The Denis Roussel Award was started in 2018 to honor the legacy of photographer and educator Denis Roussel and to highlight work done by photographers whose work is based on the historical/alternative photographic processes, including silver gelatin.
We would like to thank juror, author, and educator Christopher James who spent long hours reviewing the submissions. We know of no other competition where the photographers who enter are given care and handling in the way their work receives personal comments from the juror with observations and recommendations for future work.
Thank you to all of the photographers who applied for this award. The standard is set higher each year. We know the past few years has been very hard and we appreciate your interest in the Denis Roussel Award. It was very rewarding to see the wonderful work being submitted and to read your statements. We were introduced to numerous new artist and know many of you will be recognized in the years to come. Keep creating.
This year because of the generosity of Josphine Sacabo and the Roussel Family we have been able to increase the awards and to add the Rfotofolio Choice Award.
Thank you to the Roussel Family and Josephine Sacabo for your on going support of the Denis Roussel Award.
Statement from Christopher James
For the last three years I have been privileged to serve as the juror for the Denis Roussel Award, and to experience the deeply personal and expressive work that you have created out of memories, pandemic isolation, and genuine concern for our planet. During this extraordinary period in our history, the focus of the work was often inward and familial. That is often still the case… but a new wrinkle has been added, one that Denis Roussel would undoubtedly approve of, a blending of the self in collaboration with the natural world, an embrace of simple and uncommon materials that are found and given new purpose, and mature studio practice, coupled an acceptance of play in the creative process… which is, as you all know, how baby bears get to be good at being older bears.
Last year in this letter I wrote, — “One of the criteria that I used as a marker for my selections was respect for the essential spirit of Denis Roussel… a love of the natural world, finding muse-worthy inspiration in the humble and non-spectacular discoveries of simple
observation… and a love of the hand-made image. The symbiotic relationship of allowing the environment, and what is at-hand, to dictate the making of the image is lovely as an idea and is similar in concept to the portfolios that I feel best represent Denis Roussel’s spirit.” I believe this sentiment is more accurate now than ever in this year’s entries and that is proven in the care and eloquence of each person’s writing. It is so rare to be able to provide a juror with the concept and intentions that define one’s work. In my experience only this annual Roussel competition encourages the marriage of language and image — and I have done my best to respond with comments to each artist who took the opportunity to show their work and share their ideas and lives.
Contemporary image making is not about the technique used, the camera (or lack of one) you have, or the preference of digital or analog capture. Nor is it about the “artifact” that so often represents photography’s version of gesture that miraculously makes an image artistic. Photography today is deeply integrated into every aspect of our lives and cultures and its heartbeat, the one that each of us hears beating in our soul, is driven by a need to make sense of the time we are living in … and our unsatiated curiosity to see how good we can be doing what we love.
As is the case in all juried exhibitions, the final selection is only a brief representation of a juror’s personal imaging preferences over several weeks of considering the work. A juror’s selections are not, in any way, a rendering of judgment upon the artist who takes the risk of putting themselves and their work on the line.
The Roussel Award competition is unique in my experience. It allows for the opportunity of
telling one’s story and relationship with the work. In the same breath, it allows the juror to
respond to the equally important facets of each artist’s life and process. This special dynamic, the creation of Connie and Jerry Rosenthal / rfotofolio.org gives permission to a special intimacy and this year, like last, it was an honor to share with you all.
Denis Roussel Award 2022
Your work is quite wonderful and as anyone deeply connected to nature knows, there are no straight lines and it is the flaws that are beautiful and special. The fake truths that you write about are the real aberrations and have nothing to do with any nature other than the darker human ones. Your incorporation of the poisons of commerce, e.g., weed-killer, pesticides, and invasive plant species as materials in your work is brilliant (please wear gloves and a mask) and is intimately married to both your concept and study practice and workflow. I love this work.
Work of Merit
Chemigrams on wet plate collodion positive (tintype) plates
Your narrative is captivating… representing family struggles with health resulting from the Nagasaki atomic bomb in the mid-40’s and the visual representation of cancer. I think wet plate collodion photograms are the perfect vehicle for this work. The braided threads (have you used human hair yet) impregnated with presumably an iron-based developer and placed on the collodion for exposure is a perfect way to metaphorically express the way cancer grows and evolves within the corpse. Consider more subjective complexity in your materials and in using resists to manipulate the liquids in the process. I will look forward to the evolution of your idea.
Work of Merit
Your project, My Trinity IS My Fortress, is simply exquisite, conceptually flawless in its simple message of integrating a creature, and by association, the most elemental nature (Denis Roussel would certainly approve) in collaboration with your studio practice. Your writing is humble, indicating that you, your husband and Grover have become a pack where each is free to lead. Your image Gestation, is sneaky and perfect … making no sense and perfect sense within the same moment. The shadows are remarkable and so abstracted by the physics of making a photograph from a set perspective. I have come back to this many times over the past week. Since you are bound to the tableau, have you considered amping up the surrealism by using wet collodion, perhaps on black glass, so that the elegance of the UV illumination is even more pronounced? If you decide to do this, I would recommend mixing new and old prepared collodion in a 50-50% to open your shadows and give softness to your highlights. This is beautiful work. Christopher James
Keith’s work does indeed take us to otherworlds and seems to glow on the screen. His images have an atmospheric quaility. They could easily be some place other than this planet, as we have seen with the Mars missions. His prints using gelatin silver are really remarkable. His portfolio is beautifuly edited. All that we can add is “very well done and congratulations”.
