“There is no more meaningful honor than one given by one’s peers,” said photographer David Goldblatt as he accepted the Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement award last night. Goldblatt’s was the last of the awards given at the 29th Annual International Center of Photography Infinity Awards, an event honoring achievements in photography. The awards presentation, held at Pier Sixty in New York City, is the primary fundraising event for the International Center of Photography (ICP), including its museum, photo school, educational programs, student scholarships and community outreach.
In his acceptance speech, Goldblatt apologized for voicing a note of criticism about his award: Its name. “Lifetime Achievement,” he said, implies “one has reached the end of the road,” suggesting the winner wouldn’t be coming back to accept another award in “15 or 20 years.” Goldblatt, who was born in 1930, said that if it were renamed the “Work in Progress Award,” the recipient might be encouraged to work harder, albeit “in a state of geriatric dissolution.” Mark Robbins, the executive director of ICP and the master of ceremonies for the evening, then told Goldblatt, “We look forward to much, much more.”
“Work in Progress” also describes recent images by the Young Photographer Award winner, Kitra Cahana, who has begun to follow “a new trajectory in my photography,” she said. A photojournalist who has shot for National Geographic and The New York Times, she has over the past year taken intimate and quiet photos of her father in his hospital bed. As a result of a stroke, he is paralyzed from the eyes down. Cahana explained in the video that preceded her speech that her father, a rabbi, now dictates his sermons “letter by letter, blink by blink.”
Actor Jeff Bridges, winner of a Special Achievement Award, praised Cahane’s work in his acceptance speech. Bridges, who shoots film on a Widelux camera to photograph on movie sets, offered a toast to film as well as to the moments photography captures.
David Guttenfelder, the Associated Press photographer who has photographed widely in North Korea for the past year and a half, won the Photojournalism award. Other award winners view photojournalism with skepticism. Cristina de Middel won the Publication prize for her book The Afronauts, which envisions Zambia’s aborted attempt to create a space program in 1964. She said she had worked as a photojournalist until she became frustrated with the media. “Two years ago, I started messing with fact and fiction,” and decided to try “telling stories in a new way.” The video interview that preceded her speech showed archival news photos of the space program, as well as real documents she incorporated into the book. (Like all the videos shown last night, it was created for the event by MediaStorm. A longer form of each video can be viewed on the MediaStorm website.)
Mishka Henner, winner of the Art prize, has doctored iconic images by Robert Frank (a past Cornell Capa Award winner) by removing significant sections. He has also explored oil fields by collecting satellite images and gathered images from Google Street View for a study of sites where sex workers have been solicited. “It’s funny. Do photographers own what they photograph?” Henner asks in his video interview. “It’s raw material for me, just as Frank’s woman in an elevator was raw material to him.”
The award for Applied/Fashion/Advertising was given to Erik Madigan Heck, whose clients include Neiman Marcus, Eres, Vanity Fair and W. “I create an image purely to create a beautiful image. Sometimes I don’t show the product,” he said in his interview.
The ICP Trustees Award was given to Pat Schoenfeld, who was hired by ICP founder Cornell Capa in 1974, shortly after he opened the museum. Schoenfeld launched the museum book store, and over the years worked on membership, publications, publicity and other programs before she left ICP to launch the ARTS cable service. She has served on ICP’s board since 1987. She told the audience that she thinks of herself as “the grandmother of ICP,” having seen it through its childhood under founder Cornell Capa, and its adolescence under the direction of Willis Hartshorn, who stepped down last year. She said, “I look forward to the coming years with our new director, Mark Robbins.”
This year’s Infinity Award winners were selected by Susan Bright, writer and curator; Douglas Nickel, professor at Brown University; and Ramon Revert, editor in chief and creative director, Editorial RM. They made selections from nominations submitted by a nine-person committee that included Isolde Brielmaier, curator at Savannah Collect of Art and Design Museum of Art; Frank Kalero, publisher of OjodePez and director of GetxoPhoto; Michele McNally, assistant managing editor for photography, The New York Times; Marleos Krijnen of FOAM in Amsterdam; photographer Facundode Zuviria; Carol Squiers, ICP curator, and others.