Set in Maine’s coastal town of Rockport, Maine Media Workshops + College (MMW) is one of the world’s top art and visual storytelling schools. Each year MMW awards the second largest prize in the U.S.–the annual $20,000 Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture.
On its 12th year, the prize was awarded to Rashod Taylor, an emerging contemporary photographer using the “frameworks and methods allied with the history of fine art portraiture” that explores a personal narrative on the “under-addressed chapter of the United States: The Black American experience” focusing on father and son relationship. The three Finalists selected are Golden, Christian K Lee and Donavon Smallwood. With an exhibition opportunity at the Griffin Museum of Photography, the prize serves as a “launching pad for the next phase” of the artists’ careers.
The prize is awarded to a photographer whose work not only demonstrates a “compelling new vision in the genre of portraiture” but similar to Arnold Newman’s work, expands the boundaries of portraiture. Starting in late 1970’s and continuing for over 30 years, Arnold Newman and his wife Augusta traveled from New York City each summer to join renowned photographers and teach at the Maine Photographic Workshops, now called Maine Media Workshops + College.
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In an interview with Elizabeth Greenberg, MMW Provost who teaches workshops in Maine and Hawaii, as well as part of the certificate and MFA programs, we discussed her role in organizing the country’s second largest prize in honor of her former mentor, Arnold Newman’s memory.
Jackie Abramian: How did you first get involved with Maine Media Workshop (MMW)?
Elizabeth Greenberg: I learned about Maine Media Workshops (formerly The Maine Photographic Workshops), while a student at Rhode Island School of Design. When a friend told me that I absolutely had to go there, I “borrowed” a copy of a catalog and as soon as I saw that all my photography heroes were teaching there, including Arnold Newman, I knew I had to go. I spent my first summer after graduation from RISD working at the workshops as an intern. That was 31 years ago.
Abramian: How did you come to know Arnold Newman–who became your mentor.
Greenberg: The first 10 of my 31 years with MMW were in summer positions. My second summer I was a Teaching Assistant and had the opportunity to assist Arnold Newman. At the end of that workshop, just before Labor Day, he offered me the position as his assistant and studio manager. By the following Monday, I was in New York City, sleeping on my friend’s sofa and working for Arnold. While based in NYC for 10 years, I spent my summers at MMW. Not long after, I also began to teach.
I spent four years working full-time with Arnold, and another six freelancing on his special projects, or photo shoots. Arnold was notorious for being miserable to work for and most assistants did not last more than a few months–somehow, we got along just fine.
Abramian: How was the Arnold Newman Prize initiated?
Greenberg: Arnold and his wife Augusta (Gus) were like surrogate parents to me. I got to know their two sons and grandchildren. When Arnold passed away in 2006, and Gus in 2009, I remained in touch with their sons who formed the Arnold and Augusta Newman Foundation. I started working with them, and the Foundation. We created the Arnold Newman Prize in 2009–it was first awarded in 2010 and initially administered through Photo District News (PDN). I was responsible for securing the jurors and overseeing the final jurying to determine the awardee.
Abramian: How many years have you been involved as the provost of the Arnold Newman Prize?
Greenberg: Maine Media has gone through many transitions throughout the years, my position also changed. I was promoted to the Provost in 2019 when a new president was hired.
In 2016, the Foundation approached MMW to host and administer the annually funded prize, and scholarships at the school. In 2020, the Foundation gifted an $1.125 million endowment to MMW to offer the prize and scholarships in perpetuity–or at least for a very long time. When we received the endowment (which does not fund the Provost position), the board voted to name the Provost position in honor of the endowment and to secure stewardship for the prize and scholarships.
It was personally very meaningful to me, given my close relationship to Arnold. I am very pleased to have his legacy so visible and know the stewardship of the prize will be secure long after my service.
Abramian: How involved are you with the selection of the awardees and jurors?
Greenberg: The administration of the prize is only one component of the rest of my responsibilities -though definitely one of the most gratifying! We created an Advisory Group to develop the prize, process, and to nominate jurors. The jurying process, while administered by MMW staff, is independent of the school. Neither MMW staff nor I are involved in the final selection of the winner and finalists.
Abramian: How do you ensure equity and diversity when selecting jurors and awardees?
Greenberg: In selecting jurors, we work with individuals who represent the many areas of photography field – curators, editors, critics, photographers, publishers, and others who can provide opportunities not only to the winner and finalists, but to other work reviewed, though not officially recognized through the prize. We strive to represent all forms of diversity in our panel of jurors.
This year we waived the $55 fee for several organizations, including Indigo Arts Alliance, Authority Collective, Diversify Photo, Women Photograph, Indigenous Photograph, Foto Feminas, and Black Women Photographers. Each of these organizations nominated two of their members to submit work.
Social change has had the greatest impact on photography, transforming style and content. While many different styles of work are being made, issues of identity are more prevalent now than ever. This is also reflected in the 2021 prize winner and finalists. I think Arnold would be very proud and pleased by the work that has been celebrated in his name and legacy.
Abramian: How does the Arnold Newman Prize advance the winning photographers’ career path?
Greenberg: It is the Foundation’s desire, and the Advisory Committee (including both of Arnold’s sons, Paula Tognarelli, Director of the Griffin Museum, photographers Joyce Tenneson and Gregory Heisler, Gallery Director Juli Lowe, me, and MMW president, Michael Mansfield) that the prize advances a photographer’s career and hopefully provides new opportunities for ongoing work.
I am very pleased to say that nearly all the recipients have continued to expand their work and careers. Many currently teach or have taught workshops at MMW and other schools and offer lectures nationwide and the worldwide. The Advisory Group hopes to organize a more formal “alumni” group of the past winners.
Abramian: What do winners receive beyond the $20K prize and being exhibited?
Greenberg: The winner receives a cash award of $20,000. The finalists don’t receive cash awards -though we would like to continue to add benefits for the finalists. Each year all the winning works are exhibited at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA, concurrent with an awards ceremony that was held in person this year!
Abramian: How has your career as a photographer been influenced by Arnold Newman? Does your photography following Newman’s motto of taking “pictures with your mind and your heart.”?
Greenberg: I think, rather I know, that Arnold has influenced many facets of my career and life. During my time working with him, we traveled extensively, and I had many extraordinary experiences and opportunities to meet world leaders, artists, and individuals who shaped the 20th century into the 21st. Though I completed my MFA after working with Arnold, I believe my real education came from him, and his work. Certainly, my artistic practice was heavily influenced by him. Not by genre since I don’t make portraits, but yes, his motto of taking pictures “with you heart and your mind” is very much how I work and teach.
Abramian: With digital photography the norm now, has photography gone through a transformation of style and content and quality?
Greenberg: Indeed, photography has changed dramatically over the years. Throughout its history, it has evolved through technical changes, so digital was only another evolution forward. Access to photography, through the breadth of tools and use of the medium, has been tremendous, and yes, changed the style and content of the work. For me at least, in positive ways.
Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackieabramian/2021/10/21/maine-media-workshops-20k-arnold-newman-prize-celebrates-new-directions-in-photographic-portraiture/2197