2021 Nominees

The 2021 Scotiabank Photography Award Nominees represent the result of an annual Canada-wide search for excellence. The Scotiabank Photography Award is peer-reviewed at every stage of the nomination and adjudication process and nominees must meet eligibility criteria.

Vikky Alexander 

Photo credit: David McCoy

Vikky Alexander is a critically acclaimed international artist.

A leading figure in the field of photo-conceptualism, Alexander works with photography, sculpture and installation. Her art is at once both seductive and disruptive: she likes to situate the viewer with idealized spaces that reflect our aspirations and utopian desires. She has received numerous awards, most recently a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship. In 2019 she had a solo survey exhibition ‘Extreme Beauty’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery, curated by Daina Augaitis, accompanied by a 160-page catalogue. 

Alexander’s work has been exhibited at venues including The Whitney Museum of American Art, DIA Art Foundation, White Columns, The New Museum and the International Center of Photography in New York, Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Canada House, London, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Musée d’art Contemporain, Montreal and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Her works are included in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography, Musée d’art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, and the National Gallery of Canada, among numerous others. Upcoming presentations of her work include exhibitions at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg and Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano.

After 25 years in Vancouver, teaching photography at the University of Victoria, she recently moved to Montreal.

She is represented by Cooper Cole, Toronto, Downs & Ross, New York, Trépanier Baer, Calgary and Wilding Cran, Los Angeles.

Jeff Bierk

Photo credit: Barbara Stoneham

Jeff Bierk (b. 1982, Peterborough, ON) is a photo based artist, living in Toronto. He is co-founder of the Jimmy James Evans Friendly Meeting Place and Centre for the Arts (1616 Dupont). Predominantly known for his portraiture, Bierk’s work poses serious questions about the ethics of street photography and photojournalism. His work has been exhibited nationally, engaging themes that grapple with grief,

addiction, homelessness, and settler colonial constructs of beauty and masculinity. Through a practice of collaborative photography, Bierk and his collaborators disrupt the formal definition and economics of photojournalism, and problematize the idea of the photographer as sole author of the photograph.

Jeff Bierk

Deanna Bowen 

2021 Scotiabank Photography Award winner

Deanna Bowen is a descendant of two Alabama and Kentucky born Black Prairie pioneer families from Amber Valley and Campsie, Alberta. Bowen’s family history has been the central pivot of her auto-ethnographic interdisciplinary works since the early 1990s. She makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. In recent years, her work has involved close examination of her family’s migrations and their connections to Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley and Black Strathcona, the “all-Black” towns of Oklahoma, the Kansas Exoduster migrations and the Ku Klux Klan in Canada and the United States. She has received numerous awards over the course of her career including a 2020 Governor General Award for Visual and Media Arts Award, a 2016 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. Her writing, interviews and art works have been published in Canadian Art, The Capilano Review, The Black Prairie Archives, and Transition Magazine. Bowen is editor of the 2019 publication Other Places: Reflections on Media Arts in Canada. Deanna is represented by MKG127 Gallery.

Sara Cwynar 

Photo credit: Sara Cwynar  

Sara Cwynar (b. 1985 ,Vancouver, BC) currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Design from York University and an MFA in Photography from Yale University. Her work in photography, video and book-making involves a constant archiving and re-presentation of collected visual materials. She explores the way that images morph, accumulate, endure and change in meaning and value over time, and the effect this has on a collective worldview.

Solo exhibitions of Cwynar’s work have been presented at Remai Modern, Saskatoon; The Polygon Gallery, North Vancouver; Oakville Galleries, ON; The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, USA; Minneapolis Institute of Art, USA; MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Germany; and Foam Photography Museum, The Netherlands. Cwynar’s work has been featured in group exhibitions including Subjektiv, Malmö Konsthall (2017), Sweden; L’Image Volée (2016), Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy; and Greater New York (2015), MoMA PS1, USA. Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario; The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2014, she published her first book Kitsch Encyclopedia with Blonde Art Books, and her first monograph, Glass Life is scheduled to be published by Aperture in spring 2021. She is a former staff graphic designer at the New York Times Magazine.

