Judges Choice Award selected by Jacque Jackson. Photo by Lisa Winner, United States.

Judges Choice – Award Gallery

We are proud to share with the Judges Choice Awards from our 8th international competition celebrating the very best in documentary family photography.

Preliminary round judges Jacque Jackson (United States), Lafayette Hicks (United States) and Sarah Jane Rabideau (Canada) were asked to choose three photographs and one series that they personly believe deserve recognition.

Judges Choice Awards

Single Images

Judges Choice Award

“Lockdown Diary

Photo Series by Attila Gazso, Hungary. Awarded by guest judge Lafayette Hicks.

The pandemic took a serious effect on the everyday life of my family. As a father of four the closing of schools and daycares, home education and generally the long closeness was a great challenge, while my job and the main income of my family was in danger. The lockdown of the borders made my situation even more complicated: getting to my workplace in Austria from Hungary got very unsure. Besides all negative effects, the lockdown caused also a lot of positive outcomes. Since I started working 20 years ago, I never had the chance to spend so much time together with my family, which is in hindsight quite a scary recognition. We have spent a lot of time learning, playing, reading, watching movies, cleaning, gardening, resting, all the everyday things… together! It was an eye-opening experience that we should take with us, as life gets back to the new “normality”. I wanted to ease the contradiction between financial insecurity, claustrophobia and the never before experienced amount of quality time spent together with my family. I took my camera and documented these 6 weeks of our family lockdown. The photographs are analogue, self-developed and scanned at home.

Anatomy of Boredom – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Rules – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Trouble In Paradise – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Drums – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Mask Factory – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Veil – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Curtain – Attila Gazso, Hungary.
Buckethead – Attila Gazso, Hungary.

Judges Choice Award

Behind the Mask

Photo Series by Cornell Watson, United States. Awarded by guest judge Jacque Jackson.

Mask: a protective covering
This photo series is in honor of my ancestors who smiled when they were not happy, laughed when nothing was funny, and cried when they were not sad so that I could be here today.

“The Drowning” – My best friend is the father of three black boys and it was his birthday. The police murders of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were front of mind and this birthday celebration was supposed to be a brief break from reality. We were pouring drinks in the kitchen when I asked him how it felt turning another year older. What he said I was not expecting. The essence of his response was that his birthday was a reminder that he is one more year closer to having to explain to his boys why playing outside with toy guns was dangerous. One more year closer to explaining why that unarmed Black man died at the hands of those paid to protect him. One more year closer to having that dreadful talk about being Black boys in America. We created this photo on another Birthday, the 4th of July. In the process of creating the photograph someone approached and asked, “what is this supposed to represent?” Shortly after a white woman paddled by in her boat. She yelled to her husband, “Look honey! Look at the flag, that’s just not right!” She could only see the flag submerged in the water and not us drowning in it – Cornell Watson, United States.
“Righteous Rage” – We brought you into this world. The land you stole, the economy you propped up on the backs of our ancestors, the wars we fought for your freedom when we weren’t free brought you into this world. We are tired. We are tired of police brutality. We are tired of fighting every breathing minute for a quality education. We are tired of fighting for the acknowledgement of and rectification for unequal pay, voter suppression, loan discrimination, and redlining. We are tired of having the cops called on us for simply existing. Somewhere between prayer and burning it all down is the America we worked to build. During the creation of this photograph a Black pick-up truck lingered ominously. Shortly after finishing, two Halifax county sheriffs pulled up as we were leaving. We were the only ones there – Cornell Watson, United States.
“Survivors Guilt” – Donning her cap and gown they stood in east Durham, NC where she grew up. Staring at the effects of modern-day racism her children were visibly uncomfortable. Her son said, “honestly, how did you live through that?” These conditions were not meant for us to live through – Cornell Watson, United States.
“35” – This is a story that I only bore witness to, but this is not my story. How many happy stories, sad stories, angry stories, excited stories, do we not know because our sisters are stolen from us? How many of our sisters live a subdued version of their story because there is something or someone looming, ready to snuff out their light? A mask, on a mask, on a mask – Cornell Watson, United States.
“Allostatic Load” – Family, both blood and chosen, are the foundation of our survival. Black women are the roots, the trunk, the branch and the leaves. Black women create the oxygen we breathe. This is an Ode to Black women. Thank you – Cornell Watson, United States.
“Egg Shells” – Growing up in rural America is an experience with plenty of obvious reminders that we have not made much racial progress. Racism is rampant in every corner of life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, schools we attend, the policing of our communities, the laws we live under, the prison population that sits on land we were enslaved on, the streets named after our oppressors, and the statues that hover over us like scarecrows. It’s in our face everywhere we go. If you’re a Black woman then there is additional oppression from patriarchy. If you’re a Black queer woman there is homophobia. And yet, there is happiness, love, and strength. Being Black queer women while raising a Black daughter means constantly having to walk on egg shells. We knew we only had a few minutes to create this photograph because trouble is never far away when Black people are existing in public spaces. We were approached by two white men in a pick up truck just as we were wrapping up. They were saying something to us, but I could not make out what it was. And maybe that was for the best – Cornell Watson, United States.
“Weldon” – You deserve to have access to the same education they have 4 miles away. You deserve to not have confederate tourist signs and monuments in your neighborhood. You deserve to have resources and not resource officers. You deserve the benefit of the doubt. You deserve to know your history more than one month a year. You deserve a childhood without racial profiling and “the talk”. You deserve to be seen as kids and not criminals. You deserve to know that your Blackness is beautiful. You deserve better – Cornell Watson, United States.
“The Kitchen Table Incident” – Inspired by John Wilson’s “The Incident” and Carrie Mae Weems “The Kitchen Table Series” – Cornell Watson, United States.

Judges Choice Award

Would you like to play?

Photo Series by Orsolya Boncsér, Hungary. Awarded by guest judge Sarah Jane Rabideau.

In this personal project, I collect the essence of childhood, what we have in common. My inspiration is a Hungarian poem: Dezső Kosztolányi – Would you like to play? This is a short quote from the poem:

“Would you like to play being a serpent or a bird, a long voyage on a ship or on the train, all the good things, a Christmas and dreams and a happy lover, too, who only seems to cry, who only pretends feeling blue? To live inside a play which has become fully true, how’d you like living like that forever and ever? And here is a scene: between flowers you lie on the ground… Would you like to play that we die?” (Translated by Tamás Kalebdó)

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This award cycle was made possible with the support of the following sponsors:

The Documentary Family Awards is an international competition in search of the insightful and meaningful ways that documentary photographers explore the interpretation of family.