70:15:40 Project UK, an initiative in support of women, trans and non-binary photographers, announces the winners of its first competition

Violeta Sofia, Hanna Ali, Paloma Tendero and Roman Manfredi have been selected as the winners of the 2023 edition.


MPB, the largest global platform for buying and selling photography equipment, has announced the winners of 70:15:40 Project UK, an initiative set up to help “redress barriers and challenges” faced by women, trans and non-binary people in the industry, adopting “an intersectional lens” when looking at applicants. Launched this year, the initiative involves a competition through which winners are offered a chance to exhibit their work and are given 12 months of support worth £40,000, including funding, training, access to camera equipment and studio space.

A panel of leading experts in the fields of photography and film selected this year’s four winners, who are Violeta Sofia, Hanna Ali, Paloma Tendero and Roman Manfredi. Each submitted a proposal for a body of work under the theme of ‘Change’, and have now secured the resources to create this in the form of a photo series or short film.

Violeta Sofia, a visual artist, photographer and activist born in Cameroon and based in London, submitted an idea for a project titled NPG – Women of Colour, which emerged from a realisation that the National Portrait Gallery in London was lacking in its representation of women, specifically women of colour. “This realisation sparked a personal mission to create more work showcasing these women in prominent and empowering positions,” recalls Violeta. In doing so, she says she hopes to contribute toward a more inclusive and diverse art world.

Though she typically photographs actors, Violeta explains that she will be searching for “inspiring women of colour who excel in fields predominantly dominated by men” to feature in this series. She plans to capture them using a classical portraiture style, which draws inspiration from the old masters of the medium: “My goal is to create portraits that not only depict a person’s physical appearance, but also reveal the depth of their character and emotions, resulting in images that resonate with authenticity.”

Discover the winners

Read all about about each artist’s brilliant project idea over at MPB.

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Among the winners is also motherhood photography specialist Hanna Ali, whose project The Birth of a Mother will see her expand upon this central theme within her practice. “The idea came through a series of articles that I had read about motherhood, and one in particular that mentioned the notion of ‘matrescence’,” she says. “I was completely fascinated with the fact that a word had been coined for this transition period and how utterly transformative it is from the moment you realise you are with child, and how largely it is ignored by mainstream media.”

Hoping to address this lack of coverage, Hanna’s project seeks to unpack the distinct phases that each mother goes through, from pregnancy, to birth, to the postpartum period. The photographs aim to capture the process with unflinching honestly, while revealing the “indescribable beauty and sense of hope that comes with the arrival of new life.” In particular, Hanna wants to photograph “women of colour, Black women, women who look like me and my mother, my aunts, women of migrant heritage, women of diverse socio-economic backgrounds and faiths, both radically opinionated and quietly modest”. The photographer summarises: “There is a seat at the portrait table for all these mothers in my series.”

The next winner is Paloma Tendero. Born in Spain and based between London and Madrid, the visual artist put forward the project Shifting Bodies for consideration. The concept for this new body of work emerged from witnessing the journeys of others with health challenges. “I was drawn to explore the transitions between health, wellbeing and illness, and how they manifest in the human body,” Paloma says. “Exploring the shift our bodies take from healthy to unwell, from active to rest, involves acknowledging the diverse range of health challenges people face, even when they may not be immediately visible.”

As such, Paloma’s new project draws on the visual imagery of medical archives to build a wider picture of how the healthcare system has changed over the years. The artist will also be creating and photographing sculptural shapes made from recycled materials often associated with illness, such as mattresses, pillows and bedsheets. These will be attached to figures as a way of representing the transitions between different states of health. “By using this visual language to represent invisible illnesses and human experiences through visual forms, I aim to highlight the diverse ways in which illness affects us,” says Paloma.

The final winner is Roman Manfredi, a British documentary photographer whose recent project, We/Us, is “the UK’s first visual art project celebrating the undocumented presence of butches and studs from working-class backgrounds”, explains the 70:15:40 Project site. The photographer’s submitted project Gold Star (working title) looks to explore the “relationship with butch/gender non-conforming lesbians and non-binary people with our breasts/chests”, says Roman, specifically photographing those who have had breast cancer. The inspiration for this project came from a range of current interests, including the traditional Japanese art of Kintsugi: “I liked the idea of highlighting the cracks, drawing attention to their existence rather than smoothing them over.”

Roman will create orotone prints for the project, photographing the subjects directly onto glass, and then adding gold leaf to complete the orotone process. In doing so, Roman hopes to “capture the tension between vulnerability and survival” and to subvert notions of toughness and the “acceptable ‘strengths”” that are typically associated with butch and gender non-conforming lesbians in particular. Furthermore, creating orotone prints can be an unpredictable process, and Roman says this aspect of it will “mirror the uncertainty of recovery from breast cancer”.

The 70:15:40 Project UK is supported by a range of leading global and UK organisations that believe change is urgently required within the industry. Partners for the 2023 edition include space-sharing marketplace Peerspace, The Royal Photographic Society, The Centre for British Photography, SheClicks and UK Black Female Photographers (UKBFTOG).

The four inaugural winners from this year will exhibit their proposed projects as part of a forthcoming show at the Centre for British Photography in London.

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Copyright © Hanna Ali, 2023

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