The jury has decided to award the first Social Documentary Photography Grant, 2018, given out by the MurthyNAYAK Foundation & SACAC to Subhrajit Sen, a student of documentary photography – who is not yet 25 years old. The award will enable him to pursue his rigorous work on the condition of children, women and people living in Jadugoda town in Purbi (East) Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. Contamination from uranium mining, which has been on in the region for half a century, has led to cancer, tuberculosis, birth miscarriages and more.
We received 51 entries for this award. The jury went through the proposals of all the applicants and also reviewed close to 600 photographs that were part of their submitted portfolios. It was heartening to learn that so many young photographers are trying to tackle some of the more complex and serious issues of our time. That too, with social documentary photography. One of the entries that showed much promise came, in fact, from a 16-year old.
Obviously, the quality of the photography was a given when it came to the criteria we worked by. We also treated as vital the urgency of the issue, its relevance in the present context, and its importance in both the present and in the future. The jury at all times also kept in focus that the award seeks to reward and promote documentary photography. (There was, in fact, some brilliant photojournalism and even news photography as well). And that meant giving weightage to issues unfolding as a process, rather than to subjects dealing with one-off events such as festivals or mega-rituals.
As we narrowed down the field, we did so with some regret – there were entries of high standard that we were compelled to discard. When it came down to the last seven, we struggled. When narrowed down to the final two, we agonised. However, we concluded that Subhrajit Sen’s proposal and the quality of his work made the final cut. We urge the other contestants to persist in pursuing their ideas and projects for several among them, too, were very good and could in time be even better.