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#47 Harry Pennings Prize 2023

In honor of the Pennings Foundation's first lustrum (2018-2023), the Harry Pennings Prize will be awarded for the sixth time to a talented photographer or artist who uses photography or video as a medium. The prize is linked to the name of the founder of one of the first photo galleries in the Netherlands, and serves to give starting photographers a chance to distinguish and present themselves. The prize was a present from Petra Cardinaal to Harry Pennings when she took over Galerie Pennings in 2006. In 2017 she initiated Pennings Foundation, a platform for photography and video.

At the request of the Pennings Foundation, ten experts in the field of (art) photography have nominated three candidates each, trained at an art or photo academy and living in the Netherlands or Belgium. From the longlist of candidates, a jury has compiled a shortlist of nominees for the prize. The jury is formed by: Hendrik Driessen (curator and former director of Museum De Pont), Roos Schouw (editor-in-chief Focus) and Martijn van de Griendt (photographer).

The nominees for the Harry Pennings Prize 2023 are: Bebe Blanco Agterberg, Wiosna van Bon, Eliza Bordeaux, Laura Chen, Jasper van den Ende, Julia Gat, Esther Hovers, Rick van der Klooster, Sabine van Wechem.

All nominees use images to tell a story. This can be a documentary image or existing, processed or experimentally obtained image. They tell personal stories or visualize a social problem and make it open for discussion.

One of the nominees, Esther Hovers, expressed it as follows: “I see the same development in the selection of photographers for the Harry Pennings Prize as in my own work. The basis is photographic, but we have left the traditional forms of photography far behind. I think it's great to be part of a generation that gets the space to experiment with the medium. The nomination recognizes this development and offers a platform to show work in your own way.”

Peter Cox photographed the nominees' presentations:

Bebe Blanco Agterberg (1995) - KABK, The Hague

Photographer Bebe Blanco Agterberg investigates the role of history and the reliability of images in the post-truth era. The projects she makes deal with the relationship between politics, society and the media. Her visual strategy is based on what she sees in the media and Agterberg is particularly interested in what has been manipulated.

A mal tiempo, buena cara reflects on the transition period in Spain from dictatorship to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. At the time, it seemed best to keep quiet about everything in order to start from scratch. No one was held responsible for crimes they committed, facts were changed and new truths were presented by the government. In this way a new historical truth slowly emerged.

Wiosna van Bon (1992) - KABK, The Hague

“My work is about ethics and people are always at the center of my projects. I have a great interest in psychology and I focus on social issues. I'm interested in the lonely individual, separated groups and inequality – specifically in those who, despite everything, preserve. My childhood has a great influence on the work I make as a photographer. In my documentary projects I combine interviews with portraits, interiors and landscapes.” Van Bon is currently making series about the loss of a parent who committed suicide, homeless youth and medical mistakes.

Family Stranger is a photo series about relatives of prisoners who are suddenly confronted with ethical questions that put great pressure on their relationships. Just like the criminal family member, the family is often socially condemned, with a risk of (further) isolation from society.

Eliza Bordeaux (1992) - Willem de Kooning Academie, Rotterdam

Eliza Bordeaux is a fine art documentary photographer. She uses the medium of photography in an investigative and playful way to gain greater insight into the social significance of cultural phenomena. Such as a search for how she could relate to her Dutch, Moluccan and Indo-European blood in the larger national narrative that gathered dust in the archives (so to speak), but is still felt daily in the communities. After the Dutch colonial past in Indonesia, migration in a broader sense is her theme.

L'atelier héterotopie is a visual investigation into how an asylum seekers' center relates to the idea of heterotopia (interspace in society). For the research she moved her studio to the asylum seekers' center in Rijswijk. The photographic technique she experiments with is the old anthotype, based on light-sensitive materials derived from plants.

Laura Chen (1997) - Photography Arts - University of Westminster London

“I am a Dutch photographer and writer, living in London. Fascinated by observing and documenting my life experiences, I use photography as a catalyst for my imagination. In my work I try to bring out the visible traces of the everyday, to pay attention to what would otherwise go unnoticed.”

