At What Cost?

The Syngenta Photography Award, is a new international competition that aims to stimulate  dialogue around key global  challenges. Open to professional and amateur photographers, the Award will explore a central theme each year. In its inaugural year, the theme is  “rural-urban”, exploring the relationship and tensions between rural and urban environments.

Marcus Lyon

For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lives in urban environments, which is increasing the competition for natural resources and labor,” commented Mike Mack, Syngenta CEO. “Finding a balance between these rural and urban tensions is critical. This new competition aims to establish an important platform to explore issues of global significance through photography.”

The competition will be judged by a  distinguished  international panel chaired by award-winning South African photojournalist  Jodi Bieber. The other members of the panel are: Irina Chmyreva (Russia)  curator and researcher of photography; Stephen Dunbar-Johnson (UK) publisher, International Herald Tribune; Milton Guran (Brazil) curator and photographer;  Malu Halasa (Lebanon) writer and editor;  Marcus Lyon (UK) photographer;  Mike Mack (U.S.) Syngenta Chief Executive Officer; and Liu Heung Shing (China) photographer and photo editor. 

The Syngenta Photography Award has two categories.  The Open Competition welcomes photographers of all levels, from professional to  amateur.  In addition, professional photographers are invited to compete for a  Professional Commission by submitting an original proposal that is related to this year’s rural-urban theme.The winners of the Syngenta Photography Award will be announced  at an exhibition in London in May 2013.

The Syngenta Photography Award is free to enter and has two categories: Professional and Open. Professional photographers are invited to compete for a Professional Commission by submitting an original proposal that is related to this year’s rural-urban theme. The first place winner will receive a US$15,000 prize, and up to US$25,000, to complete the commission. The second and third place winners will receive US$10,000 and US$5,000 respectively. The Open Competition welcomes photographers of all levels, from professional to amateur. The judges will award a first, second and third place winner who will receive US$5,000, US$3,000, and US$2,000

The deadline is January 15th, 2013

Competition Website

About Syngenta

Who wouldn't love a free competition with big cash awards??  PHOTO/arts Magazine is always looking for free and low cost photo competitions. The urban-rural theme of Syngenta's first competition perked my interest because it is closely related "My Own Wilderness".  Both explore the relationships and tensions between uninhabited versus populated environments. But I had never heard of Syngenta prior to learning about this competition. The old saying about "nothing is ever free" would seem to hold true in this case.  Syngenta is a global Swiss based chemical company that markets seeds, herbicides, and pesticides. Their seeds include both hybrid and genetically engineered varieties. Syngenta is a major global supplier of genetically modified corn and soybeans.There is a long history of legal issues and controversy involving Syngenta and the numerous companies it has purchased or merged with over the years.

I present this merely in the name of full disclosure. We've all experienced some very rough years in this recession. Artists especially have felt the pinch. The lure of cash prizes and no entry fee is very enticing, but I think it is very important to know where prize or grant money comes from. Concerned Photography is more than just what is seen through the lens. Choose wisely and responsibly.

The Dust Bowl

This is such a powerful documentary filled with very touching and emotional first hand accounts of survivors who were obviously children at the time. Their vivid memories and the emotional pain that still rises to the surface is heart breaking. If you missed part one last night, you really missed something special. Part 2 is tonight!

Dorothea Lange (1939)


THE DUST BOWL, a two-part, four-hour documentary series by Ken Burns, will air November 18 and 19, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). The film chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts, and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world. It was the worst manmade ecological disaster in American history.
Until the arrival of European and American settlers in the late nineteenth century, the southern Plains of the United States were predominantly grasslands, the home and hunting grounds of many Native American tribes and the range of untold millions of bison. It was seldom used for farming. Bitterly cold winters, hot summers, high winds and especially low, unreliable precipitation made it unsuitable for standard agriculture. But at the start of the 1900s, offers of cheap public land attracted farmers to the region, and in World War I, in the midst of a relatively wet period, a lucrative new wheat market opened up. Advances in gasoline-powered farm machinery made production faster and easier than ever. During the 1920s, millions of acres of grasslands across the Plains were converted into wheat fields at an unprecedented rate.
In 1930, with the Great Depression underway, wheat prices collapsed. Rather than follow the government's urging to cut back on production, desperate farmers harvested even more wheat in an effort to make up for their losses. Fields were left exposed and vulnerable to a drought, which hit in 1932.
Once the winds began picking up dust from the open fields, they grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, covering farms and homes across the Plains with sand, and spreading the dust across the country. Children developed often fatal "dust pneumonia," business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide, and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States has ever seen.
Yet THE DUST BOWL is also a story of heroic perseverance against enormous odds: families finding ways to survive and hold on to their land, New Deal programs that kept hungry families afloat, and a partnership between government agencies and farmers to develop new farming and conservation methods.
THE DUST BOWL chronicles this critical moment in American history in all its complexities and profound human drama. It is part oral history, using compelling interviews of 26 survivors of those hard times—what will probably be the last recorded testimony of the generation that lived through the Dust Bowl. Filled with seldom seen movie footage, previously unpublished photographs, the songs of Woody Guthrie, and the observations of two remarkable women who left behind eloquent written accounts, the film is also a historical accounting of what happened and why during the 1930s on the southern Plains.

