Firecracker Photographic Grant 2020 

The 2020 Firecracker Photographic Grant was adapted to support practitioners during the Covid_19 pandemic.

Through a combination of self funding, entries and donations by the generous public, we raised £4,500 to provide nine international photographers with a contribution of £500 each.

We are delighted to announce the recipients below. Huge thanks to the 300+ photographers who submitted, and for the many donations we received.

Applications for our 2021 Grant will open next summer.

2020 Grant Judges

Rudi Thoemmes Managing Director and Founder of RRB Photobooks

Rudi has worked with rare and antiquarian books for over 40 years, as well as working on several publishing ventures throughout his career. He founded RRB Photobooks; a photobook publisher and speciaist bookseller based in Bristol UK, in 2008. RRB Photobooks publish mainly overlooked, forgotten and underappreciated British photographers of the 1970s and 80s, as well as a variety of British documentary work. Rudi also founded Photobook Bristol in 2013 and the RRB Photobooks imprint in 2015.

As Curator of Photographs, Sabina develops and curates photography exhibitions and displays at the National Portrait Gallery. Recent examples include Cecil Beaton, Martin Parr, John Stezaker, Sîan Davey, Thomas Ruff and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.  She received an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in 2010, completing a PhD in post-war Polish photography, jointly supervised by the University of Essex and Tate. Before being appointed Associate Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in 2016, Sabina lectured on the history and theory of photography. She has previously held positions at the University for the Creative Arts and Autograph ABP.

Bindi Vorais the curatorial project manager at Autograph, London, a photographic artist, and visiting lecturer at University of Westminster. Since taking up the position at Autograph in 2018 she has co-curated solo exhibitions by Lola Flash and Maxine Walker – whose show will tour to the Midlands Art Centre in 2020.

In 2020, Bindi will curate the first international presentation of Poulomi Basu’s Centralia as part of the 2020 Louis Roederer Discovery Award at The Rencontres d’Arles. This exhibition is presented in partnership with New Art Exchange, Nottingham and is supported by Metro Imaging (UK).

Bindi previously held the position of curatorial assistant at the Hayward Gallery, organising exhibitions by Lee Bul: Crashing and commissioning the inaugural Hayward Billboard by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, as well as coordinating the 50th anniversary performances by Tai Shani, Florence Peake & Eve Stainton. Prior to the Hayward Gallery she curated the off-site commissions for The Photographers’ Gallery, which included the international touring exhibition Work, Rest & Play: British Photography from the 1960s to Today, featuring thirty- eight acclaimed photographers and artists, In Fine Feather at Selfridges London, In Your Face at Liberty London.

She has contributed to publications such as Loose AssociationsLee Bul: Crashing; and has contributed to public programmes at The Photographers’ Gallery, London Art Fair, University of the Arts, London, University of East London amongst others. She was most recently in conversation with renowned photographer Vanley Burke in collaboration with GUAP and The Photographers’ Gallery.


Heather Agyepong

Heather Agyepong is a visual artist, performer/actor and maker who lives and works in London. Her art is concerned with mental health and wellbeing, activism, the diaspora and the archive.

‘Wish you were here’ focuses on the work of Aida Overton Walker, the celebrated African American vaudeville performer who challenged the rigid and problematic narratives of black performers. She was known as the Queen of the Cake Walk which was a dance craze that swept America & Europe in the early 1900s. The Cake Walk was originally performed by slaves who mocked and mimicked their slave masters and high society. Aida Overton Walker reinterpreted the dance into one of elegance, skill and accuracy in her performance in In Dahomey. She received acclaim and praise for her rendition and soon became the ‘queen of the cakewalk’. She challenged the status quo depicting black women as cultural producers and drew attention to the limiting embodiments of her status as a performer. Wish you were here uses the figure of Overton-Walker to re-imagine these postcards as one not of oppression but of self-care with a mandate for people of Afro-Caribbean descent to take up space. The images explore the concepts of ownership, entitlement and mental wellbeing. Each image is layered with symbolism to illicit a conversation about the boundaries of how we see ourselves both in real and imagined realities. By embodying Overton-Walker as guide, ancestor and advocator, the series uses satirical commentary and depictions of radical self-worth in an attempt to disrupt the roadblocks affecting our collective mental health.

