Creator Labs Photo Fund winners announced

Working as an artist is hard work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the career of an art photographer even more difficult. So it’s fantastic to hear about a new fund — the Creator Labs Photo Backgrounds—Created specifically to provide financial support to photographers in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

The Creator Labs Photo Fund is a partnership between Google Creator Labs and Aperture, a nonprofit photo association. A call for nominations was launched at the start of the summer and now the winners have been announced.

The twenty winners were selected by Aperture’s editors and will each receive a prize of $ 5,000 to support their work and practice. It’s not a king’s ransom, but hey, it supports a lot of powerful and important work.

The winners

Tommy Kha, Assemblages I (or Me Crying in Three Takes), 2020, from the “Façades” series. Kha is one of this year’s 20 Creator Labs Photo Fund winners. Tommy kha

A full list of this year’s fund winners includes Daveed Baptiste, Adraint Bereal, Shawn Bush, Jasmine Clarke, Matt Eich, Arielle Gray, Naomieh Jovin, Priya Suresh Kambli, Tommy Kha, Sydney Mieko King, Miguel Limon, Sophie Lopez, Giancarlo Montes Santangelo, Alana Perino, Jade Thiraswas, Bryan Thomas, Maximilian Thuemler, Allie Tsubota, Aaron Turner and Jasmine Veronica.

Each artist has been recognized for their exceptional vision as well as for the strength and originality of their portfolios. But apart from the amazing and inventive images, what stood out to me were the intriguing and insightful statements that accompany the name of each art photographer, on Aperture website. Many winners grapple with complex and busy topics. These include identity, race, globalization, fragmentation and the many facets of our current political environment. And in some cases, I think these descriptions help you get a better idea of ​​what these photographers are trying to achieve.

Tommy Kha’s work, for example, is linked to the idea of ​​fragmentation and identity, as an Asian American (see his work above). To express this, Kha experiments with cardboard cutouts, puzzles, paper masks, and temporary tattoos. These are intended to straddle “the border between still life, portrait and self-portrait”. It does this without any post-production photo manipulation. Kha’s description of work goes on to say: “Dealing with moments of awkwardness, Kha sees her work as an aesthetic device for decoding, confirming and validating Asian American identity, stating: ‘for the time being , there is quite a bit of space to view the stories and records of Asian Americans, and what that can look like.

The statement is clear and honest, but it also has a hint of mystery and poetry. To me, this is a prime example of the insightful statement of an artist.

Creator Labs Photo Fund Winner: Matt Eich

Photo by Matt Eich
Matt Eich, Untitled, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2020, from the series “Bird Song Over Black Water”
Matt Eich

There is so much to see and feel in the photographs of Matt Eich. It’s mind-blowing, and I’m very happy to know that his work exists.

He won an award for his “Bird Song over Black Water” series, in which he works with medium and large format cameras to document his home state of Virginia. But his other works are just as sublime. Eich says, “I’m interested in images that prompt questions rather than pretending to contain answers,” which doesn’t tell us much except to expect a level of mystery in each of his shots. One theme that seems to stand out in his work is how humans have left their mark on the environment.

See more winning series from Eich here.

Creator Labs Photo Fund Laureate: Jade Thiraswa

Photo by Jade Thiraswas
Jade Thiraswas, Portrait of Eh Sun at 14, Rochester, New York, 2018, from the series “Young Cash Karen”
Jade thiraswas

Photographer Jade Thiraswas has documented a close-knit community of young Myanmar refugees, settled in Rochester, New York, since 2017. In her artist statement, Thiraswas says the group she photographs “are Karen (pronounced kuh-ren ), an indigenous ethnic minority who waged a decades-long and still ongoing civil war against the Burmese military regime, the Tatmadaw, for the homelands of their people and for their very right to exist.

The title of the series itself, however, “Young Cash Karen” refers to the name chosen by members of the community. The photographer says, “They proudly use this name to express a sense of belonging and solidarity with each other and with the global Karen refugee diaspora. They retain a sense of unabashed pride in their identity and history. “

Creator Labs Photo Fund Winner: Tommy Kha

Photo by Tommy Kha
Tommy Kha, Mai (A costume drama), 2020, from the series “Façades”
Tommy kha

The world of fine art photography, or the world of fine art in general, isn’t really known for being funny or for acting. But Tommy Kha’s photographs and image series are wonderfully visual, insightful, inventive, and at times quite funny. He has several working groups in his “Facades” series, one of which revolves around Elvis Presley. He can also be surreal in his group of images, such as “I fax, and I fax, and I fax”.

Creator Labs Photo Fund Laureate: Allie Tsubota

Photo by Allie Tsubota
Allie Tsubota, Untitled (Gila River), 2021, from the series “This Brilliant Flash of Light”
Allie Tsubota

Allie Tsubota’s work reflects the way this artist grapples with the concepts of migration, racialization and assimilation in this poetically named series, “This Brilliant Flash of Light”. She draws on the above by combining disparate elements of archival maps detailing the sites of Japanese American incarceration during World War II. These elements are associated with portraits and seascapes in black and white. In doing so, she creates poetic and poetic works of art.

Of the series, she says: “How to resist closure in a society that fetishes resolution? How to advocate reparations while refusing to forget the injustices that justify them? To stand in an open wound is to resist the cleansing of history, to honor the oceans that continue to live in our bodies and to adopt a temporality through which our pasts, present and future remain intimately linked.

About Creator Labs Photo Fund

Photo by Bryan Thomas
Bryan Thomas, Mexico beach, 2019, from the series “The sea in the darkness calls”. Thomas is one of this year’s 20 Creator Labs Photo Fund winners. Bryan thomas

The fund was made possible by Google Devices and Services in partnership with Aperture, with the aim of supporting photographers in the era of COVID-19. Last summer, effective July 1, 2021, the fund announced a nationwide open appeal. Here are some details about this announcement:

  • Submissions were free and open to any lens-based photographer or artist living in the United States.
  • Twenty selected artists will receive a prize of $ 5,000 each
  • To apply for the Creator Labs Photo Fund, all participants had to submit 8-10 images of a body of work, showing their commitment to creating a cohesive and compelling series or project.
  • The project did not need to be finished
  • Participants were not assessed on the basis of previous experience, publications or exhibition history, but rather on the strength and originality of their visions.

To learn more about last year’s fund, head here.


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