Eva O’Leary wins Photography Grand Prix at Hyères
Eva O’Leary, an Irishwoman who speaks with an American accent, has won the 2018 Grand Prix for Photography at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Accessories.
“We were all very impressed by the beauty of your work and wish you a future successful career,” said Bettina Rheims, the president of a distinguished jury that included stylist Bill Mullen, designer Jean Colonna and model/artist Saskia de Brauw, as she handed O’Leary the silver palm prize on Sunday evening.
O’Leary presented a series named Spitting Images of bold images of full color portraiture of young women. Shot via a two-way mirror with a glowing computer screen blue backdrop they capture a certain moment of quiet, even if concerned, pride.
“Many of my shots use mirrors. Though, I guess a lot of the work I have been doing has been shooting people of the Instagram era and figuring out how photograph beauty in a way that is color blind,” said O’Leary, who showed a video installation of changing characters beside her five main portraits.
Staged over four days in the Villa de Noailles, a legendary Modernist villa, the Hyères festival climaxes each year with a multiple runway show of its 10 fashion candidates; before almost a dozen prizes are handed out for fashion, accessories and photography.
Born to an Irish mother O’Leary grew up in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, before going on to study at the California College of Arts and at Yale. She was one of 10 photography candidates, a further three of which were awarded prizes.
Sarah Mei Herman of Holland won the American Vintage Photography Prize for a beautiful coming of age series on Asian youth searching for romance. Csilla Klenyanski of Hungary won the Still Life Prize for her shots of people, furniture, fruit and hats perched in improbable balancing positions. And Sanna Lehto of Finland scooped the Prix du Public – Ville d’Hyères, which is voted on by the general public, and not the official jury, with “Morphologies,” her acute portrait series including a remarkable Arcimboldo image of a bearded man seemingly sprouting flowers from his face.
O’Leary’s victory marks the second year in a row that an Irish person has won the top award, one of the most prestigious prizes in photography for young talent. Last year, Dublin-born Daragh Soden won first prize.
The winner is invited back each year to stage a personal exhibition, themed around the region. Soden displayed a fine series of images of Toulon, the nearby port that is the main headquarters of the French Navy. His images included clear-eyed shots of youthful sailors, bearded officers, destroyers and kids diving into saltwater pools capturing the insouciance of one of a uniquely beautiful corner of our planet.
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