Firecracker Photographic Grant 2021

The Firecracker Photographic Grant is a small, self funded, non-profit initiative open to international female and non-binary photographers, and awarded based on the strength of visual portfolios and submitted artist statements.

Applications are reviewed by an independent panel of industry specialists from a cross section of disciplines and sectors, including curators, editors, commissioners, art buyers and gallerists.

The Grant is a minimum contribution of £1000. Submissions are subject to a £8 application fee, with all funding contributing to the Grant total. Discretionary fee wavers are available; email to enquire (all information will be confidential).

Applications for the 2021 Grant are now closed.  The winner will be announced on 1st September 2021 and applications for the 2022 Grant will open in summer next year.

2021 Grant Judges

Max Ferguson is a photographer, writer and curator. He is the Founding Editor of Splash & Grab Magazine, the Photo Editor of Granta Magazine, the Director of Photography of Port Magazine and a freelance Photo Editor at the Financial Times Weekend Magazine. He is a lecturer on the BA & MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography courses at the London College of Communication and a regular visiting lecturer on various photography programmes across the UK.

Adama Delphine Fawundu is a photo-based visual artist born in Brooklyn, NY.  Ms. Fawundu is a co-author/editor of the critically acclaimed book MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora. She is an Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at Columbia University.  Her works can be found in the collections at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Historical Society, The Norton Museum of Art, The David C. Driskell Center (University of Maryland), The Petrucci Family Foundation and The Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Karen Hellman is an Assistant Curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. She has curated several exhibitions exploring a range of thematic and monographic topics from nineteenth-century photography to the present. She is editor of Real/Ideal: Photography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century France (2016), author of The Window in Photographs (2013) and co-author of Landscape in Photographs (2012).

Mariama Attah is a photography curator, writer and lecturer with a particular interest in overlooked visual histories, and using photography and visual culture to amplify under and misrepresented voices. Mariama is curator of Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. She was previously Assistant Editor of Foam Magazine. Prior to this, she was Curator of Photoworks, where was responsible for developing and curating programs and events including Brighton Photo Biennial and was Commissioning and Managing Editor of the yearly magazine Photoworks Annual.


Heather Agyepong

Heather Agyepong is a visual artist, performer/actor and maker who lives and works in London. Her art is concerned with mental health and wellbeing, activism, the diaspora and the archive.

‘Wish you were here’ focuses on the work of Aida Overton Walker, the celebrated African American vaudeville performer who challenged the rigid and problematic narratives of black performers. She was known as the Queen of the Cake Walk which was a dance craze that swept America & Europe in the early 1900s. The Cake Walk was originally performed by slaves who mocked and mimicked their slave masters and high society. Aida Overton Walker reinterpreted the dance into one of elegance, skill and accuracy in her performance in In Dahomey. She received acclaim and praise for her rendition and soon became the ‘queen of the cakewalk’. She challenged the status quo depicting black women as cultural producers and drew attention to the limiting embodiments of her status as a performer. Wish you were here uses the figure of Overton-Walker to re-imagine these postcards as one not of oppression but of self-care with a mandate for people of Afro-Caribbean descent to take up space. The images explore the concepts of ownership, entitlement and mental wellbeing. Each image is layered with symbolism to illicit a conversation about the boundaries of how we see ourselves both in real and imagined realities. By embodying Overton-Walker as guide, ancestor and advocator, the series uses satirical commentary and depictions of radical self-worth in an attempt to disrupt the roadblocks affecting our collective mental health.

Spandita Malik

Spandita Malik is a New York-based artist from India. Her work is concerned with the current global socio-political state of affairs with an emphasis on women’s rights and gendered violence. Malik specializes in process based work in photography, recently with photographic surface embroideries and collaborations with women in India.

In Sanskrit, nā́rī means woman, wife, female, or an object regarded as feminine but can also mean sacrifice. While misogyny is hardly exclusive to one country or culture, India bears particularly ghastly symptoms of it. I traveled to Lucknow, Jaipur, and Chamkaur Sahib where I photographed and interviewed women about their harsh economic and social realities. Some women talk about their domestic violence. I had the privilege to be the bearer of the stories these women shared with me, to hear them, to question them, to understand the silences, the pauses, and to have the responsibility to retell, share, and pass on these stories. I printed the portrait I took, onto the fabric of the region and asked them to embroider the portrait in a way that seemed fit to them, without any guidelines, giving them the agency to have authority over their own portrayal. These artistic collaborations subvert the idea of the artist as the main producer by giving each woman her own creative entity within her own craft.

Yufan Lu

Yufan Lu is a photographer based in Beijing and Tianjin, China.

