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Major contest for women documentary shooters now open for entries

March 8, 2021

In association with Nikon and Fotoaward

Now in its fifth year, the Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award is granted annually to female photographers who have a proposal for a compelling and cohesive documentary photography essay. The organisers are looking for a story which addresses an important social, environmental, economic or cultural issue – whether local or global – but which also has a focus on positive solutions.

The winner of the award will receive £2,000, thanks to the generous support of Nikon UK, as part of its ongoing commitment to support female photographers. A runner-up will get £500. An international panel of prominent female photographers will review the submissions.

That includes Andrea Bruce, an award-winning photojournalist, Nikon Ambassador and co-owner of NOOR photo agency; Donna de Cesare, an award-winning photojournalist and associate professor at the University of Texas; Nina Emett, a documentary photographer and founding director of FotoDocument, which facilitates the award; Melanie Friend, a documentary photographer; Neo Ntsoma, an award-winning photojournalist and founder of Neo Ntsoma Productions; as well as Marilyn Stafford and her daughter, Lina Clerke.

Marilyn Stafford pictured at home

Last year’s winner, Nicky Quamina-Woo, won the prize for her photo essay ‘As The Water Comes’ (above right), which explores the effects of climate change in Senegal, as well as the solutions being implemented by locals. Nicky said, ‘We can be so isolated as documentarians, endeavouring to share stories – often independently with no concrete idea if our creative and storytelling efforts will resonate.

Fisherman Daoud Diallo sits under the bow of a boat for shade. He lives in a single room that he shares with 9 other people after his home became inhabitable due to erosion. Credit Nicky Quamina-Woo

This award is especially heart-warming, as the judges chose work highlighting climate change in Africa, with its abundant natural resources, which is often overlooked when it comes to environmental issues, even though it suffers the heightened effects of desertification and erosion.’

A child plays on the ruins of a sea wall after the ocean surge. Credit Nicky Quamina-Woo

Documentary photography has a powerful role to play in telling important stories from across the world, perhaps now more than ever. On top of that, the idea of practical solutions to global issues is very important to the award organisers, Marilyn Stafford and FotoDocument, who are keen to contribute to constructive photojournalism.

The cemetery in Saint Louis is also beginning to flood. Most people from the region have at least one relative buried here. Credit Nicky Quamina-Woo

It is crucial therefore that potential applicants think about how those solutions can be represented and showcased in their final work. In recognition of the pioneering work of Marilyn Stafford, the award opened on International Women’s Day (8 March) and is free to enter.

Women from any stage of their careers are welcome to apply, whether at the beginning, or more established. However, it’s important that any applicant has completed at least one full documentary photo essay to demonstrate track record. They can be any nationality, based anywhere in the world, and be over 18 – there is no upper age limit.

AP readers may recognise Marilyn’s name, as she was awarded our Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 for her impressive career, which started by accident when she was asked to take a picture of Albert Einstein. She would go on to become friends with luminaries such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa, before going on to be an extremely successful photographer in her own right.

One of Marilyn’s shots – Indira Gandhi, India’s only female prime minister

During the 60s, she was one of only a handful of women working on Fleet Street, where she realised through her experiences of working in a male-dominated industry how difficult it can be for women to succeed – particularly in the case of photojournalism.

Those same issues still often exist today. Marilyn said, ‘I started this award in 2017 to salute and support the many strong, dedicated, brave and talented women documentary photographers around the world, who through their work are fighting to right the wrongs of our world and show that change is possible – they have my deepest admiration. In time, the award has gone from strength to strength, with the continuous generous support of FotoDocument and Nikon UK.’

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