Since I first picked up a camera in 2014, photographing my brothers, who are now eleven and seven years old, has been the center of my practice. The camera allows me to document their boyhood from a vulnerable place, which is also a place where they are not afraid to be themselves. I have developed an affinity for their childish banter, their joyful laughs that traverse the walls of our home, their unexpected tantrums, and their bickering. That is the heart and beauty of the photos we make together.

My brothers are young Black boys growing up in an immigrant home where our parents do not know how to talk to them about certain important matters, such as race and Black masculinity. I seek to raise these conversations in the photos I make of them while simultaneously celebrating their blackness. This body of work has become a private second language between my brothers and I. It allows me to show them the beauty of being Black and proud.

Sabine Ostinvil

New York based photographer, Sabine Ostinvil, weaves her love for storytelling and photography through the intimate images she makes of her two younger brothers. She and her mother emigrated from Haïti to the United States in 2005 and made their home in Philadelphia, PA. Now a young adult, Sabine lives in New York City where she studies Visual Arts at Columbia University.

Ostinvil spent her high school years honing her craft in the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center’s Teen Photo program, which lent cameras to the students for the entire academic year. She used this opportunity to photograph friends and loved ones and found herself extensively photographing her brothers. Her work was featured in the annual Teen Photo exhibition throughout her years in the program.

Ostinvil often finds herself reflecting on her struggle to preserve childhood memories while trying to assimilate to American culture. Her work has evolved from simple portraiture to images that demonstrate a private relationship between photographer and subject in an attempt to slow down time. As her brothers grow up before her eyes, she seeks to hold on to future memories, using her camera as a means to preserve moments of connection, intimacy, and joy.

The Firecracker Grant judges also highly commended the work of Russian German photographer Nanna Heitmann, for her series ‘Hiding From Baba Yaga’. The work explores is based on a journey into the kingdom of myths: the Yenisei River, one of the longest rivers in the world, is the continuous thread, guiding the photographer through Siberia and her own Russian identity.

‘Hiding from Baba Yaga’ is a poetical journey along one of the most powerful currents on earth. The river flows 3438km from the Mongolian border northward through all Siberia into the Arctic Ocean. From time immemorial people have sought protection and freedom on the banks of the Yenisei and the adjacent wild taiga. For a long time, the banks of the Yenisei have been pervaded by nomadic people. The Russians, coming from the west, chased by the greed for valuable fur, did not reach the river until 1607. Criminals, escaped serfs, apostates or simply adventurers, joined together in wild rider associations and expanded ever deeper into the vast wild Taiga. Old believers settled on lonely banks of the Yenisei to escape the persecution of the Tsar and later the Soviets.

Nanna Heitmann

Nanna Heitmann is a German/ Russian documentary photographer, based between Russia and Germany.

Her work has been published by  TIME Magazine, M Le Magazine du Monde, De VolkskrantStern Magazine, and die Zeit, and she has worked on assignments for outlets including The New York TimesTIME Magazine, The Washington Post and Stern Magazine.

She has received awards and accolades that include the Vogue Italia Prize at the PH Museum women photographers grant, World Report Award, and was shortlisted by the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, the Gomma Grant and LensCulture emerging talents.

Nanna Heitmann joined Magnum as a nominee in 2019.