Will Gill 

Will Gill earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mount Allison University in 1991, with a focus on sculpture. Gill has maintained a studio practice since graduation, evolving from a solely sculptural exploration, to one that encompasses photography, painting, sculpture and video work. His work is an ever-changing search for poetic connections in the world, with recent pursuits exploring aspects of solitude, resilience and transcendence. He was named to the long-list of the Sobey Art Award in the 2004 and 2006 competitions. Career highlights include a commission for a large-scale installation at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche (2012), inclusion in a collateral exhibition at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), participation in The Arctic Circle Artist Residency in Svalbard Norway (2014) and a solo exhibition in the 2017 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in Toronto . In the summer of 2017 he installed a site-specific sculpture in Maberly, NL, as part of the inaugural Bonavista Biennale. The most recent body of work, From The Lions Den, stemmed from a Fogo Island Arts residency (2017) and was exhibitied at The Grenfell Art Gallery Memorial University in 2020. His work has been disseminated widely and is in many public, private and corporate collections. Works by Gill are available exclusively through The Christina Parker Gallery in St John’s. 

He lives and works in St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. 

Annie MacDonell 

Photo Credit: Julia Hendrickson

Shortlisted for the 2021 Photography Award

Annie MacDonell is a visual artist and filmmaker. In her work she employs a range of media and strategies to interrogate the recent past and better understand the present. Her early training was in photography, and the image continues to play a central role in her projects. Her work also includes installation, sculpture, writing, and performance. In recent years, film has become a focus. Her films (sometimes produced with collaborator Maïder Fortuné) have an auto-theoretical basis and are shaped by feminists principles of politics as a daily practice. Writing is central to the films, as are MacDonell’s interest in experimental film and literature. 

Annie MacDonell received a BFA from Ryerson University in 2000, followed by graduate studies at Le Fresnoy, Studio National des Arts Contemporains, in France. Her films "Book of Hours" (2019) and "Communicating Vessels" (with Maïder Fortuné , 2020) have screened extensively internationally. She has upcoming solo shows at the Audain Gallery SFU, Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery and the RMG Gallery, Oshawa. Recent solo shows have been held at Gallery 44, Parisian Laundry, the AGO, and the Art Gallery of Mississauga. She has participated in group shows at The Art Museum of the University of Toronto, CAG Vancouver and Mackenzie Art Gallery. Recent performances have been presented at Nuit Blanche Toronto, le Centre Pompidou and the Toronto International Film Festival. In 2012 she was short-listed for the AGO AIMIA prize for photography, and she was long listed for the Sobey Art Award in 2012, 2015 and 2016. In 2020, she and Fortuné won the Tiger Award for Best Short Film at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, for their film “Communicating Vessels”. 

Annie MacDonell lives in Toronto with her family and is an Assistant Professor at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts. She is a founding member of Emilia Amalia, a feminist research and writing group.

Dawit L. Petros 

Photo credit: Wills Glasspiegel 

Shortlisted for the 2021 Photography Award

Dawit L. Petros’s work is informed by studies of global modernisms, theories of diaspora, and postcolonial studies. Throughout the past decade, he has focused on a critical re-reading of the entanglements between colonialism and modernity. These concerns derive from lived experiences: Petros is the child of Eritrean emigrants, and spent formative years in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Kenya before settling in central Canada. The overlapping cultures, voices, and tenets of this constellation produced a dispersed consciousness, global and transnational in stance and outlook. His works aim for an introspective and textured analysis of the historical factors that produced these migratory conditions. Petros installs photographs, moving images, sculptural objects, and sound work according to performative, painterly, or site responsive logics. Moving between the works echoes the extensive travel taken to produce them; while recurrent visual or formal devices quietly indicate the complex backdrops against which his projects are set. 

Recent exhibition venues include Oslo Kunstforening, Oslo, Norway; 13th Biennial of Havana, Matanzas; The Kansas City Art Institute’s H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO; Huis Marseille Museum of Photography, Amsterdam, NL; The Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University, Athens, OH; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC; The National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC; The Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, MI; The Durban Art Gallery in Durban, SA; Medina Galerie Mediatheque in Bamako, Mali; The Royal Ontario Museum of Art in Toronto, ON and The Lianzhou International Photo Festival in Lianzhou, China. His works have been recognized with awards including an Independent Study Fellowship at the Whitney Museum of American Art, an Art Matters Fellowship, Canada Council for the Arts Production Grants, and Artist Residencies at The Studio Museum in Harlem, The McColl Center for Visual Art, and Addis Ababa Photo Fest. 

Dawit L. Petros is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented by Tiwani Contemporary in London, UK and Bradley Ertaskiran in Montreal, Canada. 

Ned Pratt 

Ned Pratt was born and currently lives in Newfoundland. His innate understanding of the province’s beautiful but harsh landscape creates a foundation for his minimal, striking photographs. Pratt will often revisit a subject several times over the span of a few years before capturing an image that contains the right balance of composition, colour and light. His playful use of perspective and vantage point transforms photographs of familiar landmarks into elegant abstractions.

