This year marked the third edition of the New East Photo Prize, which celebrates contemporary photography from Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia, and Central Asia. This year’s shortlist includes 11 photographers from Albania, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

Calvert 22 Foundation and The Calvert Journal are proud to announce the finalists of the New East Photo Prize 2020. This year marked the third edition of the competition, which celebrates contemporary photography from Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia, and Central Asia. This year’s shortlist includes 11 photographers from Albania, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

The winners will be announced to the public on 10 November. The biennial prize received over 700 entries this year from 26 New East countries. With a diverse range of works reflecting a whole spectrum of approaches and topics, the New East Photo Prize is a unique glimpse into the identity and self-perception of an underrepresented region and the people who live there. Among the photographers is Russia’s Alexey Vasilyev, who captures a thriving film industry in one of the coldest inhabited places in the world, showing the whimsical sets and costumes among the beguiling landscapes of Yakutia in north-eastern Siberia. Exploring the lived experience of displacement, Justyna Górniak’s (Poland) Haytarma centres on the struggles of Crimea’s indigenous Tatar people who have suffered under Russia’s annexation of their historic homeland. Ilir Tsouko’s (Albania) Starting Over focuses on the residents of conflict-affected areas of Ukraine who are rebuilding their lives in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. Uzbekistan’s Hassan Kurbanbaev turns a satirical eye on the unrelenting obsession with counterfeit luxury among his peers to reveal a deeper crisis of identity. Agnieszka Sejud (Poland) explores overconsumption alongside images of devotion and religious celebrations in a uniformly Catholic country.

“It’s not only interesting to see which themes crop up about the New East, it’s also exciting to see the different ways that artists tackle the same topics. This edition showed that where there are common, unifying concerns, and limitless ways of approaching them,” said Elena Anosova, photographer and judge of the New East Photo Prize.

Agnieszka Sejud (Poland), Hoax. Sejud is a visual artist, activist, and a member of KWAS collective. Her project offers a dizzying view of one of the most devoutly religious countries in Europe. Comprising collages and manipulations, Hoax is a story of excess, where images of religious iconography collide with anxieties over pollution levels, and human greed is represented by plastic waste that spills out in magnificent acid colours.

Agnieszka Sejud, Hoax

Alexey Vasilyev (Russia), Sakhawood. Vasilyev resides in Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic. His documentary work has been published in The Guardian, National Geographic, Wired, and gives a rare glimpse into his remote native region — which happens to be one of the coldest, inhabited places in the world. Sakhawood invites us behind the scenes of Yakutia’s remarkable independent film industry, where 7-10 feature length films are shot per year and where local movies outrank international blockbusters.

Alexey Vasilyev, Sakhawood

András Ladocsi (Hungary), Swallow. Before he came to photography, from the ages of 4 until 18 Ladocsi trained as a professional swimmer, going to the pool before the after school. Swallow is a personal project about his swimming years that evokes a deep sense of warmth and community, and relives experiences the photographer did not notice the first time around.

András Ladocsi, Swallow

Hassan Kurbanbaev (Uzbekistan), Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price. Photography has allowed Kurbanbaev to see his hometown of Tashkent with fresh eyes. Exhibited as part of group show The Real Thing in London in 2020, his ongoing project Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price examines Uzbekistan’s obsession with Western luxury brands through staged photos featuring counterfeit Chanel and Gucci products — and asks whether this is part of a larger crisis of self-identification.

Hassan Kurbanbaev, Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price

Igor Elukov (Russia), The Book of Miracles. Elukov comes from a small village situated along the Peza River, in Russia’s northern Arkhangelsk region, and is currently based in St Petersburg. From 2012 to 2016 he worked on Severe, a series documenting the life of the Russian far North. In 2016, the artist shifted his focus to staged photography, using models and props, and constructed sets. The wintry landscapes in The Book of Miracles are recognisable of Elukov’s earlier work, only this time around, the artist delves into the supernatural—to explore the fragility of life.

Igor Elukov, The Book of Miracles

Ilir Tsouko (Albania), Starting Over: From the Donbass to Chernobyl. Tsouko was born in Albania and grew up in Athens, Greece. Now, based between Berlin and Athens, he covers social and political issues, with an emphasis on migration stories, collaborating with international NGOs and Foundations such as MSF, Mission Lifeline, Border Violence Monitoring. Starting Over centres on the millions of people displaced by the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine who have been forced to resettled in villages around the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Ilir Tsouko, Starting Over: From the Donbass to Chernobyl

János R. Szabó (Hungary), Stories along the Öreg-Túr River. Szabó was born and raised in Kömörő, a small village in north eastern Hungary and moved to Budapest to study photography at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. His rural upbringing plays a major role in his inspiration as an artist, including the Öreg-Túr River, which flows through the villages of his childhood. In this project, the river is as much of a storyteller as Szabó: collecting and connecting memories that reveal something of the livelihoods, professions, enjoyments, and hardships of the people who live along it.

János R. Szabó, Stories along the Öreg-Túr River

Justyna Górniak (Poland), Haytarma. Górniak studied Journalism in her hometown of Lublin, Poland, before studying Democracy and Human Rights at Sarajevo University, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She works on long term personal projects and often deals with topics related to forced displacement. One such project is Haytarma, which tells the story of the tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars—a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula—who had to leave their homes after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Justyna's project has also been featured on Kajet; for a more extensive overview of her project, check this link.

Justyna Górniak, Haytarma

Lilith Matevosyan (Georgia), I had left my home early in the morning. Born in Tbilisi, Matevosyan has lived in St Petersburg, where she studied Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at Fotografika, and Sochi. Her project began as an attempt to explore what it was that made her miss Georgia the most. Piecing together her childhood memories, family archives, and recent portraits—Matevosyan captures not only her personal history, but the story of a generation who had to leave the Caucasus after the collapse of the USSR in search of a better life.

Lilith Matevosyan, I had left my home early in the morning

Marina Istomina (Russia), Suffocation. Istomina is a Moscow-based visual artist working with the topic of memory, particularly related to traumatic experiences. She is originally from Ust-Kut, situated in the region of Irkutsk, which made international headlines in 2019, when wildfires ravaged through Siberia and the Russian Arctic. By August 2019, Russia had declared a state of emergency. Suffocation confronts the media’s erasure of human tampering that led to the disaster: the legislators, ministers, hunters, foresters, firefighters and criminal groups leaders involved in the event.

Marina Istomina, Suffocation

Tomasz Liboska (Poland), Turn Around. Liboska is a winner and finalist of several recognised awards and grants such as Lensculture Visual Storytelling Awards, Leica Oscar Barnack Award, PDN Photo Annual, among others. He lives in Chorzow in Upper-Silesia, and for the last 10 years has been documenting this once-prosperous industrial region of Poland as it searches for a new identity.

Tomasz Liboska, Turn Around