Paula Riff Award

The 2023 Paula Riff Award

The 2023 Winner is Paula McCartney

We’re thrilled to present the 2023 Paula Riff Award Winner! We received hundreds of submissions for this year’s competition from photographers across the country and around the world. Juror Douglas Marshall had quite a challenge selecting a single artist, but after first whittling it down to 24, then 10, then 4 artists, he finally decided on 1. When asked about the jurying process, Douglas said he made a criteria of the aspects that he thought made up Paula Riff’s work… playfulness, handmade, challenging but a little quirky. The Center for Photographic Art and Lenscratch are pleased to announce that Paula McCartney is this year’s winner!

About Paula

Paula McCartney makes photographs, photo-based artist books and ceramics that illustrate her collaborations with the natural world and consider ways that light activates both objects and environments. McCartney holds an MFA in Photography from the San Francisco Art Institute a certificate in Creative Studies from the International Center for Photography, NYC. She has taught at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design since 2007.

McCartney was a 2020/2021 inaugural McKnight Book Artist Fellow at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and has received grants from the Women’s Studio Workshop, the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the McKnight Foundation (2 photography fellowships) and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

She has two published photography monographs: Bird Watching (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010) and A Field Guide to Snow and Ice (Silas Finch, 2014). Her photo artist book/sculputre, Staged Geometries, published by DeMerritt Pauwels Editions, debuted at the CODEX Book Fair in 2022. McCartney’s books are included in the collections of the Walker Art Center, Museum of Modern Art, Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), Brooklyn Museum, New York Public Library, Getty Research Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, among many others.

Artist Statement

In/Direct Alignments combines my photography and ceramic practice to explore the interconnectedness of light and shadow; presence and absence. The series uses the language of black and white analog photography with its negative and positive, minimal palette and strong contrast.

The vertical wall pieces include an unglazed hand built geometric ceramic sculpture (the positive, light, presence) juxtaposed with a photograph of the sculpture’s shadow connecting with the lines of a minimal architectural space in my studio (the negative, dark, absence). The shadow in the photograph expands the form of the sculpture and holds as much presence as the sculpture itself. Presented as a single piece in a custom wood frame, the photograph and sculpture echo each other connecting form, light and time.

The table works are comprised of a geometric hand built ceramic sculpture placed on top of a photograph in a custom wood frame that sits horizontally on a table. The sculpture is positioned into conversation with the lines of light and shadow in the photograph. At times it almost feels as if the ceramic object is casting a shadow on the photographic paper. While the photograph is always a record of a past observation of light, the sculpture’s dimensional presence brings the experience into the present.

These abstract works dialog with my concrete experiences as a mother, satisfying a continuous yearning for balance and connection. As with the object’s relationship to light and shadow, an inseparable connection exists between my son and me. The photographs record and cement a carefully composed, fleeting moment of natural light and shadow. I can predict where the light will project but cannot control its duration. The ceramic sculptures are deliberately placed to align and connect, cementing a peaceful existence and clear dialog that I constantly strive for but often miss in my relationship with my son.

Creating these works fulfills a deep need to make work with my hands. As I moved to print my photographs digitally, working with clay to make ceramic sculptures that extend the conversation in the photographs as well as making the custom frames for the works provided a way add a handmade materiality to my work.

(Click on a gallery image, below, to see a larger version.)


About Paula Riff

Paula Riff was a Los Angeles based artist known for creating one of a kind camera-less photographic works on paper that embrace bold colors, form and design. She combined the historical processes of cyanotype and gum bichromate allowing her a physical and intimate relationship with the materials that she used to push the boundaries of the medium while considering themes of abstraction and the natural world.

Her work was selected for the Critical Mass Top 50 Award in 2018 and 2019, and she was a 2018 finalist for the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women in the Alternative Process Category. Paula also received the Museum Purchase Award at the Medium Photo Festival in 2019. Her work has appeared in numerous museums, galleries, publications, and exhibitions throughout the U.S and internationally, and is also held in private collections.

2023 Paula Riff Award Juror

Douglas Marshall is the owner and director of Marshall Gallery in Santa Monica, California, established in 2019. The gallery works to promote the work of emerging and mid-career artists working in process-driven, photo-based approaches, with an emphasis on printmaking craftsmanship and conceptual innovation. The gallery seeks to expand the conversation about photography’s ever-evolving place in contemporary art and its role in shaping our collective memory. Prior to working independently, Marshall was the Director for Peter Fetterman Gallery (2012-2017) where he executed nearly sixty exhibitions and international art fairs exhibiting renowned photographers such as Sebastião Salgado, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael Kenna and Steve McCurry among many others. Marshall’s curatorial interests today focus on emerging artist’s whose photographic projects blend with other media such as painting, installation, sculpture and digital art.