Spandita Malik

Spandita Malik is a New York-based artist from India. Her work is concerned with the current global socio-political state of affairs with an emphasis on women’s rights and gendered violence. Malik specializes in process based work in photography, recently with photographic surface embroideries and collaborations with women in India.

In Sanskrit, nā́rī means woman, wife, female, or an object regarded as feminine but can also mean sacrifice. While misogyny is hardly exclusive to one country or culture, India bears particularly ghastly symptoms of it. I traveled to Lucknow, Jaipur, and Chamkaur Sahib where I photographed and interviewed women about their harsh economic and social realities. Some women talk about their domestic violence. I had the privilege to be the bearer of the stories these women shared with me, to hear them, to question them, to understand the silences, the pauses, and to have the responsibility to retell, share, and pass on these stories. I printed the portrait I took, onto the fabric of the region and asked them to embroider the portrait in a way that seemed fit to them, without any guidelines, giving them the agency to have authority over their own portrayal. These artistic collaborations subvert the idea of the artist as the main producer by giving each woman her own creative entity within her own craft.

Yufan Lu

Yufan Lu is a photographer based in Beijing and Tianjin, China.

In 2017, Chinese cosmetic surgery clinics performed 16 million procedures, up 26% year-over-year. As someone who suffers from judgements by my appearance, I feel connected to the zeal. I decided to use photography to explore the mechanisms behind it, and as a therapy for self-body shaming. I went to different cosmetic surgeries for diagnosis, and asked the “beauty designers“ to write surgery plans for me. Other than pointing out my “defects”, they also volunteered to offer me different solutions according to my preference, letting me choose from the most popular types of faces like choosing products on a shelf – suggesting that face is my “permit” to my dream life. I also collected pre-surgery portrait photos of the people who have already done cosmetic surgeries from cosmetic surgery specialty websites, removed watermarks added by the websites to return their original look, and cut patterns on the portraits with a knife, before attaching to each of them thoughts shared by people who have done cosmetic surgery in my own handwriting. These thoughts include real thoughts and excerpts of advertisements disguised in the form of real thoughts. These photos remind me of death masks, post-mortem photos, or perhaps all the photos – as the moment they are being made suggests the past and the lost. But there are more to these portraits: hope, insecurity, determination, farewell, secret…

Monica Alcazar-Duarte

Originally from Mexico, Monica Alcazar-Duarte lives and works in the U.K. She studied Filmmaking, Architecture and Documentary Photography. A former charity campaigner, she continues to work on independent research projects and for NGOs in England and abroad. She regularly collaborate with scientists and academics and explore ideas based on conjunct research.

For the past year I have interviewed members of my family, friends, friends of friends and strangers in Mexico. They have told me stories, incidents of discrimination and racism they have experienced. I have recently learned how search engine algorithm design is used to reinforce stereotypes and discrimination. Through this project, I wish to make these power structures visible and physical, to suggest not only how they manifest but the impact they have in perpetuating and increasing biased thinking. To do this I have created a “re-staged” moment from these gathered stories and photographed it. Over the printed image I have drawn imagery that suggests the qualities of the internet and that could also evoke emotions produced by it; a maze of feelings, an overpowering sense of claustrophobia, a structure that holds people down. The sketches presented will change as my recent research has led me to more intricate diagrams of how the algorithms are designed to categorise and pinpoint goals.

Parisa Aminolahi

Parisa Aminolahi is a Iranian filmmaker and photographer based in the Netherlands. Her work covers a spectrum of themes such as displacement, exile, homeland, family and childhood memories, utilizing childhood and old family photographs, self‐portraits and her own family members as her subjects.

