The Jill Todd Award is an annual competition intended to support early career talent in photography, open to recent graduates. Described by Roberta McGrath (Stills board member) to nurture graduates as, “persons [in an] economically unforgiving world where they must by and large make their own way upstream”.
The rewards in order were: £1,000 for first place; £600 for second place; and £400 for third place.
As a venue, Stills has a surpring range of artistic venutres. As well as being a being a gallery, the space on Cockburn Street offers masterclasses in photography, hire equipment for budding artists, and a dark room for public use. The winners this year were Mads Holm, Linda Conroy and Emma Levy. The commended entrants: Calum Douglas, Nadia Gabriel, Mat Hay, Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte, Arthur Montgomery and Sam Wood.
Upon entering, one is struck by first prizewinner, Mads Holm’s eerie photograph of a person dressed in a purple animal costume, handing out leaflets. Holm’s seems to focus largely on human interaction with the inanimate world, juxtaposing empty spaces, occupied by a single person. Whereas Linda Conroy presents a rather more amusing satire on wellness, featuring real rejection letters in her series Simple and easy steps to unending Joy and Happiness.
It seems intuitive to argue with the ranking, when met with an exhibition where people are ranked first to third, but neither Holm nor Conroy’s work was exceptionally impressive. Emma Levy (third-prize winner) however, presents a strong and consistent series with National Park, exploring conflict in Kosovo surrounding the Sharr National Park.
In general the exhibition consists of a range of digital and film photography, with a surprisingly conservative range of subject choices from young photographers, mostly comprising landscapes, portraits and the occasional street photography. Arthur Montgomery’s photos of cement and Sam Wood’s (who also participated in this exhibition the year before) blank graves and blank advertising boards stood out from the commended entrants. Wood’s aim to avoid the colonial photojournalistic approach to Zimbabwe was undermined however by his choice to present the images in a newspaper style format.
As might be expected for an exhibition of this kind, the work feels slightly underdeveloped and immature at points. Its consistent conventionality of aesthetic compositions and humdrum curating decisions has resulted in a rather mundane exhibition, filled with potential but lacking ingenuity.
Despite this, the exhibition is still a great and needed opportunity for young photographers, and worth a visit if you are in the area but not worth a long journey.