Visura announced today that Álvaro Laíz has won the 2015 FotoVisura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project for “THE HUNT,” his project documenting the shamanistic Udege people of Russia’s Far East taiga, or boreal forest. He received a $2,000 cash prize, a paid commission from the Washington Post to publish his work on its In Sight blog, as well as a lifetime sponsored GUILD membership with Visura.
Laíz became acquainted with the Udege when he traveled to Southeast Russia for the first time in the fall of 2014. He worked with national parks, scientists, rangers and Udege hunters. He lived with them for a month, making portraits and documenting their hunt. One hunter he met (seen in the above photo) died just hours after Laíz photographed him. The Udege practice animism, a belief that non-human life forms such as plants, animals and inanimate objects possess spirits. “Animism and the relationship among nature and culture are not really new to me,” Láiz told the Post. “I have been working on those topics for the last six years.” In fact, it was a legend of a poacher killed by the dark spirit of a tiger he had killed is partly responsible for his initial interest in the culture.
Three finalists for the Visura grant were also named. Linda Forsell’s “Children who have Children” was named “Top Finalist,” and both Annie Flannagan’s “We Grew Up With Gum in Our Hair” and Aaron Vincent Elkaim’s “Where the River Runs Through were named “Finalists.”
The entries for the FotoVisura grant were evaluated by a six-member jury: MaryAnne Golon of the Washington Post; Judy Walgren of the San Francisco Chronicle; Simon Barnett of CNN Photos; Grey Hutton of VICE; Elizabeth Griffin of Esquire; and photographer Sebastian Liste, a member of NOOR.