My mother belongs to the generation of Iranian parents who are living alone, and often continents apart from their children. “Tehran Diary” is a project on her life in Tehran, and while visiting her children living abroad. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, large groups of young Iranians left the country. This self-imposed exile created a new pattern for Iranian families. In the absence of comprehensive social security to support the elderly, in a culture where it is common for young adults to remain at home till their late thirties, many parents found the absence of their children difficult to deal with. During one of my regular trips from the Netherlands to Iran, I started taking pictures of my mother’s daily life, and this became our routine; whenever we were together, either in Tehran, or in the Netherlands, or while travelling together to be reunited with my brother and sister, I was photographing her. After printing some of the images, I could not resist the urge of using black and white paint on each photo as I had this sense that something wants to burst out of the photos and they should have some extra scenery and ornaments to create the world I was searching for.

Laura Pannack

Laura Pannack is a British artist who’s work focuses on social documentary and portraiture and seeks to explore the complex relationship between subject and photographer.

At the age of 16 Baruch chose to leave his Orthodox Jewish community and to study. The dramatic and challenging decision forced him to question his identity and future. Einstein says: “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. “ The project explores how we choose our paths in life and questions how much control we have to change who we will become.

Madeline Bishop

Madeline Bishop is a photography and video artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Bishop’s work is conceptually centred around relational dynamics.

“Without your mother considers the nature of absence within maternal relationships. An absence is a state or condition in which something expected, wanted or looked for is not present. We begin our lives looking for our mothers. Do we ever stop looking for them and do they ever stop looking for us? As we grow, we make attempts to detach ourselves in order to become independent and live adult lives. What remnants of this relationship that defines our early lives remain in the distance of adulthood? Amid absence, our memories morph, the details become duller and distorted over time and we’re left with a summarised version of what might have happened, similar to a photograph. Some edges will blur and some will sharpen until those are the only parts we can remember.”

Cheryl Mukherji

Cheryl Mukherji is a visual artist and writer currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Born and raised in India, she is currently an MFA candidate in Advanced Photographic Studies at the Internationational Center of Photography-Bard College, New York. Cheryl’s current work explores my relationship with my mother, who lives in India, and her presence in the family album through the lens of personal history, transgenerational trauma, and inheritance. She works with mediums such as photography, text, printmaking, video, embroidery.

Working primarily with family albums that I brought along when I moved to the United States, I engage with my mother’s presence within it through many years and different stages of her life. Family albums—a primary instrument of self-knowledge and representation—traditionally celebrate success, leaving out the depiction of tragedy, trauma, and mourning in the family life. In this work, I recollect memories of my last day at home with my mother before moving to New York. It was the day my mother, overcome by a manic episode and overwhelmed by her loneliness, harmed herself. Using screenprinting, I repeat my mother’s image from these albums onto prints and layer them with her personal history and my own with the use of text. Through this uncanny juxtaposition, trauma becomes representative of her identity as much as the happy moments do.

Charzette Torrence

Artist Charzette Torrence was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and currently lives in Harlem, NY.

“Prevalent” means widespread, usual, common, current, popular, universal, endemic, rife, and rampant. I have taken certain social issues that are prevalent in the media, that are widespread, and that affects everyone worldwide because of the fast pace at which we receive information via the Internet or other media. How do we interact with information that we see and hear all of the time? What impact does the information have on us and our environment? Is it for change, or do we hear and see so much information that it just becomes the norm? Prevalent is intended to stimulate these questions.

Grant History

Jo Metson Scott

The inaugural Firecracker Photographic Grant was awarded in September 2012 to British photographer Jo Metson Scott for her project ‘The Grey Line’, a sensitive documentation of ‘conscientious objectors’; American and British soldiers speaking out against the Iraq war. The book has since been highly commended and voted one of the best photo books of 2013 by Time, The Observer, The Telegraph and Empire.

