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April 18, 2024


Interview by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico

The Pictorial List is excited to announce a new partnership with the International Photography Awards, merging our resources and expertise to provide an even more comprehensive platform for our communities. By joining forces, we aim to empower photographers with a wealth of options, information, and tools, enabling them to forge meaningful connections within the industry. This collaboration seeks to enhance the exploration and advancement of photography, ultimately amplifying the impact and contributions of photographers around the world. Together, we look forward to cultivating an environment that fosters creativity, skill development, and networking opportunities for photographers at every stage of their careers.

We would like to share with you the founder of IPA, Hossein Farmani, and his remarkable contribution to photography. Hossein Farmani is an incredibly dynamic figure in the world of art and photography. As a creative director, gallerist, and exhibition curator, he has left an indelible mark on the industry. His influence extends beyond New York, where he founded and presides over the prestigious Lucie Awards, International Photography Awards, International Design Awards, Paris Photo Prize, London Creative Awards, Focus on AIDS, and Farmani Gallery.

Hossein's dedication to photography has driven him to every corner of the globe, where he has curated more than 200 photographic exhibitions. For the past two decades, he has been sharing his wealth of knowledge and passion by lecturing at various universities and colleges. His expertise has also earned him a place among the esteemed juries of events such as Photo Lucida, Photofest, Arles Photo Festival, Yangong Photo Festival, and numerous others.

Most notably, he has co-founded the Palm Springs Photo Festival, Snap Orlando, Month of Photography Los Angeles, and the Istanbul Photo Festival. Alongside these achievements, he has enlightened audiences at prestigious platforms like TEDx Chiang Mai and TEDx Bologna, where he shared his profound passion for both photography and design.

Hossein's impact is not confined to the art world. His commitment to social and environmental causes has seen him lecture in over 25 cities globally, using the power of photography and design to shed light on critical issues. His personal collection of contemporary and vintage photography stands as a testament to his deep connection with the art form, making him a guiding light in the photography world.

Initially, the International Photography Awards (IPA) embarked on its journey in a world before the widespread use of the internet or email. The organization relied heavily on traditional advertising methods, predominantly featuring in magazines. Entrants would send in their submissions via mail, accompanied by checks or cash, adding a touch of old-world charm to the process. Despite initial skepticism about the IPA's potential success in a crowded landscape of competitions, a combination of effective marketing tactics and genuine enthusiasm from participants proved to be a winning formula. A notable partnership with an Indian magazine, which showcased the awards in a significant article, sparked widespread interest and resulted in hundreds of submissions from India alone. The IPA was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of entries, with many arriving in impressive packages, even though some suffered damage during transit. The event exceeded expectations and proved to be a resounding success, drawing an impressive turnout in both participation and the quality of submissions.

Upon receiving thousands of envelopes filled with photographs, the IPA meticulously curated them within the ambiance of a gallery space. A jury of experts was tasked with reviewing and rating each photograph, a task that demanded significant time and attention owing to the sheer volume of submissions. To the surprise of the organizers, the IPA swiftly ascended to prominence, particularly following a glamorous award ceremony held in the illustrious company of the Lucie Awards in Beverly Hills. This event captured the collective imagination of the photography community, propelling the IPA into the spotlight with newfound fervor. Embracing the digital age, the organization adeptly utilized its website as a dynamic platform to amplify the reach and impact of the awards, fostering greater engagement and recognition within the global photography sphere.

A heartening element of the process was the genuine enthusiasm displayed by the postman responsible for delivering all the entries to the IPA, a dedicated photography enthusiast in his own right. His support, alongside that of other individuals, played a pivotal role in the resounding success of the event.

In contrast to other competitions that predominantly relied on peer judging, the IPA prided itself on its distinguished international panel of experts, which conferred a heightened level of credibility and prestige within the global photography realm. This recognition proved instrumental in solidifying the IPA's position as a foremost platform for celebrating photographic excellence on an international scale.

The Pictorial List would like to extend a warm welcome to Hossein Farmani the founder of International Photography Awards, along with the rest of the IPA family and community of photographers. We are excited about partnering and creating the opportunity to share our diverse communities of artists globally. IPA has a twenty year history of honoring photographers while supporting and promoting their photography. IPA rewards photographers in both professional and non-professional categories, outreaching to a broader and diversified representation of photography globally. The Pictorial List team are facilitators for our artists, helping some develop a dialogue and language to speak about their work while highlighting projects and stories that have fully developed narratives. ‘TPL’ supports all the artists in our community, autodidact, non-professional, or professional, looking carefully at their photographs, reading their narratives, and supporting their critical thinking and visual storyline. We extend an open hand and look forward to developing a supporting relationship, broadening our reach while expanding our communities of brilliant photographers.

