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American Photography Open 2020: July Highlights From Our Judges

By David Schonauer   Monday August 10, 2020


We’re in the final stretch.

So now is the time to get your entries in for the American Photography Open 2020 competition: The deadline is August 31. The competition is open to work made by photographers at any level using any kind of equipment, from DSLRs and mirrorless cameras to smartphones. Finalists will have their work spotlighted in a variety of online venues and in our Short List book. You can download last years' here. They will also pick up some very nice prizes from our partners.

The Grand Prize winner will receive $5,000, a Tamron SP 70-200 F/2.8 Di VC USD G2 (Canon or Nikon mount), value $1,299; a SanDisk 1 TB Extreme Pro Portable SSD; a PhotoShelter two-year Pro account; and a two-hour business consultation with The Photo Closer. Finalists will receive a choice of a Tamron SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD (Canon or Nikon mount) lens or a prime lens for a Sony FF ML camera (20mm, 24mm, or 35mm); a SanDisk 128GB Extreme Pro SD card; and a PhotoShelter one-year standard account.

This year our partner SanDisk will be awarding additional prizes for the company’s “Share Your World” competition. The winner will receive a $2,500 Cash Prize in return for letting SanDisk use the image in marketing with photographer attribution for 18 months. She or he will also receive a 1TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD and 3 128GB Extreme PRO SD Cards. 2 Runners Up will receive 2 128GB Extreme PRO SD cards.

To help inspire you we’ve chosen three entries from July that impressed our judges — images from two personal projects about women struggling to claim their own identities, and another capturing the self-confidence of female athletes on the USA women's beach handball team.

Have you got a personal project you want to the world to see?
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“The Lost Woman,” by Teresa Meier

“I have always been obsessed with photos,” says Teresa Meier, a Seattle-based fine-art photographer specializing in photo illustration, composite or montage photography. “When I was 10, I dug through a big box of old family photos and meticulously selected the most intriguing photos to cover my bedroom walls. My parents divorced around this time and I think I was looking for documentation — proof of a loving family.” Meier ended up pursuing a degree in neuropsychology but later went back to school for a Masters degree in photography.

Her image “The Lost Woman” is from an ongoing series that, she says, “investigates how our past experiences shape and dictate our present selves and relationships.” She adds, “I have struggled in romantic relationships my entire life. In the past, I had the tendency to drift along with my partner’s priorities. This image is a bit about that struggle." The image also brings together some of Meier’s artistic influences. “It is a reboot of of Rene Magritte’s ‘The Lost Jockey,’” she says. “He was commenting on the Industrial Revolution and the replacement of the horse with motor vehicles. Eadweard Muybridge is an influence here too, as the horse study comes from his experiments in movement."

Meir created the image in 2020. “The car was photographed in Portland, Oregon many years ago, she notes, and the horse is hand-painted with traditional acrylics on a high-density board or melamine,” she notes. “I have a custom-built PC that I use to create my composites. The printed image is quite large at 48”x72” and the computer is necessary to stitch together and composite the many photos that make up the image.”

See Meier’s work at her website.


“Women’s Beach Handball Team,” by Scott Council

Scott Council took up photography in the seventh grade and learned dark room techniques and film development in junior high. “I bought a used Pentax K-1000 and two lens for $150. My mother would drop me off in the hills in Newbury Park, California, and I would spend all day taking pictures,” he notes. Today he is a Los Angeles-base professional photographer — except, he notes, when covid-19 strikes.

Council has photographed a variety of subjects, and among his more recent work is a film-and-still project focusing on the US women’s beach handball team. “I went to Guatemala with one of the athletes on the team, who was also on a medical team that serves Mayan people. I wanted to make a film about the medical mission,” he says. “The film and the photographs I made are being used by the USA Team Handball Association and the US Olympic Committee for fundraising.”

He also shot the entire handball team in California over two days — a logistical feat that proved to be the most challenging aspect of the project. “They live all over the country, so we had to plan it at a time when they were all here. I also wanted the film and stills to look identical,” he says. Council shot with a Canon 5D Mark IV and both an 85mm and 50mm Zeiss lens.

See Scott Council’s work at his website.


“Cryptic Venus,” by Nicoletta Cerasomma

Based in Lucca, Italy, professional photographer Nicoletta Cerasomma says she learned how to “see photographically” during her travels around the world. “Time after time, the knowledge of cultures different from mine, taught me to be introspective, more sensitive,” she notes.

The image here is from Cerasomma’s project “Cryptic Venus,” in which her subjects — all of them women from Lucca — “represent the feminine figure that shapes their lives with their own will. In doing so, they deprive themselves of their own identity and become symbolic icons. Although some of these characters are based on real people, the mystery that surrounds them lets the viewer enter an imaginary world, made up of ancestral fears and archetypes.”

Cerasomma’s project was also singled out in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards. See the project and more of her work at her website.

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