CENTER’s Director’s Choice Award 3rd Place Winner: Zoe Perry-Wood
Congratulations to Zoe Perry Wood for her Third Place win in the CENTER’s Director’s Choice Awards for her project, Hanging in the Balance: Portraits from the BAGLY Prom. The Choice Awards recognize outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter. Zoe also currently has work in the (un)expected families exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, on display through June 24th, 2018.
Juror Naomi Cass, Director, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Australia shares her thoughts on her selections:
Selecting work for the CENTER Awards has been both a challenge and an exciting process. In many respects the award shows something of where the camera is being pointed today, and has been a fabulous journey for me from Australia. Each of these series I have selected responds to an issue of current relevance: the personal cost of political repression in the winning series; the ubiquitous presence of surveillance, even of the uninhabited landscape, in the second place winner, and the surge of young people seeking recognition for their identity as the third place winner.
For the third place winner, the dignity with which portraits of young LGBTIQ people are taken, the respect of the photographer and the willingness of the subject to be open to the process is quite remarkable. Across the series, Hanging in the Balance, Portraits from the BAGLY Prom, each subject is represented in a unique manner, which I imagine arises through active participation by the sitter, in shaping the resulting work. Sometimes single, and sometimes in pairs, the logic of each image seems to arise from a unique individual. Uncommonly open to the viewer, this is a truly valuable collaboration between subject and photographer, in documenting an important time of life and declaration of identity.
Naomi Cass, Director, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Australia
Naomi Cass has worked in the fields of contemporary art, craft, design and music since completing her honours degree at the University of Melbourne. In 2009 she initiated Flash, a quarterly journal of reviews interviews and comment on photography and video, published by the Centre for Contemporary Photography.
Zoe Perry-Wood is a fine art and social documentary photographer. She holds a BFA in photography from MassArt, an M.Ed from UMass Amherst and a CAGS from UMass Boston. She is a recipient of both national and international awards for her portrait photography. Zoe Perry-Wood’s work is held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as well as numerous private collections. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Gallery Kayafas, The National Portrait Gallery in London for the Taylor Wesson Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition, The Kinsey Institute Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University, The Photographic Resource Center, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, VanDernoot Gallery at Lesley University, Essex Gallery at Community College of Baltimore County, McIninch Gallery at Southern New Hampshire University, The Danforth Museum, Fitchburg Art Museum, The Griffin Museum as well as galleries in New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Tulsa, Seattle, Denver and Provincetown. She has been the recipient of several awards including Artist of the Year three years running and Best in Show for the National Prize Show at the Cambridge Art Association. One of her portraits is currently exhibited at MFA Boston in (un)expected families through June 2018. Her works are available through Gallery Kayafas, Boston.
Hanging in the Balance
Portraits from the BAGLY Prom
As a social documentary photographer, I have learned the importance of capturing unique groups of people, at particular times, in particular places. This moment in history represents an important juncture when a thirty four-year tradition continues to play a vital role, while the lives of these youth hang in the balance between imminent, broad social acceptance and historical, outright discrimination and oppression. These images are the result of a ten-year project photographing the Boston Alliance of Gay & Lesbian Youth (BAGLY) Prom. BAGLY provides a safe haven for youth who are often, even in these progressive times, outsiders in their own youth culture and who may not yet have a foothold in adult gay culture. The images in this body of work reveal the delicate balance between youth vulnerability versus defensive self-protection as these youth grow up facing intolerance of their developing identities.
The yearly BAGLY Prom fills the hole left when these youth are not allowed to attend, or don’t feel a sense of belonging at the traditional youth proms in their own high schools. Held in Boston for thirty-four years, the Prom flies under mainstream radar, yet thrives within gay youth subculture. Attendance has reached more than 1000 youth from all over New England.
Although they may not dwell in the mainstream of the larger culture, these youth are not exotic subject matter. They are our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and students in the classrooms of our high schools and colleges. It is up to us, as adults to not only support youth identities and self-expression, but to celebrate their courage, imagination and exuberance. This project is based in the hopeful idea that one day such an event may not be necessary.
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