In 2017, Chinese cosmetic surgery clinics performed 16 million procedures, up 26% year-over-year. As someone who suffers from judgements by my appearance, I feel connected to the zeal. I decided to use photography to explore the mechanisms behind it, and as a therapy for self-body shaming. I went to different cosmetic surgeries for diagnosis, and asked the “beauty designers“ to write surgery plans for me. Other than pointing out my “defects”, they also volunteered to offer me different solutions according to my preference, letting me choose from the most popular types of faces like choosing products on a shelf – suggesting that face is my “permit” to my dream life. I also collected pre-surgery portrait photos of the people who have already done cosmetic surgeries from cosmetic surgery specialty websites, removed watermarks added by the websites to return their original look, and cut patterns on the portraits with a knife, before attaching to each of them thoughts shared by people who have done cosmetic surgery in my own handwriting. These thoughts include real thoughts and excerpts of advertisements disguised in the form of real thoughts. These photos remind me of death masks, post-mortem photos, or perhaps all the photos – as the moment they are being made suggests the past and the lost. But there are more to these portraits: hope, insecurity, determination, farewell, secret…

Monica Alcazar-Duarte

Originally from Mexico, Monica Alcazar-Duarte lives and works in the U.K. She studied Filmmaking, Architecture and Documentary Photography. A former charity campaigner, she continues to work on independent research projects and for NGOs in England and abroad. She regularly collaborate with scientists and academics and explore ideas based on conjunct research.

For the past year I have interviewed members of my family, friends, friends of friends and strangers in Mexico. They have told me stories, incidents of discrimination and racism they have experienced. I have recently learned how search engine algorithm design is used to reinforce stereotypes and discrimination. Through this project, I wish to make these power structures visible and physical, to suggest not only how they manifest but the impact they have in perpetuating and increasing biased thinking. To do this I have created a “re-staged” moment from these gathered stories and photographed it. Over the printed image I have drawn imagery that suggests the qualities of the internet and that could also evoke emotions produced by it; a maze of feelings, an overpowering sense of claustrophobia, a structure that holds people down. The sketches presented will change as my recent research has led me to more intricate diagrams of how the algorithms are designed to categorise and pinpoint goals.

Parisa Aminolahi

Parisa Aminolahi is a Iranian filmmaker and photographer based in the Netherlands. Her work covers a spectrum of themes such as displacement, exile, homeland, family and childhood memories, utilizing childhood and old family photographs, self‐portraits and her own family members as her subjects.

My mother belongs to the generation of Iranian parents who are living alone, and often continents apart from their children. “Tehran Diary” is a project on her life in Tehran, and while visiting her children living abroad. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, large groups of young Iranians left the country. This self-imposed exile created a new pattern for Iranian families. In the absence of comprehensive social security to support the elderly, in a culture where it is common for young adults to remain at home till their late thirties, many parents found the absence of their children difficult to deal with. During one of my regular trips from the Netherlands to Iran, I started taking pictures of my mother’s daily life, and this became our routine; whenever we were together, either in Tehran, or in the Netherlands, or while travelling together to be reunited with my brother and sister, I was photographing her. After printing some of the images, I could not resist the urge of using black and white paint on each photo as I had this sense that something wants to burst out of the photos and they should have some extra scenery and ornaments to create the world I was searching for.

Laura Pannack

Laura Pannack is a British artist who’s work focuses on social documentary and portraiture and seeks to explore the complex relationship between subject and photographer.

At the age of 16 Baruch chose to leave his Orthodox Jewish community and to study. The dramatic and challenging decision forced him to question his identity and future. Einstein says: “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. “ The project explores how we choose our paths in life and questions how much control we have to change who we will become.

Madeline Bishop

Madeline Bishop is a photography and video artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Bishop’s work is conceptually centred around relational dynamics.

“Without your mother considers the nature of absence within maternal relationships. An absence is a state or condition in which something expected, wanted or looked for is not present. We begin our lives looking for our mothers. Do we ever stop looking for them and do they ever stop looking for us? As we grow, we make attempts to detach ourselves in order to become independent and live adult lives. What remnants of this relationship that defines our early lives remain in the distance of adulthood? Amid absence, our memories morph, the details become duller and distorted over time and we’re left with a summarised version of what might have happened, similar to a photograph. Some edges will blur and some will sharpen until those are the only parts we can remember.”

Cheryl Mukherji

Cheryl Mukherji is a visual artist and writer currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Born and raised in India, she is currently an MFA candidate in Advanced Photographic Studies at the Internationational Center of Photography-Bard College, New York. Cheryl’s current work explores my relationship with my mother, who lives in India, and her presence in the family album through the lens of personal history, transgenerational trauma, and inheritance. She works with mediums such as photography, text, printmaking, video, embroidery.

Working primarily with family albums that I brought along when I moved to the United States, I engage with my mother’s presence within it through many years and different stages of her life. Family albums—a primary instrument of self-knowledge and representation—traditionally celebrate success, leaving out the depiction of tragedy, trauma, and mourning in the family life. In this work, I recollect memories of my last day at home with my mother before moving to New York. It was the day my mother, overcome by a manic episode and overwhelmed by her loneliness, harmed herself. Using screenprinting, I repeat my mother’s image from these albums onto prints and layer them with her personal history and my own with the use of text. Through this uncanny juxtaposition, trauma becomes representative of her identity as much as the happy moments do.

