje, is instantly mind-blowing. It is difficult to believe that a student, someone who also grew up without any art in his immediate environment, has created a work that is so convincing and so unquestionably authentic.
Naumovski wrote the script with his friends and family in mind. They also play the different characters in the film, incorporating their own ideas and personalities, which ensures that they never become clichés. They act freely and without inhibitions; apparently, Naumovski is not just a talented creator of images but also a credible director.
Mafalda Rakoš (1994, the Netherlands), A Story to Tell. Or: Regarding Male Eating Disorders, www.mafaldarakos.com
Royal Academy of Art, The Hague
The fact that men can also develop anorexia may be known but it is seldom a topic of discussion or conversation. Mafalda Rakoš, who suffered from anorexia herself as a young woman, was interested in hearing stories from the male perspective, and she decided to do this on a large scale. She found eleven men who not only allowed her to follow and photograph them but, at her request, also made drawings about how they felt. Thanks to her, we are able to see a perspective that does justice to the world as it is experienced by these men and which is also a beautiful photographic translation of how they experience their illness.
The publication she made is quite impressive. Her photographs (beautiful portraits, close-ups of bodies, images that record their daily lives) are interspersed with the raw drawings created from the inner world of people who have come to see their bodies as the enemy.
Sophie Wurnig (1993, Austria), Am Land ist die Welt noch in Ordnung, www.sophiewurnig.at
Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam
Nationalism, right-wing extremism, feminism, religion, cultural criticism – you could also just pick one topic for your final project. But this is not what Austrian Sophie Wurnig chose to do. In her series Am Land ist die Welt noch in Ordnung she deals with all of these complicated themes at the same time. This is a risk, and you could argue that some topics might not be as clearly expressed as others, but Wurnig's photographic style is so appealing and her boldness is so overwhelming that she gets away with it. And she does so splendidly.
We see her native land through her eyes. The fact that Austria offers stunning views, fresh mountain landscapes, and mirror-like lakes, and is perceived as a country steeped in tradition and nostalgia, is evident to her. They are clichés but still an integral part of who she is. But, there comes a point where the idyll turns into something that can suffocate, where tradition and nostalgia become a form of radical patriotism that excludes others. Apparently, Wurnig had to leave and then return to her country to see these changes. She now uses photography to ask herself: where is my place in today's Austria?
Announcement of the winner
On 15 January, the jury will announce the winner of an incentive prize of 5,000 euros from the Steenbergen Foundation. Published at the same time will be the jury’s report that includes a critical review of the quality of the graduation exhibition at each art academy. This year, the jury is made up of Merel Bem (jury chairperson and art critic & writer), Henk Wildschut (photographer) and Teun van der Heijden (photography book designer).
Just as with previous editions, this year will also witness the bestowal of a public’s choice award. To determine this winner, the public can vote for their favourite work while visiting the gallery from 15 November 2019 through 12 January 2020. The winner of the public’s choice award will be announced during the award presentations on 15 January.
Previous Steenbergen Stipendium awards were given to Daniël Siegersma (2018), Eline Benjamins (2017), Kimmo Virtanen (2016), Esther Hovers (2015), Jaya Pelupessy (2013), Willem Popelier (2008), Wytske van Keulen (2005), Petra Stavast (2002) and Andrea Stultiens (1998).
The nomination of the projects goes hand in hand with identifying new developments in photography and provides insight into how the new generation is using the medium. These findings are expressed every year in the jury’s report which also sheds light on the quality of the various degree programmes.
The Steenbergen Foundation
The Steenbergen Foundation was established in 1961 by Johan Steenbergen (1886-1967) in memory of his older brother, Hermann Diedrich Steenbergen (1883-1945). Johan Steenbergen moved to Dresden in 1908 where he founded Ihagee Kamerawerk, a factory that became world famous in 1936 by introducing the first single-lens reflex camera by the name of Exakta.