Foam gallery in Amsterdam has sent It’s Nice That a statement in response to the petition against its choice for the 2017 Paul Huf prize. The petition founders, a group including photographers, curators and journalists, says the winning series “spreads offensive stereotypes” and “promotes misogyny”.
The jury states: “Ekaterina takes on a fraught subject – the exploitation and commodification of women in Eastern Europe – in an unexpected manner. It makes no claim to be a work of documentary or journalism, and one of its key points of interest is in fact the way it draws on a wide variety of real sources and places to create a fictional terrain.
“The five members of the jury found the project visually compelling, skilfully photographed, and both provocative and unsettling. Mader took on the risk of exploring complex material with a satirical approach. In this satire, the main target was Mader himself, in the role of the foolish and oblivious Western European. By frequently placing himself in the images, he self-indicts in what might be misread as a stereotypical vision of sexist behaviour.
“The productive discomfort in Mader’s work comes out of the way the seriousness of the material and the levity of the approach contradict each other.
“While we accept that Mader’s work is not for everyone, we the members of the jury also respectfully suggest that not all art has to be subject to broad consensus. Most of the art all of us care about invites disagreement. The work of the shortlisted photographers was extensively and rigorously debated. The jury was unanimous in its decision to honour Romain Mader.”
The jury comprised chair Lucy Conticello, director of photography, M, Le Magazine du Monde; Gregory Barker, publisher at Stanley/Barker; Teju Cole, writer, photographer and photo critic for The New York Times Magazine; Shi Hantao, research director at Shanghai Project, China; and Maddalena Scarzella, gallery manager at Galleria Carla Sozzani.
In addition the gallery states: “This year’s Foam Paul Huf Award was the 11th one in history. Each year Foam selects a highly qualified and fully independent jury consisting of experts in the field of photography who have a lot of knowledge and experience. Over the years many international photographers with very diverse work have been awarded the prize.
“This year’s jury has, as per usual, followed the procedure and reviewed the almost 100 portfolios of artists nominated by professionals from various parts of the world with great care and attention. After careful consideration Romain Mader was chosen by the jury as the winner of the Foam Paul Huf Award 2017.
“Of course, we very much respect the right of every individual to form and express their own opinions about the work. However, we stand by the decision of our independent and highly respected jury.”