“For over a decade, I worked on an award in Hollywood with movie stars. I applied the same experience to a passion of mine: photography. I decided that we should appreciate all these masters of photography whose images have changed our lives while they are still alive and let the world know the people behind many life-changing images. The Lucie Award was established in 2003. The IPA was created to nurture young photographers to be the next masters.”


THE PICTORIAL LIST: Congratulations on IPA’s 20-year anniversary. That is a tremendous achievement with the dynamics of a forever-changing community. Tell our community about the International Photography Awards. What is IPA’s mission in photography? How does IPA support the field of photography, and what opportunities do they provide to photographers globally?

HOSSEIN: After over 20 years and with over a hundred thousand participants, the IPA has become one of the most important awards in photography on a global level. Winning one of the IPA prizes can significantly change a photographer's career in a much more respected manner. Not only does the cash prize amount to nearly $50k but the publicity and promotion have also placed many local winners on a global stage, granting them access to international art buyers and photo editors. Some have even been able to relocate to Europe and the USA through the extraordinary talent visa, thereby transforming their lives and the lives of their families.

TPL: Who are the faces behind the International Photography Awards? What are their supporting roles? Tell us about the IPA family.

HOSSEIN: IPA is a community of passionate, young individuals who love photography from all over the world, with headquarters in Budapest, Los Angeles, and Athens. Susan Baraz has been leading the jury panel for over 20 years, alongside Hannah, who has been with IPA for over 10 years as Program Director for the IPA and has been managing all aspects of this global photography award for the past decade, from call for entries to the winner announcements and awards ceremonies and photo festivals; Veronika, who has been strategically managing all elements of promotion as Head of Marketing; Aline, who is the wonderful head of Customer Service… the list goes on, and every year, our team grows with new additions!

TPL: Tell us about the Lucie Foundation, and the supporting role they make to IPA. How can our community reach out to learn more about the foundation, and how they may make a contribution?

HOSSEIN: In addition to organizing the Lucie Awards in NYC, the Lucie Foundation's significant efforts include educating inner-city and underprivileged youth in the art of photography, not only as a hobby but also as a career path as professional photographers. They facilitate "Months of Photography," host photo fairs for photographers to showcase and sell their work to the public, conduct scholarship-specific photo competitions to promote book publishing and exposure for young photographers, and hold fundraisers for various projects. Additionally, they organize photo festivals in Palm Springs, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

Members of your community can replicate the efforts of the Lucie Foundation and leverage its 20+ years of experience by creating art fairs for amateur and working photographers, organizing festivals and group shows, and providing education and mentorship to young photographers who can benefit from your experience in improving their skills.

TPL: There is a wide range of categories in both the professional and non-professional fields of photography, a diverse selection, and a cross-section of work in visual storytelling. How as an artist does one navigate the choices, to best support their work? How many categories do you recommend choosing for each photograph?

HOSSEIN: Both IPA and Lucie celebrate all disciplines of photography. We believe all photographers deserve recognition no matter what their category and level of their expertise are. I encourage photographers to study the past winners of each category and see where their own image fits best. By searching for past winners gives the photographers a good idea of the rates of the jury and how they vote. It’s not necessary to enter many categories, it’s important to understand the relevant category and enter your strong image in a category that best matches the picture.

TPL: How important is the narrative they provide about their submission? What do you consider a good artist statement?

HOSSEIN: Most important is of course the image and the story it portrays without reading the description or title. I believe the title of the image is the second most important and should be chosen with care. The description of the images sets the stage and possibly helps the viewer and our jury understand more about the image and the consequences of capturing that image. But if the image is not strong enough, no amount of explanation will help it.

In fine art photography, I am always asking photographers to write their statements before they pick up their camera. Artist statements are important in a way that helps photographers as artists to focus on their narrative and stay true to their statement.

IPA is a community of passionate, young individuals who love photography from all over the world, with headquarters in Budapest, Los Angeles, and Athens.

