The Tim Hetherington Trust has given its third annual Tim Hetherington Visionary Award to Omar Imam for his series “Syrialism,” which features constructed portraits of Syrians in exile. Imam receives 15,000 Pounds (about $19,200 US) to continue the work. The Trust also chose to award a supplementary grant of 5,000 pounds (about $6,400 US) to Andrea Ellen Reed, for her video “Unsighted.” The awards were announced on April 20 at the Frontline Club in London and later via video at the Bronx Documentary Center, founded by photographer Mike Kamber.
The Visionary Award honors the memory of Tim Hetherington, an innovative photographer and filmmaker killed April 20, 2011 in Misrata, Libya.
In a statement, Judith Hetherington, co-founder of the Trust, noted that both Imam and Reed address issues facing fractured societies. The Syrian-born, Amsterdam-based Imam interviews members of the Syrian diaspora, and then constructs photos based on their stories, giving them “a chance to represent themselves,” via phone from Lebanon. He has photographed pacifists and jihadists, pro- and anti-government partisans, and hopes to challenge the perceptions Syrians have of other Syrians, which have been influenced by propaganda. Stephen Mayes, executive director of the Trust, said Iman’s work has been described as “documentary surrealism.” Imam noted, “Sometimes to describe an odd situation, surrealism is the best solution.” He added, “I use images to provoke questions. With Instagram, people like to look at pictures more than read books.”
Reed, who is based in Minneapolis, said in a video statement she began working on her “multi-sensory project” in 2015, “because racial tension had reached a boiling point” in the U.S. following the police shootings of unarmed black men. The video shows Reed, illuminated by the light from a television, watching clips of white political pundits, civil rights leaders, activists and politicians, until she cries and her image begins to dissolve. “With the help of the Trust, I can work with collaborators…to get the work out to the world,” said Reed.
Other shortlisted nominees for the 2017 Visionary Award were Laia Abril, Poulomi Basu, and Zackary Canepari.
The judges for the 2017 award were Liza Faktor, producer and curator of Screen; filmmaker Idil Ibrahim; Hilary Roberts, research curator at the Imperial War Museums; and Louis-Richard Tremblay, a producer of interactive experiences.