Now in its fifth year, the Dior Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talent rounds up emerging image-makers from 20 of the world’s best art schools
For the last five years, Dior has held an annual Photography and Visual Arts Award for Young Talents. The project, created in partnership with LUMA Arles and ENSP, is dedicated to finding the most exciting emerging image-makers from around the world, with many handpicked from the finest international art schools. Each year, a shortlist of 14 make the final cut – known as the Dior “laureates” – and one is selected as the outright winner. They are then exhibited as part of the prestigious Les Rencontres d’Arles.
This year, the competition was fierce. Entrants were given the recurring theme, “Face to Face”, and responded with an arresting range of imagery – ranging from film and photography to fine art. The chosen laureates included London’s Joseph Craven, with his darkly evocative photos of small-town British life; New York’s Ashley Mclean and his tender images of Black fatherhood; and Kyoto’s Yuka Iwahashi, with her hauntingly ominous black and white portraits. But the winner, overall, was north London’s Rachel Fleminger-Hudson; a graduate of Central Saint Martins who creates cinematic, characterful fashion photography which, in her own words, are “like photographs from films that never existed”.
The laureates, as well as Fleminger-Hudson, were selected by a jury presided by legendary Cameroonian-born portrait photographer Samuel Fosso, known most recently for his work with Grace Wales Bonner. He was joined by the Dior award regulars: LUMA Arles founder Maja Hoffmann, Maison Européenne de la Photographie director Simon Baker, and International Director of Communications for Christian Dior Parfums Jérôme Pulis, as well as Ecuadorian-born photographer Estefanía Peñafiel Loaiza and Swiss multidisciplinary artist Maya Rochat. “We all decided [on the winner],” Fosso tells AnOther, “but personally, what I liked about Rachel’s work is how it mixes everyday life with sadness and compassion.”
Fleminger-Hudson, who graduated this year with a BA in Fashion Communication, says she was “overwhelmed” by the news. “It’s hard to get my head around,” she says, hours after landing in Arles for the exhibition opening. The work she put forward for the award – eight pieces in total – are a varied taster of the artist’s talents, which span across photography, film, fashion and critical research.
Effortlessly beautiful, her images are soaked in humour and emotional complexity: brows are furrowed, eyes are wistful and pleasure (as well as exhaustion) is palpable. “It’s a place between reality and fantasy,” Fleminger-Hudson explains. “I’m trying to capture people when they are the most unconscious of being seen – at their most aggressive or most expressive.” A clear perfectionist, she works on every part of the shooting process, from the lighting, casting and make-up to the costume design (she notes that fashion, and how our “identities are constructed materially through the costume” is a focal interest of her work).
That said, although there can only be one winner, Fosso is equally encouraging of the other laureates – as well as the 300 applicants who didn’t manage to make the final rounds. “The finalists will be able to set up more work, but the [other applicants will hopefully] be motivated to do better,” Fosso says. After all, he adds, the biggest lesson of his career so far has been “patience”. “Being recognised by your peers and by critics is good, but [it’s not everything],” he says, finally. “Be patient. If you fail, that’s good – you always learn.”