Charzette Torrence

Artist Charzette Torrence was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and currently lives in Harlem, NY.

“Prevalent” means widespread, usual, common, current, popular, universal, endemic, rife, and rampant. I have taken certain social issues that are prevalent in the media, that are widespread, and that affects everyone worldwide because of the fast pace at which we receive information via the Internet or other media. How do we interact with information that we see and hear all of the time? What impact does the information have on us and our environment? Is it for change, or do we hear and see so much information that it just becomes the norm? Prevalent is intended to stimulate these questions.

Grant History

Jo Metson Scott

The inaugural Firecracker Photographic Grant was awarded in September 2012 to British photographer Jo Metson Scott for her project ‘The Grey Line’, a sensitive documentation of ‘conscientious objectors’; American and British soldiers speaking out against the Iraq war. The book has since been highly commended and voted one of the best photo books of 2013 by Time, The Observer, The Telegraph and Empire.

“Receiving the Firecracker grant was a huge endorsement for me and for a piece of work I’d been struggling to find the right platform for. The award gave the work great visibility and the grant itself, as well as the support from Genesis, was instrumental in the final stages of bringing the work together as a book. Beyond being a grant, Firecracker connected me to a supportive group of photography professionals, who gave me the confidence to pull together a project I’d been working on alone for 5 years.”

Nadia Sablin

The 2013 Firecracker Grant was awarded to Nadia Sablin, a Russian photographer living between Brooklyn and St. Petersburg, was chosen for her documentary project ‘Two Sisters’, a story of the photographer’s unmarried aunts who live a traditional and ancestral life in rural northwest Russia, tied to the land and to each other. The project allows us insight into their lives, relationship, identity and the place they call home; each photo offering quiet contemplation on time, aging and family relationships. Since then, Sablin has been awarded a fellowship by the New York Foundation for the Arts and exhibited the project at the Bellevue College in Washington State.

The judges also chose to Highly Commend the work of two additional photographers, Italian Myriam Meloni, nominated for her work on Moldova’s economic orphans, ‘Behind the Absence’ and German photographer Regine Petersen was selected for her constructive narrative about meteorite showers, ‘Fragments’. Each photographer was provided with a bursary of £500, mentoring from industry professionals and a contribution of Trolley publications.

Diana Markosian

In 2014 Armenian/American photographer Diana Markosian was awarded the Grant for her highly acclaimed project ‘Inventing My Father’, the photographers personal attempt to reconnect with her absent parent. By combining her own visual storytelling ability alongside archival and found photography, Markosian delivers a truly authentic and moving account, resulting in her viewer’s total absorption in, and commitment to, the story. The judges also commended British photographer Sian Davy for work exploring the artist’s daughter, ‘Looking for Alice’.

Lua Ribeira

In 2015 Spanish photographer Lua Ribeira was awarded the Grant for her visually stimulating exploration of British dancehall culture. Her project, Noises in the Blood, explores the celebration of a ritual, embracing consciously the exotic stereotype towards a different culture looking at the immediate differences between photographer and the subject, opening a dialogue about the English Jamaican women and their manners within a shared context.

Sanne De Wilde

In 2016 Belgium photographer Sanne De Wilde won the Grant for ‘Island of the Colourblind’, an incredible visualisation of the true story of the residents of Pingelap, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, who have been affected by the hereditary condition of colourblindness.

Carolina Arantes

2017’s Firecracker Photographic Grant was awarded to Brazilian photographer Carolina Arantes for her work ‘First Generation’, an on-going project about the first generation of Afro-French women of France which speaks about national identity, mixed origins and culture deeply anchored in its historical tradition.

Peyton Fulford

American photographer Peyton Fulford received the 2018 Grant for her work “Infinite Tenderness,” exploring her own lived experiences growing up queer in the religious American south.

Sabine Ostinvil

In 2019 American Haitian photographer Sabine Ostinvil was awarded the grant for her tender portrayal of her brother’s boyhood and identity as young black men. This beautifully moving collaboration hit at a time where the #metoo movement was calling into question the notion of modern masculinity and the work was later included in group exhibition about black male identities at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The Firecracker Photographic Grant is a small, self funded, non-profit initiative open to international female photographers or non-binary photographers.

It is usually awarded to a photographer based on the strength of visual portfolios and artist statements submitted, however in light of the Covid19 pandemic, the 2019 Grant will be allocated in smaller individual amounts based on quality of work and information supplied in the application process.

All information is confidential and consideration will be made on both living expenses and production costs. If you receive a salary or regular income we would encourage you to not apply, in order to benefit those with the greatest need.

Applications are judged by an independent panel of industry experts. 100% of application fees go towards the total Grant amount.

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