To encourage creative work and the gifted practitioners that created it we are recognizing the following work as chosen by Christopher James.
Your work is beautiful… for me, surreal and atmospheric images of a lost civilization and the sand castles are the perfect metaphor for anything man made eventually returning to nature or being consumed, like a tide rolling in, by it. These feel like waxed paper negatives and the absolute simplicity and excellence of your interpretation is just how Denis would have liked it. Outstanding work ! Christopher James
Cyanotype / Gum bichromate
Your mastery of the materials, cyan with very subtle gum bichromate passes, is impressive and a pleasure to look at. I wish I had a sense of the scale of this work as I feel it would be experienced differently as small intimate pieces, pages in a book, or large demanding works on a wall. I am most interested in the images celebrating artifact and the curatorial exercise (feathers and beans) versus the Rorschach mirrored, and predictable, construction. This is not a criticism… I like this work a lot and want it to elicit a, “wow!” Christopher James
“Otherworld” is a truly beautiful demonstration of artistry and consummate craft and the prints are extraordinary with subject matter and light rendering that is packed with mystery and breathable atmosphere. Your portfolio is indeed “otherworldly” filled to the brim with a desolate romanticism. Beautiful work. Christopher James
The first encounter with your work is one of wonder. The focused concept of your portfolio—immigration, identity, displacement and migrant deaths is profoundly important … even more so now in our current political climate. I appreciate your touching upon the loss of legacy and family sharing of meals / mother’s cooking and using the discarded corn husks as a substrate for your images. This is a beautiful marriage of ideas and materials establishing the connections within family during the sharing of meals. It would have been fun being your thesis advisor as this is a perfect reflection of your present and where you fit in the history of the medium. Christopher James
Susan de Witt
Intaglio Photopolymer gravure
Your work is beautiful and I deeply appreciate the workflow of your studio process incorporating registered “slices” of information that can be translated into final images. The inclusion of color, as a move from the monochrome evidence of a traditional photo polymer gravure is a great move and adds both dimension and emotional references to the work. I am very interested in the scale of this work as I feel that information will greatly influence my experience with it. I especially love As My Dreams Unfold and Emergence. Excellent and very skilled artistry. Christopher James
Very strong images and an excellent example of how powerful the VDB-cyan combination, with other integrated media, can be as a vehicle for photograms. I was especially intrigued with the weeks of exposure and where you allowed the plant matter, and its moisture, to collaborate with you in making the final image. I especially like the lilies and asparagus. Nice work and very much in the spirit of Denis Roussel.Christopher James
Very nice concept and craft that “celebrate the ceremony of gravity.” Your images are beautiful drawings and maps of what a psyche or synapse might look like if we could actually see either in person. This week, your work reminds me of the new images made by the Webb telescope of sinew of long-ago light from 10 billion miles away. Your work is outstanding. Christopher James
Your romantic photogravure images are nicely crafted. My favorites in this portfolio are the images of the sleeping woman throwing “Saturn” into the universe (at least that’s what I’m seeing) and what I think is a self-portrait as there is a long shutter release cord in the image. Adding chine collé to the material process is a brilliant idea. Christopher James
You submitted 7 images from 4 of your books… conceptually based upon a feminist and post-modern perspective with concept and content in harmony. The books look well accomplished although I must admit that I would have to hold them in my hands to experience the narrative and sequential elements that you are clearly embracing. I love the energy in Watching the World Go By. Christopher James
Your portfolio, The Known Unknown, defines for me the idea of wisdom… knowing what you don’t know. Each of your images is a well-conceived consideration of self and as you indicate, of slowing down, of being present and claiming space. I like the idea of, “I matter and my matter matters” which is entirely appropriate to the time we live in. I’ve often thought about this very slowing down in nature (my wife, Rebecca, refers to the experience as forest bathing) and that this project might be extended and expressed by projecting the nature upon yourself or integrating yourself physically within the nature. I would love to see what else you make in order to best advise you but for the moment, the work is well connected to your very special narrative. Christopher James
Thank you to Christopher James for your thoughtful considerations. You did an amazing job. We hope his comments will inspire each artist to greater heights.
Thank you to Rachel Roussel-Diamond and family for your encouragement and support.
A special and continuing thank you to Josephine Sacabo for your support of the Denis Roussel Award and your support of Rfotofolio.
Thank you Denis for your friendship, inspiration and generousity.To learn more about the work of Denis Roussel please click on his name.
Thank you to the following individuals and businesses.
Carol Boss and Hahnemühle paper.
Mark Nelson for the Precision Digital Negatives eBook and the “Precision Digital Negatives” custom 31 step standardized film step tablet. Precision Digital Negative.
Bostick & Sullivan for a two hundred-dollar gift certificate.
Christopher James for his donation of The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes 3rd Edition, Signed
Josephine Sacabo and Luna Press.
To learn more about the work of Denis Roussel please click on his name.
To learn more about Christopher James please click on his name.
To learn more about the photographers please click on their names.
2022 Denis Roussel Award, Henri Blommers
Work of Merit Award, Michael Koerner
Work of Merit Award, Jessica Somers
Rfotofolio Work of Merit Award, Keith Taylor
“What a pleasure to read the juror comments and see the beautiful imagery. Great Job to all involved!”K.K. DePaul
“Thank you, Rfotofolio and Christopher James, for selecting my project “Otherworld” for the 2022 Denis Roussel Rfotofolio Merit Award! I’m so grateful.” Keith Taylor
Thank you Rfotofolio for all you do in support of photography! I am truly grateful to be among those honored for outstanding work. Lou McCorkle