American Photography Open 2019: Highlight Entries From July

By David Schonauer   Tuesday August 13, 2019

We’re in the home stretch:

The deadline for entering the American Photography Open 2019 competition is August 31, and as summer winds down the submissions have been pouring in.

The contest is open to photographers at every level, shooting with any kind of camera, from DSLRs and mirrorless models to smartphones. Today we spotlight three entries from July that got raves from judges. Among them: a picture from photographer Rory Doyle, whose documentary project about African American cowboys in the Mississippi Delta has won wide praise. Titled "Delta Hill Riders, the work challenges the stereotype of cowboy culture, “removing it from the American West and the romanticization of Hollywood," noted The Washington Post in 2018.

Doyle's entry, titled “The Newest Cowboy in Town,” features cowboy Jessie Brown holding his newborn son Jestin. “Jessie has been an instrumental figure in my project,” says Doyle. “We stay in touch and I continue to photograph moments in his life.”

Also featured today is an image from fine-art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten’s series “Old Father Thames,” a sprawling exploration of the English river’s history as told through illustrative images, and a figure study from Italian photographer Matteo Mescalchin sculpted with light.

Thinking of entering your work in the contest? Do it now! Finalists will have their images spotlighted in a variety of venues, including a major photo industry event in New York City, as well as here at Pro Photo Daily and elsewhere. They will also pick up some very nice prizes from our partners.

“The Newest Cowboy in Town,” by Rory Doyle

“I took this photo just a couple days after Jestin came home from the hospital,” says photographer Rory Doyle. “I actually wanted to photograph him at the hospital when he was born, but some health complications meant I had to wait. I stayed in touch with his family and they were excited to capture some of his first home moments.”

Doyle has earned widespread praise for his documentary project “Delta Hill Riders,” which explores an overlooked subculture, African American cowboys in the Mississippi Delta, one of whom is the newborn’s father, Jessie Brown. “Being a cowboy is Jessie's number-one passion, and he has been an instrumental figure in my project, introducing me to a number of local riders,” says Doyle. “Like a lot of people in the project, we stay in touch and I continue to photograph moments in his life.”

Doyle shot the photo with a Nikon D5 and 35mm Nikkor lens. “I was really hoping to capture the natural light casting on Jestin's face, and I wanted to do this against the deep shadows of their dim living room,” he says. “I also shot a few frames from different heights, but I liked the idea of Jessie's hat playing a unique role in the composition.”

Doyle came to photography after he took an intro course in college. “Originally I studied print journalism, but then I took the optional Photography 101 course and I realized I wanted to tell stories through photos instead of writing,” he notes. His project on Delta cowboys in ongoing — the work earned him the 2019 Zeiss Photography Award — but he is also working on a series about the LGBTQIA community in rural Mississippi.

See more of Rory Doyle’s work at his website.

“Marble Skin,” by Matteo Mescalchin

Matteo Mescalchin has run a photography business in Italy with his brother Andrea since 1997. “Photography is my bread and butter, although I like to describe my work more from a lighting point of view, as I work with light and consider photography the visible output of my craft,” he says.

Mescalchin says he was “exploring beauty through lighting” when he created the image highlighted by the AP Open judges. Shot in Parma in May, it is part of a series titled “Discobolo,” an homage to a famous ancient Greek sculpture.

“The person in the picture is a young Italian athlete named Fabio Soncini, who has worked with me posing for the project in the very precise position of the inspiring “Discobolo di Mirone,” says Mescalchin, who shot the photo with a 50-megapixel Hasselblad H3DII camera and 80mm lens. He also employed the Ultra Soft Egg Crate, a light-shaping tool that creates greater shadow clarity and gradual highlight-to-shadow edges.

“As learned from the appreciation of ancient and classical art, beauty itself is a perfect balance of every element,” says  Mescalchin. “My ambition for this project was to create an image perfectly balancing light and shadow.”

See more of Matteo Mescalchin's work at his website.

“Tower Bridge,” by Julia Fullerton-Batten

“The River Thames is not even the longest river in the British Isles and a mere pygmy in comparison with many other rivers in the world, yet its significance to British and world history is immense,” notes fine-art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten, who lives in West London, “just a short walk from the river.”

“Its constantly changing face with the tide and the seasons, the activities on and around the river are for me compulsive viewing and inspiration,” she writes in the artist’s statement for her project “Old Father Thames,” a unique exploration of the river’s history told through illustrative images shot in the visual style Fullerton-Batten is known for: richly detailed, meticulously staged, and cinematically lit.

The series recreates moments that investigate cultural narratives — such as the tale of Annette Kellerman, an Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville star, film actress, writer, and business owner who arrived in the UK in 1905 and earned notoriety for swimming 27 kilometers along the river, as well as for her skimpy swimming apparel. Another image from the series tells the story of a beach created in the shadow of London’s famous Tower Bridge.

“Five hundred barge loads of sand were acquired and unloaded on the north bank between St Katherine’s Steps and the Tower,” Fullerton-Batten notes. “The beach was officially opened in July 1934 when King George V decreed that it was to be used by the children of London and that they should have ‘free access forever.’”

Closed during World War II, the beach reopened in 1946 and stayed open until 1971, when it was closed over concerns about the water quality of the Thames.

“I chose to profile the 1950s era in my image, photographing women and children in vintage one-piece swimwear and period dresses,” notes Fullerton-Batten. “I photographed the men reclining in their business suits, as would have been commonplace in those days. Interposed are some entertainments of the day, Punch and Judy shows, donkey rides, and the fast food on offer then, from ice cream and hot dog stalls. The stalls and equipment were specially designed to enable a hasty retreat from the beach when the tide began to rise. All this against the iconic background of the Thames and Tower Bridge.”

See more of Julia Fullerton-Batten's work at her website.


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