Global Exposure

Offering insight into the significance of competitions in career development, the Preparing for the Future: Talent Development and Art Prizes panel at the Future Now Symposium examines the reasons behind the prominence of international accolades and uncovers recurring trends in winning works. Reyahn King (York Art Gallery), Scott Gray (Sony World Photography Awards), Griselda Goldsbrough (Aesthetica Art Prize) and Bryony Harris (Max Mara Art Prize for Women) think about how awards give practitioners a chance to display their pieces amongst peers, gaining increased exposure and further developing their ideas. Gray expands on his experience within the sector ahead of the event.

A: As CEO and Founder of both PHOTOFAIRS and the World Photography association, you have accrued over 18 years’ experience in photography and international art fair business. How do you think that the genre has developed within that time frame, and why do you think it still so relevant within today’s wider culture?
SG: The photography market has grown significantly in this time, both in terms of how many artists utilise the medium but also the appreciation of photography as art. Photography is perhaps the most prolific artistic medium of our era, with mass appeal, and as such has a wonderful accessibility. As the market continues to grow we are seeing a greater number of dedicated photography events and programmes, which in turn feed into the accessibility and understanding of the medium.

A: In 2007, you launched the Sony World Photography Awards. Why did you feel the need to create such an award and how do you think it has grown to such a significant level?
SG: I believed that there was not a true international platform for photographers, outside of photojournalists, to have the exposure that they, as artists, require. It has been an incredible ten years of growth and I think that this comes down to the proliferation of the medium and the appetite for it.

A: How has the award enabled artists to further develop their careers, as well as create a broader dialogue about the importance of photography?
SG: The Award provides incredible global exposure to the artists and gets their work in front of gallery owners, picture editors, clients, publishers and collectors; over 900,000 editorial pieces, across the world, were written about the award winners last year. This exposure, combined with the supporting exhibitions help the artists and photographers gain more international recognition.

Photography is relatively embryonic compared to other mediums and as such it needs support to position its status internationally. Genuine international programmes, such as our awards and PHOTOFAIRS, as well as other fairs such as Paris PHOTO, all provide these platforms and help bring the medium into the wider consciousness.

A: You recently launched PHOTOFAIRS San Francisco this January. How did this second edition add to the prestige of the fair, and how do you think the difference in geographical location – and its culture – added to audience’s perception of the event?
SG: PHOTOFAIRS has been established to build a network of fairs, in dynamic cities, that are completely dedicated to photography. We wish to show the most interesting and exciting artworks in both established and new markets. Shanghai and San Francisco are completely different opportunities. Whereas China was a more emerging market when we launched, America is one of the most mature markets for photography, and thus already offers an established, comprehensive environment. In both cities we deliver highly-curated boutique contemporary art fairs that are focused on photography and provide a positive influence within and for the photography market. These fairs have an incredibly important role to play in maintaining the momentum of photography, continuing to elevate the medium and providing a bespoke environment for Dealers and Buyers to meet.

A: The panel you are speaking on at Future Now regards the progressive significance of competitions amongst speakers from two other prizes. Why do you think it’s important for there to be a diversity of competitions, and how do you see connections across them?
SG: Sometimes categorising work can be difficult and as such the various awards and diversity offered provides more choice and opportunity for the artists. The various Awards are not necessarily connected in an obvious way, but as long as they are centred on the artist they are ultimately all pushing in the same direction. We actively promote other credible photography and art awards, not just our own, that provide genuine opportunities to photographers; as long as they are free to enter.

Future Now, Session 12, Preparing for the Future: Talent Development and Art Prizes 14:45 – 16:00, De Grey Lecture Theatre. 26 May at York St John University. For more information:

1. Courtesy of Jeremy Underwood.