A Way of Looking: Making it in the World of Photography

10/02/2019

In 2011, Amnon Bar-Tur and his son, Armon, established the BarTur Photo Award in honor of the talented British artist, and Amnon’s late wife, Ann Leslie Bar-Tur. Since its founding, the award has grown on an international scale and has propelled the careers of many past winners. Now, the award features up to $10,000 in prize money and exhibitions of the winners in Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, and New York, plus a permanent online gallery of winners. Like many winners of the award, however, Amnon came from humble beginnings. 

Amnon Bar-Tur, a veteran photographer himself, credits his passion for photography to his university professors. “I remember some of my tutors and lecturers vividly. It’s this passion and commitment that you find in tutors who work in universities that first gave me the idea for the award.” 

As the BarTur Photo Award enters its sixth edition, Amnon’s hope it will challenge people to consider how photography influences our understanding of the world. Such as in the context of events like Brexit and climate change. The two themes of the award reflect these subjects: Unity in Diversity and Climate Change.

Kate Sedwell spoke to some of the past winners about the experiences that led them to photography. They also offered their personal advice for photographers just starting out.

Kate Sedwell: What makes a photo or photographer “good”?

Chris Down: For me, it is a way of looking, that I may not have envisaged or experienced myself, that attracts me. I suppose it’s that way of looking that makes you look again. It makes you think again about the work and its wider context.

Joachim Fleinert: Of course, pictures can be eye-catching or attractive, but I believe more in the message and the history behind the photographs. For me, a good story consists of many images and the episodes that led up to finding the photographs. That’s what brings out the whole picture for me. 

Elizabeth Molin: I like photography that translates a story or a fragment of a story which can tell something about the whole story. 

KS: What led you to photography?

Yuanyuan Yang: When I was a teenager, about 14, I was interested in drawing. Then later I became interested in photography, around 16. When I realized I could use the camera as a reason and method to get closer to reality, it was a very important moment. My imagination had drawn images, but photography could really bring them to life. And that’s when I realized, “Okay, I want to use photography as a key method for creating work.”

JF: My father has a huge passion and a comprehensive collection of cameras of both film and cinema cameras. Funny enough, my father was not interested in becoming a photographer or taking pictures himself. It has [been], and still is, more the historical, physical and technical aspect of photography that he is interested in. In some ways you can say I have inherited [his] passion of collecting. I believe that the images I find hide stories more worth telling than producing my own photographs.

KS: Do you have any tips for those who are just starting out in photography?

EM: I would recommend applying for awards. For me, the excitement to make and create provides the evidence to keep going. So take opportunities, even the smaller opportunities you can create for yourself. Find a way to do a residency somewhere and work on a project or collaborate with friends.

YY: It’s important for people who are just starting out to seek out opportunities. Look for awards and grants and apply for them. You may get rejected, but you should keep trying because winning grants and residential experiences are really important to develop as a photographer and to develop your work.

CD: You’ve got to believe in yourself, which isn’t always easy. That’s why I think the BarTur Award was so good for me. It was instrumental and gave me the confidence to go on after I had been selected. That confidence boost encouraged me to have faith in myself.

JF: Be patient. I quite often say patience is your best friend. Do what you love to do, as long as you love doing it – this applies to everything in life. If you don’t have a 110% passion and a joy for what you are doing, don’t do it. Work hard, be humble, and don’t forget it’s often outside your comfort zone where all the magic happens.  

The 2019 BarTur Photo Award runs until December 16. Submit as a Professional or Student and you could win up to $10,000, have your photos featured in four international exhibits, and see your photos permanently published on the BarTur website. Read the full contest guidelines here.

This announcement was sponsored by Submittable partner BarTur Photo Award. Interested in more creative calls and opportunities? Sign up for the Submishmash Weekly Newsletter or our genre-specific creative opportunity emails.

Answers were rewritten to save space.
Header image taken by Monica Alcazar Duarte
Abby Lessels

Abby Lessels moved to Missoula, Montana by way of a small town in Western Massachusetts. She enjoys writing and photographing for publications like Edible, drinking Constant Comment tea, and compulsively quoting the Office.