TPL: With the diversity in the range of categories, how do you select your panel of jurors? What is that process of deliberation like? Is it as difficult for the jurors as it is for the artists to make their selection?

HOSSEIN: We match the jurors' experience and expertise with the categories they will jury. This way the photographers get maximum exposure to their submitted images.

With the quality of images excelling in the past few years tenfold, the task of the jury has become just as much harder. Each year the level of excellence in photography has been raised and has become harder to choose one overall winner. It’s a good challenge to have, and we try to be as fair as possible. The jury votes and comments on photographs as they see fit. We tally the votes and the highest-scoring photographs receive top awards.

TPL: What advice would you give to photographers as they prepare their submissions? Is there one thing you find that photographers miss most often, a common mistake? What should photographers avoid, and what should they embrace?

HOSSEIN: Most important is to develop your own style. You will develop a keen eye by looking at hundreds of thousands of images and by studying the Masters of Photography and understanding why a photographer has won so many prestigious praises.

A significant mistake photographers often make is either undervaluing the importance of community and industry standards by knowingly copying others or by being unaware of existing works. Drawing inspiration from Rome and images while crediting the original creator is a commendable practice, whereas outright copying is deemed uncool and disrespectful.

The most successful photographers have created a style that they become known for. This takes expertise and years of practice.

TPL: Share a few success stories with us, memorable and defining moments. Could you also open our eyes to some obstacles or challenges you experienced along the way?

HOSSEIN: I think personally I have had many obstacles that I had to overcome moving to the USA at such a young age without family. Achieving these difficulties made me appreciate all the things life has provided me.

On the IPA level, when we started the IPA and Lucies, mostly I heard “no” from people around me. Most people thought there were already a few hundred photo contests around the world. Why start a new one? But my vision was much grander than what I saw at local or even national-level photo contests. I wanted to unite the world of photography and bring much-deserved respect and recognition to the world of photography.

Once our industry understood my vision and how to go about it all naysayers became the flag carrier for our projects. I have achieved that but lecturing and nonstop talking about my passion for photography.

TPL: Not everything goes as planned all the time, share some surprises, and serendipitous moments that may have opened unexpected doors.

HOSSEIN: In my own life nothing I have done was with grand plans. I have always been a doer sometimes to my detriment. If it feels right, I do it. My decisions are mostly by heart, not head, and not always successful.

I would say my biggest success has been my ability to transfer my passions to others and convince many to join my path because I speak from the heart without charts and numbers, and I am willing to take great risks.

My career has been full of surprises and memorable moments. But most joyful is when I receive a heartfelt thank you from people that our efforts have been changing their lives. Recently a letter from a young photographer credited us for the prize his father won 18 years ago and because of the prize the family was able to migrate to the USA and create a family and their dream life. Or people who have met and married at our festivals and events.

TPL: After the selection of the awards, do you continue to follow your artists, and watch them grow? Nurture their growth? Do your artists remain part of your community, on your radar, being observed with a respectful and careful eye?

HOSSEIN: It mostly depends on the artist. I have become close friends with many of the winners as we have traveled together while promoting their winning work in many cities.

I do follow many of our main winners' careers and I am always available for advice and promotion of their works. I try to follow as many winners as I can on social media and promote or comment on their work.

TPL: What are some of your future goals? Are there any new directions you are exploring that you would like to share? How can we all help contribute to their success?

HOSSEIN: I would like to extend the reach of our efforts to other parts of the world, especially in Africa where we have done very little work. My future goal is to build more community centers around the world. Encourage the world to collect and support photography.

A challenge I accepted in 1980 by promoting appreciation of photography with classes and lectures on collecting photography still alive and well 44 years later.

None of what I have done in my career has been done alone. It’s always been with the help of tireless people that gave me the love and energy I would need to take on these major challenges. I would always count on people who share the same passion to help me achieve my future goals. I count on everyone to help me promote photography in their community no matter how big or small and in exchange I will be always available to lend them my hands and my organization's support.

This brilliant new collaboration between The Pictorial List and the International Photography Awards marks a momentous stride in the world of photography. This partnership holds the promise of creating valuable connections between artists and industry. We hope to inspire and nurture critical and creative thinking while fostering the advancement of skill sets giving photographers new ways of engaging their practices in photography. This new expansive platform of support will undoubtedly contribute a positive impact and influence photographers across the globe.
Photo Credits: Robert Leslie and Forecast

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