IPA 2016: Meet the judges

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With days to go before the deadline to enter the International Photography Awards 2016, we spoke to three of the judges – Bruno Ceschel, Emily Graham and Diane Smyth – about what kind of work excites them and how getting your work seen is a career boost in itself.

With decades of experience judging and curating photographic work between them, all three note the importance of presenting something new. BJP’s deputy editor Diane Smyth says:

“I’m interested in seeing projects that present a new way of looking, something I haven’t seen before. I’m not necessarily stuck on innovation, but when looking at a lot of work in a short space of time, you definitely notice trends and zeitgeists running through the mass of projects. That means that the people who do something different, something more individual, really stand out.”

Bruno Ceschel, writer, curator, publisher and founder of Self Publish, Be Happy agrees. “I hope to see things that are unexpected, this competition is a chance to see what you don’t normally come across because you come from places you don’t have access to, both in terms of geography but also a type of practice, or themes or interest.”


From 2012’s winning series, Suspension © Alvaro Deprit


Entrants can submit a single image or a series of up to 20 images and each award brings its own challenges. Emily Graham, Cultural & Education Manager at Magnum Photos, is intrigued by the work she expects to see in the Single Image category:

“A single image has to do a lot more work to be able to sit on its own. I’m always interested in images that are able to suggest something outside of the frame, be it an emotion or a narrative or something more explicit or a feeling.”


2015’s Single Image winner © Jane Hahn


As deputy editor of British Journal of Photography, hundreds of photo projects come across Diane Smyth’s desk every month and as she attests to, making a quality series of images is a harder challenge than people might think.

“Most people can take the odd good image but constructing an interesting body of work takes real skill. The images don’t necessarily have to be visually similar to each other, but they do have to somehow fit together to make a series, to work together to present a certain way of looking at the world.

“The idea behind a series of images can also be important, though I’m always open to projects that are visually rather than conceptually linked too – after all, photographers have chosen images as their mode of expression, not words.”


From 2009’s winning series, Guantanamo © Edmund Clark


From 2009’s winning series, Guantanamo © Edmund Clark


From 2009’s winning series, Guantanamo © Edmund Clark


Just by submitting your work to the IPAs, entrants will have their work seen by some of the most influential names in the industry – in itself, an invaluable opportunity.

“Judges will be noting down the names of interesting photographers and projects. There are definitely photographers from previous years who ended up not winning, but having great spreads in, say, the BJP, or the FT, or having the essay for their first book written by an influential voice, because they were seen in the IPA judging,” Smyth explains.

Of course, winning the Single Image or Series Award is a career-changer – with the credibility and prestige that comes with having your work exhibited in your own solo show at a central London gallery.

Bruno Ceschel has championed the photobook passionately for years and is a keen advocate for self-publishing, but he also acknowledges the unique power of having your work seen in a purposeful space: “Last year’s winner Dominic [Hawgood] used the space in a very exciting way in terms of installing his photographs and creating an environment that of course that cannot be created in a book.”


2015 Series winner Dominic Hawgood’s solo exhibition at TJ Boulting gallery


Diane Smyth witnessed how winning the IPA was a springboard for Hawgood’s career: “It can play a very important part in positioning the photographer in the international photographic community. Dominic made an amazing show, his first solo show on leaving the RCA, and it ended up being reviewed by Sean O’Hagan in the Guardian [another IPA 2016 judge), one of the best-respected critics in the business.”




The additional exposure can be just as vital: having your work displayed on the WeTransfer homepage and being featured both in a print edition of British Journal of Photography and 1854.photography.


BJP magazine shot


“There are so many people within the photographic industry that watch out for competition winners and keep an eye on what’s going on. It’s a really good way of catching someone’s eye just through the exposure, ” notes Magnum’s Emily Graham.

The deadline for applications for the 2019 edition of BJP International Photography Award is 20 December 2018 – 4pm GMT.  Apply now!