A petition has been launched against Amsterdam gallery Foam in reaction to the recently announced winner of its Paul Huf young photographers award. The prize was given to Swiss photographer Romain Mader for his series Ekaterina, produced while at ECAL, intended as a comical series documenting the photographer’s search for a bride in a fictional Eastern European town.
Update: Foam has since issued a response, which you can read here.
The petition founders have written an open letter addressed to the Foam team and the award’s jury, with “a kind but persistent demand to reconsider the results” of the award “taking into consideration the harm it brings to the fight with stereotypical divisions that still survive in the minds of many Western European citizens”.
It continues: “We consider the series to be using senseless humour and disrespectful naivety as its main artistic tool which appears only to reproduce and spread offensive stereotypes, and, as a matter of fact, to promote sex tourism, sexism, and misogyny.
The letter states that Romain is a “free artist” but expresses “deep concern” that “such an acclaimed and respected institution in the field of photography as Foam gives its platform for the exposure… of a project which makes use of such manipulations as objectification (seen from the very name of the series), ignorant generalisation (substituting pictures from Ukraine with those taken in another country, namely Belarus) and devaluing (disregarding of economic and political premises of the “funny” phenomena)”.
The jury commented at the time of the prize-giving that Romain’s project was “notable for the humour and irony with which he addresses serious issues: solitude, love, exploitation and the female body”. Romain also comments on his work that it is self-referential: “ It’s too easy to mock people. It’s better to pose myself and be the main character in my work. This way, there’s irony and vulnerability.”
Signatories of the petition include photographers, curators, artists, journalists and magazine editors, such as Olga Bubich and Andrey Belkov.
Foam gallery has been contacted for comment.