Now We Are Six

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

PHOTO/arts Magazine is now six years old.  I am filled with gratitude for all who visit here and especially those who have participated in the My Own Wilderness and Self Contained projects. Here's to the year ahead, and many more. Cheers!

Black Friday for Idiots

"On Black Friday and throughout this holiday season, simply zoom in to a participating store on Google Maps to devise your shopping game plan. An indoor floor plan with helpful labels will automatically appear, and the familiar “blue dot” icon will help you figure out the fastest way to the accessories department, the food court when you need to refuel, and the closest restroom or ATM when you need a break from your marathon shopping session. For many locations, you can even get indoor walking directions to find the best route from one store to the next."

The Morning After

Warminster, Pa.  (Sept 30th, 2012)

Storms, elections, and personal matters have left me empty and searching for answers. The intensity of working on Self Contained only added to existing stress levels. I've de-activated my Facebook account temporarily and need some time away from the internet. Some self containment if you will. I'm working steadily on the book and other good things. I'll return after a bit of much needed internet vacation time.

Self Contained

If something is Self Contained it is said to be complete in itself; fully independent. Someone who is self contained is thought of as being reserved and in control. We may or may not equate self containment with self contentment. Perhaps a very thin line exists between self containment and self confinement. Just some things to consider. I am open to a wide range of explorations on this theme. Release that inner formality and self control. Breathe deep. Scream loudly. Show me what this theme is all about.

It is with great pleasure that I present a selection of images submitted in response to this call for work.  Two hundred and fifty photographers from around the world submitted just under seven hundred photographs. The exhibit you will see consists of sixty five images by forty six photographers. It goes without saying that choosing images from a large submission pool means agonizing over final choices. Too many highly talented photographers, and exceptional images, get left on the cutting room floor and that is the biggest downside to curating a project such as this. I am looking forward to featuring some of the photographers whose work was not chosen for this exhibit in future posts on PHOTO/arts Magazine.

Martin Buday  My Own Wilderness (2011)

While Self Contained is a stand alone exhibit, it is also directly related to last year's exhibition, My Own Wilderness(In fact, four photographers return from My Own WildernessEllen JantzenLaura GlabmanAndi Schreiber, and Irina Volgareva.) A familiarity with the images in My Own Wilderness will enhance the experience of viewing Self Contained.  A study of both exhibits will reveal a subtle conversation taking place among global artists. My Own Wilderness was primarily about  personal space/place, while Self Contained is a study in personal identity. Both themes are ripe for emotion and psychology. The participating photographers do not disappoint in that regard.  So many of the artists you will encounter here have reached down deeply to reveal what is raw and often difficult to express photographically. I can only hope that my editing choices and sequencing of images will improve the readability of these fascinating emotional stories.

Dan Talley  Self Contained  (2012)

I also hope you will enjoy the format for this exhibit. I have tried something a bit different from last year. It was my opinion that the video format used last year, while beautiful, was not something that viewers could easily return to again and again. At fifteen minutes in length, it required too much time for a casual visit. The idea behind this format is a more interactive experience. Something you can look at and refer to any time. Please let me know what you think.

In addition to the exhibition of forty six images that will also be published in the upcoming book, this format  allows me to showcase the full submissions from the selected winners, as well as their artist statements. Please join me in congratulating the three winners and two honorable mentions-

First Place  ($200 Gift Certificate)             Louis Michael Hernandez   Rochester, NY

Second Place  ($100 Gift Certificate)          Emily Franklin    Dekalb, Illinois

Third Place  ($50 Gift Certificate)             Aaron Hobson   Adirondack Mountains, USA

Honorable Mention                           Viacheslav Kabanov  Moscow, Russia

Honorable Mention                           Andi Schreiber   Scarsdale, NY

Thanks once again to all who participated in this call for work.  It was an honor to experience such talented and thoughtful expression of art. Please enjoy the final results, and I welcome any feedback or comments.

Self Contained Online