This year, 160 applicants from around the world applied for the Aftermath Project’s fourth year of funding, up approximately 15 percent from last year. A first round of screening was done in Los Angeles on November 11, with Lesley Meyers of the Annenberg Space for Photography, and Sara Terry, photographer and founder/director of The Aftermath Project. At that time, 104 applicants were moved forward to final judging which took place on November 16 at HOST Gallery in London. This year’s judges were Jon Levy, founder and publisher of Foto8, Andrea Stern, head of images at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Sara Terry.
Monika Bulaj, Italy: Afghanistan, not the war only
Danny Wilcox Frazier, US: Wounded Knee, generations endure a massacre
Jessica Hines, US: My Brother’s War
Olga Kravetz, Maria Morina, Oksana Yushko, Russia (joint application): Grozny: Nine cities
Helena Schaetzle, Germany: 9,645 kilometers memory
The two grant winners were chosen from a very strong and competitive field of contenders. The judges felt that grant winner Monika Bulaj’s proposal on Afghanistan (part of a larger project on conflicts in Central Asia) was a refreshingly personal approach to the country and the issues she raised, combined with stunning colour photography. In addition to exploring specific issues such as reconstruction and women’s schools, she singled out “hidden worlds” to be explored, including the culture of Sufism – long despised by the Taliban – nomadic tribes and religious minorities.
The judges were equally impressed by Danny Wilcox Frazier’s proposal looking at the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota and the Lakota Indians’ struggle to this day over disputed lands. The judges were particularly pleased to find such a strong proposal that examines the aftermath of a conflict on American soil.
Frazier is best known for his black-and-white work, Driftless: Stories from Iowa, which won the Honickman First Book Prize, chosen by Robert Frank. His Wounded Knee work will be a combination of color and black-and-white, as he explores the generational legacy of a massacre which holds the dubious distinction of being the event which ended the war between colonial/US forces and Indian Nations throughout North America. The images Frazier submitted with his Aftermath grant proposal reflected his strongly emotive approach to photography, and reflected the rural sensibilities that he captured so well in his Iowa work.
In other remarks about the finalists, for the first time, a trio of photographers applied together for one grant. Olga Kravetz, Maria Morina and Oksana Yushko joined forces to propose “Grozyny: 9 cities.” Their photographic work was compelling, and the judges were impressed by the creativity of their proposal, inspired by a Thornton Wilder book, “Theophilus North,” which centers on the idea of nine cities being hidden in one. The photographers’ proposal is to explore specific aspects of Grozny’s aftermath through considering them as “cities” hidden with Grozny. The judges applauded the collaborative nature of the proposal, in a field which is often marked by fierce competition between individual photographers.
Finalist Jessica Hines caught the judges’ attention with her personal, fine art-based approached to “My Brother’s War,” in which she explores the life of her older brother, who fought in Vietnam and later committed suicide. Using her brother’s letters and photos to create new photos and still lifes, Hines ongoing project creates a complex, nuanced and highly personal insight into the aftermath of a conflict that defined an American generation.
Interestingly, finalist Helena Schaetzle took a similar personal approach to another major conflict, World War II. Her ongoing project addresses the direct relationship experienced by many Europeans to the war, and to the ways collective national and family memories shape our view of history and politics. In her project statement, she proposed continuing her work by exploring the seven regions where her grandfather served as a soldier during WWII, using his personal diary as a guide.
Images from the grant winners and finalists submissions will be available online in early 2010. For further information on The Aftermath Project and to purchase the annual book War is Only Half the Story featuring the grant winners’ and finalists’ project photography please visit: www.theaftermathproject.org