The Capa Grand Prize jury in 2019: Emma Bowkett

The Capa Grand Prize Hungary is annually awarded to a photographer who works in any branch of photography, has been established professionally, and demonstrates a proven track record of outstanding talent. The fellowships and the prize aim at furthering the development of the artists, and encouraging their future experimentation. The awarding of the fellowships and the prize is decided by independent juries of five renowned Hungarian and international professionals. We are now introducing the members of this year’s jury of Capa Grand Prize, whom we asked, among other things, about their relationship with photography, their work, the changes of the medium and creative methods.

Emma Bowkett
director of Photography, FT Weekend Magazine

Emma Bowkett is Director of Photography at the FT Weekend Magazine. Joining in 2009, she was integral to the small creative team who reworked the visual language of the magazine for the 2010 re-launch. Emma has curated exhibitions for the Triennale der Photographie Hamburg, Peckham 24 in London and in 2018 co-curated PhotoEast festival. She is a visiting university lecturer and regularly participates at international portfolio reviews, festivals, art fairs, and awards. She is part of Magnum Photos Professional Practice, which supports young and emerging photographers. She won the inaugural Firecracker Contributors Award, which recognises women who have had a substantial impact on the photography industry, voted for by professional photographers. Emma is the co-curator for a Financial Times special supplement and day of events as part of Photo London. Emma has a Masters degree in Image and Communication from Goldsmiths University London.

Interview with Emma Bowkett, Foam Magazine #36, 2013 © Foam Magazine

When and how did you get acquainted with photography? When and how did it gain importance for you?

From an early age, I was making pictures. Family snaps, I would carry a camera with me and spend my pocket money on film processing. At college, I took a foundation course in photography and continued this on to higher education. I would spend my spare time at The Photographers Gallery in London. I have seen some incredible shows there over the years.

What do you see as the strongest power of photography? What are the values that you think are best represented by photography?

Power is a complicated term. I have seen people moved to tears by a single image, I have felt that way myself.

What do you consider to be your most important activities related to photography that you pursue at present?

I am focused on diversity within my role at the FT Weekend Magazine and when curating. Historically the industry has been dominated by white men, with very few alternative voices. I am about to start teaching at university level, last week I went for a training day and we spent most of it talking about inclusion. I’m excited to see these changes reflected in the cultural narrative.

Photo: Teddy Fitzhugh © FT Weekend Magazine
Photo: Alexander Coggin © FT Weekend Magazine

In the previous decades (just as before that), photography has gone through numerous changes in terms of genres, but even in terms of technology. Which of these changes do you consider to be the most important?

The advancement of the technology has changed the landscape dramatically in terms of the speed in which we are seeing what is happening in the world and the ways in which images are being circulated. I have seen a shift in the way this is represented in magazines, with a move towards long-form journalism and slower documentary photographic practice. This alongside fast news in social media, it’s a fascinating time.

Peckham 24, 2018 © Emma Bowkett
Peckham 24, 2019 © Emma Bowkett

Do you find it interesting to differentiate between the documentary and artistic modes within photography? How definitive do you see this boundary?

The boundary between art and documentary practice is blurring and evolving in a hugely interesting way. I am drawn towards artists making more conceptual work and work that questions the role of photography in truth and storytelling. I am seeing many research-led projects that bring together constructed pictures, archive and evidential materials, alongside portraits and more traditional documentary photographic language. Projects that go deep into the subject over many years, like Laia Abril’s On Abortion. Artists are making work that will be presented on many platforms. You can see this reflected in festivals globally.

Triennale der Photographie Hamburg, 2018 © Emma Bowkett
Triennale der Photographie Hamburg, 2018 © Emma Bowkett

There have always been certain trends and tendencies in photography (like favoring specific creative methods and approaches, topics, patterns, etc.). What is it beyond these that can make a project exciting and a new piece outstanding today?

Following on from my last answer I was working recently with photographer Lisa Barnard, whose new project is about the global multivalent use of gold and its relationship to power. She told me that data, text and archive material were as important in the work as the images, if not more so. When I saw the work exhibited she has used gold leaf in the process of making some of the portraits of mineworkers, connecting us directly to the subject by use of the physical material. There are many layers to the work, not always visible in the same context. This is exciting to me.

Other members of the Capa Grand Prize jury in 2019:
Katalin Spengler
, President of the jury, Art collector, professional journalist, editor (in Hungarian)
Arnis Balčus, Photographer, Editor-in-chief of FK Magazine, Director of Riga Photomonth
Katharina Mouratidi, Artistic Director of f³ – freiraum für fotografie
Bas Vroege, founder and director of Paradox

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