Ned Pratt was born in 1964. He holds a BFA in photography from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His work is held in many prominent collections including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax and The Rooms, Newfoundland. Pratt was awarded the 2017 Large Year Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts from the VANL (Visual Artists Newfoundland & Labrador) CARFAC. In 2018, Pratt’s first touring survey exhibition One Wave was held at The Rooms, the provincial art gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, before touring to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. 

Carol Sawyer  

Photo Credit: Michael O'Connell 

Carol Sawyer is a Vancouver-based visual artist, performer and singer. She has exhibited her photographic, installation, and video work across Canada, and has completed several Public Art commissions in Vancouver. With her band ion Zoo, she has recorded three CDs of original improvised music. She is currently working on an LP, titled the Natalie Brett Quartet, which will be released in 2021.

Sawyer’s long-term project the Natalie Brettschneider Archive was exhibited recently at the Koffler Gallery in Toronto, Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Each iteration of the project incorporated extensive research about lesser-known local histories and local creative women. The book Carol Sawyer: the Natalie Brettschneider Archive, coordinated by the Carleton University Art Gallery, and produced in conjunction with the Koffler, AGGV, and VAG, was published in 2020.

Sawyer was awarded an Honours Diploma in Photography upon graduating from Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1982, and completed an interdisciplinary MFA at the School for Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in 1998, combining studies in critical theory, music, theatre, video, and visual art. She has taught at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and Simon Fraser University. In 2017 the Canada Council awarded Sawyer the Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography. She is represented by Republic Gallery in Vancouver.

Carol Sawyer

Greg Staats 

Photo Credit: Brittany Lucas 

Shortlisted for the 2021 Photography Award

Greg Staats is Skarù:reˀ [Tuscarora] / Kanien’kehá:ka [Mohawk], Hodinöhsö:ni’. b. 1963, Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. A Toronto based artist whose Hodinöhsö:ni restorative aesthetic employs mnemonics of condolence, articulated in visual forms that hold body and place including: oral transmission, text works, embodied wampum, photographic, sculpture, installation and video. Staats' practice conceptualizes Land as monument embodied within a continuum of relational placemaking with his on-reserve lived experience, trauma, and the explorations of ceremonial orality. Staats’ lens-based language documents cycles of return towards a complete Onkwehón:we neha [our original ways] positionality, reciprocity and worldview.

Greg Staats, active since 1981 studied Applied Photography, Sheridan College, ON is the recipient of the Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography. Solo exhibitions include: articule, Montreal, Kelowna Art Gallery, Urban Shaman Gallery, Winnipeg, MN, Tom Thomson Gallery, McMaster Museum of Art, KWAG, Mercer Union, Gallery TPW, G44, Trinity Square Video/Images Festival. Galerie Séquence, QC. Group exhibitions include; AGYU, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, National Gallery of Canada, Varley Art Gallery of Markham [OAAG award 2019], MOCNA, Sante Fe. Staats was Faculty for two Aboriginal VA Residencies, Banff Centre: Archive Restored (2009) and Towards Language (2010). Staats’ works are held in public, private and corporate collections. Upcoming solo exhibitions: Art Gallery of Ontario, CONTACT Photo Festival at Todmorden Mills. [2021] and Art Gallery of Hamilton, ON (2023). Staats has been shortlisted for the 2021 Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University.

Jeff Thomas 

Photo credit: Jeff Thomas 

Jeff Thomas (b. 1956, Buffalo, New York) is an urban-based Iroquois, self-taught photo-based story teller, writer, pubic speaker, and curator, living in Ottawa, Ontario, and has works in major collections in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Jeff's most recent solo shows were Birdman Rising, University of Southern Illinois, A Necessary Fiction: My Conversation with Edward S. Curtis & George Hunter, Art Gallery of Mississauga, The Dancing Grounds, Wanuskewin Heritage Park (Saskatoon), , and Resistance Is NOT Futile, Stephen Bulger Gallery (Toronto). Thomas has also been in many group shows, including  The Family Camera, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971-1989, Art Gallery of Ontario, Land/Slide: Possible Futures, Markham, Ontario, SAKAHÀN, National Gallery of Canada, UNMASKING: Arthur Renwick, Adrian Stimson, Jeff Thomas, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France. In 1998, he was awarded the Canada Council's Duke and Duchess of York Award in Photography, Royal Canadian Academy of Art (2008), The Karsh Award in photography (2008), the REVAL Indigenous Art Award (2017), and the Canada Council Governor General Award in the Visual and Digital Arts (2019).