“Receiving the Firecracker grant was a huge endorsement for me and for a piece of work I’d been struggling to find the right platform for. The award gave the work great visibility and the grant itself, as well as the support from Genesis, was instrumental in the final stages of bringing the work together as a book. Beyond being a grant, Firecracker connected me to a supportive group of photography professionals, who gave me the confidence to pull together a project I’d been working on alone for 5 years.”

Nadia Sablin

The 2013 Firecracker Grant was awarded to Nadia Sablin, a Russian photographer living between Brooklyn and St. Petersburg, was chosen for her documentary project ‘Two Sisters’, a story of the photographer’s unmarried aunts who live a traditional and ancestral life in rural northwest Russia, tied to the land and to each other. The project allows us insight into their lives, relationship, identity and the place they call home; each photo offering quiet contemplation on time, aging and family relationships. Since then, Sablin has been awarded a fellowship by the New York Foundation for the Arts and exhibited the project at the Bellevue College in Washington State.

The judges also chose to Highly Commend the work of two additional photographers, Italian Myriam Meloni, nominated for her work on Moldova’s economic orphans, ‘Behind the Absence’ and German photographer Regine Petersen was selected for her constructive narrative about meteorite showers, ‘Fragments’. Each photographer was provided with a bursary of £500, mentoring from industry professionals and a contribution of Trolley publications.

Diana Markosian

In 2014 Armenian/American photographer Diana Markosian was awarded the Grant for her highly acclaimed project ‘Inventing My Father’, the photographers personal attempt to reconnect with her absent parent. By combining her own visual storytelling ability alongside archival and found photography, Markosian delivers a truly authentic and moving account, resulting in her viewer’s total absorption in, and commitment to, the story. The judges also commended British photographer Sian Davy for work exploring the artist’s daughter, ‘Looking for Alice’.

Lua Ribeira

In 2015 Spanish photographer Lua Ribeira was awarded the Grant for her visually stimulating exploration of British dancehall culture. Her project, Noises in the Blood, explores the celebration of a ritual, embracing consciously the exotic stereotype towards a different culture looking at the immediate differences between photographer and the subject, opening a dialogue about the English Jamaican women and their manners within a shared context.

Sanne De Wilde

In 2016 Belgium photographer Sanne De Wilde won the Grant for ‘Island of the Colourblind’, an incredible visualisation of the true story of the residents of Pingelap, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, who have been affected by the hereditary condition of colourblindness.

Carolina Arantes

2017’s Firecracker Photographic Grant was awarded to Brazilian photographer Carolina Arantes for her work ‘First Generation’, an on-going project about the first generation of Afro-French women of France which speaks about national identity, mixed origins and culture deeply anchored in its historical tradition.

Peyton Fulford

American photographer Peyton Fulford received the 2018 Grant for her work “Infinite Tenderness,” exploring her own lived experiences growing up queer in the religious American south.

Sabine Ostinvil

In 2019 American Haitian photographer Sabine Ostinvil was awarded the grant for her tender portrayal of her brother’s boyhood and identity as young black men. This beautifully moving collaboration hit at a time where the #metoo movement was calling into question the notion of modern masculinity and the work was later included in group exhibition about black male identities at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The Firecracker Photographic Grant is a small, self funded, non-profit initiative open to international female photographers or non-binary photographers.

It is usually awarded to a photographer based on the strength of visual portfolios and artist statements submitted, however in light of the Covid19 pandemic, the 2019 Grant will be allocated in smaller individual amounts based on quality of work and information supplied in the application process.

All information is confidential and consideration will be made on both living expenses and production costs. If you receive a salary or regular income we would encourage you to not apply, in order to benefit those with the greatest need.

Applications are judged by an independent panel of industry experts. 100% of application fees go towards the total Grant amount.

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