Laura Chen's project Words From Dad is an experimental exploration of her Dutch-Chinese heritage using archival images from her personal family albums and the life stories of her grandfather whom she never knew. In her photomontages, she weaves together multiple images to form a series of puzzle-like family portraits that symbolize the fragmentation of her family history, fusing Chinese and Dutch culture into a new identity.

Jasper van den Ende (1990) - Willem de Kooning Academie, Rotterdam

Jasper van den Ende is a photographer who uses optical imaging techniques to investigate and question the man-made world. The technical limits and boundaries of the camera play an important role in his work. He uses these to visualize subjects that affect him, including climate change, housing crisis, inequality. For him, photography is a means of asking ethical questions about what it means to live today.

The series Exposure Value ZER0̷ consists mainly of overexposed photographs. The work shows the results of a photographic research that Van den Ende has carried out in the cities of light Paris and London, through which he both worships and criticizes nighttime lighting. Overexposure, in fact a shortcoming of the photographic medium, used as a form of expression.

Julia Gat (1997) - Willem de Kooning Academie, Rotterdam

Julia Gat is a photographer and filmmaker, coming from Tel Aviv and now living in Marseille. Through long-term documentary projects she makes work about people. At the crossroads of documentary and portraiture, her work explores human interaction in its purest form.

“I’m showing a project called Khamsa khamsa khamsa, encompassing 10 years of photography and film about my four younger siblings, our daily life, notions of intimacy and freedom within family life, especially in the context of growing up homeschooled.” Coming of age narratives are usually recorded by a parent, but here it is the protective older sister, both participant and observer of this children’s world, striving to embrace those in-between moments.

Esther Hovers (1991) - KABK, The Hague

Esther Hovers investigates how power, politics and control are exercised through urban planning and the use of public space. Her artistic practice deals with the influence of digital media and A.I. on our lives.

“I am showing a body of work on the 'Right to be Forgotten'. This is a European law on the same name. I am reproducing a Google-found portrait of the first man to successfully claim his right to be forgotten in the European Court of Justice. His successful lawsuit made his quest to be forgotten very memorable. For this project I focus on (photographic) reproduction as a metaphor for the way images continue to wander around the internet.”

Rick van der Klooster (1995) - St. Joost School of Art & Design, Breda

Photographer Rick van der Klooster deals with themes such as transience and uncertainty. Due to corona, war, climate crisis and housing crisis, life has become uncertain for young people who want to build an independent existence.

He explored that indefinable feeling in the poetic series The Day the Birds stopped Singing. He photographed (in black and white) peers and combined those images with photos of city birds that gather in city parks. The birds symbolize his generation. “The world is open to us, but what good are wings if you have nowhere to land?” However, the project also shows hope, depicted in the form of rays of sunshine, birds in the treetops and the bond between the young people and their natural environment.

Sabine van Wechem (1983) - Fotoacademie, Amsterdam

Through long-running documentary projects, Sabine van Wechem investigates how people live in a physically or socially closed environment and at the same time create a form of freedom. How people move under certain circumstances and find their way despite expectations, social context or the place where they were born. In her work she focuses on intimacy, the daily emotion, openness and relationships with others.

In Fica Suave she portrays the daily life of Thay, a young girl who grows up with her family and comes of age in Vila Cruzeiro, one of the most dangerous favelas in Rio de Janeiro. There is a strong sense of community and life mainly takes place in the limited space of one's own street, in the maze of alleys and in the living rooms. Thay is bubbling with joie de vivre and developing her identity.

The former Harry Pennings Award recipients are as follows: 2007, Renée van Trier; 2009, Wytske van Keulen; 2011, Awoiska van der Molen; 2015, Maroesjka Lavigne and in 2019, Marwan Bassiouni.

The group exhibition is on show from May 6 to June 24 at the Pennings Foundation. Visitors to the exhibition can cast their vote for the public award. During the award ceremony on Saturday, June 10, the jury will announce the overall winner. The winner of the public award will also be announced.

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