Remote judging drives robust conversations

Like everything else in 2020, judging for the Alexia Grants competition was affected by the coronavirus pandemic and forced to go remote, with judges signing on from various locations.

Judges Joshua Rashaad McFadden and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn took a brief break from grueling election coverage to review entries—McFadden from his Minneapolis hotel room and Barrayn from her New York apartment. Judge Noelle Flores Théard joined from her Brooklyn apartment, her patient six-year-old daughter waiting in the background.

But the physical distance did not hamper the dynamism of the event, according to Mike Davis, director of The Alexia.

“Discussions were rich and lively and judges asked each other about their impressions and formed consensus by really hearing each other. Their choices are deeply relevant to our times,” Davis says.

The Alexia Grants program comprises both student and professional grants. Judging was held Nov. 6 for the student competition and Nov. 7 for the professional competition.

Judging sessions were also attended by Peter and Aphrodite Tsairis, co-founders of The Alexia, as well as members of The Alexia Photojournalism Advisory Council and Newhouse visual communications students. Graduate student Zoe Davis provided technical support and graduate student Jessica Stewart read proposals.

Judges named one winner in each category, plus second and third place honorees.

Photographer Cornell Watson of Durham, North Carolina, was the recipient of the $20,000 professional grant for “Behind the Mask.” Second and third place honorees were Amber Bracken of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Isadora Kosofsky of Los Angeles.

Leonidas Enetanya, a student at the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, was the recipient of the student grant for “The Monét Archives.” Second place went to Zilan Imşik, a student at Istanbul University, and third place went to Michele Abercrombie, a graduate student in Newhouse’s multimedia, photography and design program.

“After talking to the recipients, I could see the richness and depth of the judge’s impressions of the entrants playing out in how the awardees talked about their work, their connection to the people they’re photographing and things they consider in the course of producing the work,” Davis says.

For insight into the judging process and selection of winners, view a judging session recording.