The public Grand Prize selection meeting for the 2020 (43rd) New Cosmos of Photography took place on Friday October 30, 2020 at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.
The format of this year's selection meeting was different from other years, as various measures were taken at the venue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and a Grand Prize candidate living overseas gave his presentation by video.
For this year's contest, we welcomed seven judges: Paul Graham (photographer), Yuki Onodera (photographer), Noi Sawaragi (art critic), Minoru Shimizu (photo critic), Mikiya Takimoto (photographer), Hiroshi Nomura (artist), and Takashi Yasumura (photographer). The judges selected seven Excellence Award winners and 14 Honorable Mention Award winners from 2,002 entrants, the most ever.
At the public Grand Prize selection meeting, the seven Excellence Award winners — Tsuyoshi Kaneda, Riichiro Goto, Sergei P. Bakanov, Kiyoshiro Tatekawa, Seiya Higuchi, Hiroshi Miyamoto, and Yasuhide Yoshimura — gave presentations (Sergei P. Bakanov gave his presentation by video) and took questions from the judges. After the presentations, the judges conferred together and selected Seiya Higuchi as this year's Grand Prize winner.
The selection meeting kicked off on Friday, October 30 at 2:30 p.m., amid a stillness filled with elevated expectation and nervousness. With tense expressions, six Excellence Award winners and Grand Prize candidates (Sergei P. Bakanov could not attend) made their way to the podium and took their seats, after which five judges (Paul Graham and Minoru Shimizu could not attend) took theirs.
The Excellence Award winners were given seven minutes each to make a presentation, in which they described in their own words the background to and the creative intent of their works, along with their thoughts about their works. After each presentation, the judges offered both praise and sharp criticisms of the works and posed questions to the candidates, who gave well-considered answers.
“Symbols of the Everyday–Possessions of the Onodera Family, Takatsuki City, Osaka, Captured in Size A2–”
You can see the state of the meeting with movie.
After the presentations, the judges retired to a separate room for about an hour to deliberate and select the Grand Prize winner.
At the awards ceremony, Seiya Higuchi was announced as the 2020 Grand Prize winner. He received one million yen in prize money and, as a bonus prize, a new Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera.
On accepting his prize, Seiya Higuchi said: “Just to have my work seen by so many people in this format makes me very happy. The perceptive suggestions and comments the judges gave will be very useful for me going forward. Although I feel a mixture of delight and pressure, I hope to create truthful works with a genuine interest in things that pique my curiosity. I couldn't answer Mr. Sawaragi's question earlier, but even if I can't answer it now, I want to consider it on my own and create sincere works rather than forcing myself to gloss over the question with words.”
We received a record number of 2,002 entries this year. There was some initial concern about how the entries would fare in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I don't know if it was the opportunity to reflect on one's past and rethink one's work while stuck at home, or if this special environment gave rise to new ideas, but the level of competition was the highest ever. Given these circumstances, I think was a fantastic achievement for Mr. Higuchi to win the Grand Prize.
I pointed out to Mr. Higuchi that his relationship to photography might be unidirectional, and that he might need to make a physical differentiation when erasing the images and when retrieving them through memory. Despite this, I think the essential appeal of his exhibition was not only his methodology, but also his attempt to use his own body in a deliberate conceptual act as well as his good sense of language. His work was also praiseworthy because of its soft, humorous look at a subject that tends to be formal and stiff. Nevertheless, I still believe the issues my fellow judges and I indicated need to be addressed. So my hope is Mr. Higuchi will persevere in overcoming these issues to create even more wonderful works.
I would like to give a brief review of this year's contest. Mr. Shimizu mentioned “pairs”, but I felt “distance” was the best term to sum up the overall direction this year. Some entries were created before the COVID-19 pandemic, while others were created based on the pandemic. The way we view works has nonetheless been transformed. Consequently, I believe one overriding theme was how to recreate the distance with other people and things.
Many technical aspects of photography have been developed to make distant objects appear close. That things close to us are paradoxically distant — that is, the difficulty in forming relationships with what is close to us — emerged as a prominent theme. Many works made me wonder whether ideas like these will impact photography in the future. Mr. Higuchi's work can also be positioned within this trend, as he uses his body to present the relationship between the near and the far, and the far and the near, which cannot be expressed in words, including the contradictions inherent in this relationship.
Regardless, the reality remains that we are always facing the unknown. My hope is that people involved in photographic expressions will boldly explore new possibilities in photography without fear of the trial and error that requires repeatedly taking one step forward and one step back. To Mr. Higuchi, the Grand Prize winner, and to all the Excellence Award and Honorable Mention Award winners, despite the trials of our times, I look forward to your future activities.