Think of the Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents as a megaphone for emerging image makers. It was started in 2018 by the beauty arm of the French luxury maison with Luma Arles and the Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Photographie school – two of the world’s most pre‐eminent arts institutions located in the photography mecca that is Arles in the south of France – as partners.
Every year since, students and the alumni of arts and photography schools all over the world are encouraged to take part and submit photos and videos based on the recurrent theme “Face to Face”. (A total of 230 applicants were received this year.) What they stand to walk away with: the top prize of 10,000 euros (about S$14,700) and a creative commission from Dior Beauty – and a shot at being discovered.
Taking the top prize at this year’s Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents is the 22-year-old French artist Iris Millot. Her romantic submission, a series titled Mont Lion, traces the life of her great-aunt Helenen who has been cultivating lost family farm land in a forest for the past 40 years.
After all, the award’s jury has always been made up of the who’s who in the fashion, beauty and arts industries. Names on the board in 2023 include Brazilian fashion photographer Rafael Pavarotti, whose rich colours and bold compositions have scored him campaigns with the likes of Dior; Simon Baker, the director of Maison Europeenne de la Photographie – a top centre for contemporary photographic art in Paris; and Dior Makeup’s masterful creative and image director Peter Philips.
Jointly, the panel crowned 22‐year‐old French photographer Iris Millot as the winner on July 7 this year for her wide‐ranging and romantic documentation of her great‐aunt, and how she has been cultivating her family farmland that’s isolated within a forest for 40 years. An additional honourable mention went to someone close to home: London‐based Singapore image maker Jermine Chua, whose conceptual video Words of Mouth showcases strangers responding to a set of 80 cue words and was singled out for its emotional honesty.
Artist Andras Ladosci’s work was a favourite among the jury of this year’s Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents for his sensitivity towards the topic he chose. The 31‐year‐old Hungarian is known for capturing the nuanced expressions of the body and how it interacts with a space or other bodies.
With the works of Millot, Chua and the other finalists on exhibit at Luma Arles till Sept 24, we got jury members Pavarotti, Baker and Philips to weigh in on this year’s participants and what the future of photography holds.
What can you tell us about the group of young photographers who took part in this year’s award?
Peter Philips (PP): “I thought it was an interesting, varied, and talented bunch of creative people. It was a true pleasure hearing their stories while looking at their work. The winner Iris Millot was actually my personal favourite. I loved her theme; her eye for composition is excellent; and the narrative was authentic and moving.”
Simon Baker (SB): “It is difficult to single out a particular work, but I would say overall there is a strong sense of diversity in techniques, interests, perspectives and messages as well as freedom and flexibility between using still and moving images. This in itself is not new, but it’s a growing trend in contemporary and emerging practices. There are also works which deal sensitively with emotional honesty, showing great maturity in the work of these young artists.”
(Clockwise from top left) Other finalists of this year’s award includes 37‐year‐old Bulgarian artist Beatrice Schuett Moumdjian, who likes to appropriate museum conventions and apply it to her image; 44‐year‐old German photographer Jennifer Mclain, who infuses her images with a decidedly more cinematic, vintage pop touch; 22‐year‐old Indian photographer Aaryan Sinha who often navigates the notion of Indian identity and questions the history of his native country in his poetic imagery; Argentinian photographer Ines Tanoira – aged 44 – who brings a poignant perspective to capturing her parents; and 33‐year‐old Chinese artist Wen Leng, who draws new attention to mundane objects through her precisely sculpted lighting.
What would you say are the key skill sets that an image maker needs today?
PP: Now the world seems to move faster, and we produce and consume more. Art forms like photography are extremely accessible, so this is reflected in how today’s photographers work. Some go with the fast pace; some revolt against it. The difference is more technical in my opinion: These days the possibilities are enormous as opposed to earlier times when there were more limitations. These limitations pushed you to be creative and inventive. On the other hand, technical progress means that there are now opportunities available for more people.”
In an era of endless content creation, multiple social media platforms and increasingly, AI technology, how would you say that the role of the photographer has changed?
Rafael Pavarotti (RP): “A big part of the artist’s role is to transmit the spirit of the time – the zeitgeist. As the world changes, we change with it and each one of us – each photographer – needs to be constantly moving, adapting, and transforming to create and deliver a work that is in line with its time: always in the now and always one step ahead.”
Singapore‐born, London‐based 25‐year‐old image maker Jermine Chua was awarded an Honourable Mention at this year’s Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents for her video Words of Mouth. An intimate showcase of randomly cast strangers responding to a set of 80 cue words, it was meant to document “every twitch, silence and hesitation” of each participant, and caught the jury members’ notice for its emotional honesty.
What made the judges single out Singapore image maker Jermine Chua’s work among the many who applied for this award?
SB: “When I speak of emotional honesty, this is what I have in mind: a visually simple concept that’s beautifully realised. All of it adds up to deliver a powerful and moving version of contemporary portraiture.”
Peter, having worked in beauty for so long, what do you love most about how youths today are approaching fashion, beauty and photography?
PP: “The democratisation of fashion and beauty means that everything is possible for everyone now. This also means that the photography linked with beauty and fashion has to reflect that. In a previous era, fashion and beauty were more niche and elite, and as such the linked photography also reflected that state of mind. Today, fashion and beauty have adopted street sensibilities and accordingly, so has photography in its whole.”
For his submission, 29‐year‐old American artist and finalist Kyle Keese transformed singer (and his girlfriend) Sofie Royer into a cabaret muse who acted out various silver‐screen archetypes.
What about the characteristics of this next generation of image makers intrigue you most?
SB: “For me, what is most interesting about the upcoming generation of image makers is a kind of radical freedom – the ability to use past references with confidence without being self-conscious, and to create new and original ideas. Their shift away from traditional notions about gender and identity has also brought so many new ways of thinking and looking into the visual field. Another key characteristic is the prevalence of women artists today in the under-35 age group. This is a brilliant sign for the future.”
What advice would you have for young image makers?
RP: “There are countless challenges that photographers face today and these hurdles will continue to increase with the unbridled advancement of technologies. Above all, artists need to constantly improve, understand the industry changes, have the right team and equipment, hone impeccable quality, and have a unique vision… I do not believe there is a specific rule or formula that helps anyone break into this profession. Photographers must strive for excellence and find their own voice to differ from other artists.”
SB: “Don’t be afraid of the past and of learning about the history of image-making. Consider the past as an open book to be looked at and then closed. From there, move confidently forward with your own work.”
This article first appeared in the August 2023 Youth! Edition of FEMALE