A distinguished jury comprised of James Estrin (The New York Times), Christopher Anderson (Magnum Photos), Arianna Rinaldo (Cortona On The Move Festival), and Roberto Huarcaya (Centro de la Imagen de Lima) has awarded Tomas van Houtryve the PMH 2015 Grant first prize ($2000) for his series Blue Sky Days.
Reflecting on the darker uses of photography in the twenty-first century, with a specific focus on the American drone war, Tomas van Houtryve’s Blue Sky Days considers the tools of state power and the gap in public understanding of contemporary imaging technologies. To open up a visual narrative on these issues, van Houtryve deployed his own drone – equipped with a high resolution camera – above the skies of America and captured scenes reminiscent of those targeted by the US military during their conflicts in Pakistan and Yemen. The resulting images bring clandestine war and the growing nature of surveillance into common consciousness.
Blue Sky Days was selected as the winner from 994 entries by Christopher Anderson, photographer and member of Magnum Photos; James Estrin, co-editor of The New York Times Lens Blog; Arianna Rinaldo, Director of Cortona On The Move Festival; and Roberto Huarcaya, Director of Centro de la Imagen de Lima. Estrin said of the winning series: “Blue Sky Days is one of the most important photo essays done in the last few years. It tackles issues that are very difficult to photograph but central to modern existence – privacy, government intrusion, and modern antiseptic warfare.”