The MPA/ARTHAUS Photo Essay

Here at the Mobile Photography Awards we like to think of a single picture as a song and a series of images as a full-length LP (remember the LP?) – the idea being that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. Most times, a great image stands on its own – but sometimes a set of images, taken together, reveal a far more intriguing story. We hear the whole album and not just the hit single. When an essay works well it’s because the individual elements are part of something larger and offer the viewer an entry into a deeper mode of storytelling. For this reason, we have established, with our friends at ArtHaus, the inaugural MPA/ArtHaus Photo Essay Award. With a $500 prize and a month long exhibit at ArtHaus we see the Photo Essay Award as an integral part of providing exposure to those artists who think thematically and are after more than just one decisive moment.

The following five essays were chosen by ArtHaus gallerists James Bacchi and Annette Schutz. They had free reign to make their decisions and informed the MPA earlier this week of their choices. In the words of James Bacchi,

…What was most interesting in jurying the SERIES portion of the MPA with ArtHaus Gallerist Annette Schutz was we were in such complete agreement on selecting the top 3 winners. This is rare for us.

The top three essays will be part of an exhibit at ArtHaus in San Francisco from April 5-30, 2013. We present all five finalists here with some words from both James and Annette on their top three choices.

First Place: Melissa Vincent – The Rooms of William Faulkner.

From jurist James Bacchi: I feel VINCENT’s series, aside from its ever-so-slightly haunting beauty, has great consistency. I was tremendously drawn to each and every image, both as individual works and as a series. It’s not often I feel this way when presented with a body of work. The technique appears effortless and not at all over done. This work seriously takes mobile photography into the fine art arena.

From jurist Annette Schutz: Vincent’s sensitive imagery lulls the viewer into a visual dream where we are held captivated by it’s almost nonsensical mix of hauntingly beautiful interiors and exteriors.

Melissa Vincent

Second Place: Jen Pollack Bianco – Scenes from Sunrise at Shwedagon Pagoda.

James Bacchi: BIANCO’s series combines an intriguing blend of celebration, mystery and spiritualism, which is extremely appealing. Her work is consistent, and the extreme use of color throughout seems to add a magical quality to the work.

Annette Schutz: What struck me about Bianco’s photographs is how beautifully the subject matter, intense saturated color and perspective, instantly transported me into a visual world of mystic euphoria.

Jen Pollack Bianco

Third Place: Benamon Tame – The Lost Toy Room.

James Bacchi: Much like, though very unlike, VINCENT’s work – TAME presents originality and consistency. Again, here is a series where each photograph strongly stands on its own, and yet stands taller as a series.  Work in this genre can often lean to the macabre. TAME takes you only as far as the entrance, and that is where the success of this series lies.

Annette Schutz: Tame’s quirky dolls that have been manipulated and morphed into curious objects placed in desolate environments hold us hostage to our voyeuristic tendencies.

Benamon Tame

Honorable Mentions

Catherine Restivo: Peony in Extremis
Catherine Restivo

Helen Breznik: The Basement
Helen Breznik

A slideshow of the essay winners is available here.