International Photography Awards

Out of over 10,000 entries, three of my images have been awarded Honorable Mention Awards in the 2012 International Photography Awards in the following categories:


“Abera”  Fine Art/Portrait, People/Children, People/Portrait


“Bekele”  Fine art/Portrait, People/Portrait


“Lena”  Fine Art/Portrait, People/Children, People/Portrait


See the list of talented finalists here.


Worldwide Photography Biennial Exhibition

One of my favorite images, “Abera”, was selected by Steve McCurry in his list of “special mentions by the juror” category and will be included in the curated exhibit opening at the Borges Cultural Center in December in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This image is dear to me because while I was deep in a remote area of Ethiopia photographing a midwife, I turned around and saw this young boy looking at me with the most intense expression. I had seconds to react, obtain his ok to permit me to photograph him, and not lose that moment where he seems to be looking into my soul.

My focus was off. I usually focus on the eyes, and in this image the center of focus is on his hands. But had I taken longer to compose the shot to my liking, I would have captured an entirely different portrait.

I look at this image almost every day to remind me of the level of humanity that is found in the spirit of the Ethiopian people.

(Funds from any sales of prints are returned to projects in Ethiopia.)


Travel Class!

This week’s travel class at Newspace Center For Photography was a blast! It was filled with wonderful participants and we discussed ways they can finance their travel, how to create a project proposal, tips for traveling to sensitive areas, lighting/composition and how to work with NGOs.

We even got to do a bit of street shooting so they could test out what they learned about engaging subjects!

Check the Class section of my website for upcoming classes.

(iPhone photo)

Critical Mass: Portfolio Pre-Screening

In the last several years, I have been asked to perform portfolios reviews, consult one-on-one with individual photographers, and judge various photography competitions. In each case, I feel honored to provide this service.

And while I try to make some adjustments for each situation, I can’t help but uphold a standard of criteria when I look at photographic work. Sometimes this upsets people greatly, and they defend their work ferociously, even within an entry level photography classroom. This is fine. Others express gratitude for an honest assessment and helping them move into another phase of the development of their work.

I don’t pretend to know everything about photography. I am only one person, with one opinion. However, there are several themes that do seem apparent to me:  Photography has no rules, never tells the entire truth, is bastardized frequently, and love is in the eye of the beholder. I have seen weak work garner stellar awards, and strong work pushed aside.

The truth seems to be that there is more to the picture than the picture.

This month, I am in the process of pre-screening 756 of this year’s Critical Mass entries. Each entry includes ten images and an artist’s statement.  I am halfway finished, and after viewing 387 entries, I am starting to see a pattern regarding how I “judged” the entries. And often, very often, I wish that the artist is sitting right here next to me so I could ask them some questions.

Here are some of those questions. I hope this helps when editing your entries for any competition. As I reflect upon these questions, I realize many things about my own work and how I can alter my approach.

What were you thinking when you came up with this concept? Did you clearly state this in your artist statement?
If you’ve seen it before, are these images similar?
Does your work look strikingly like (blatantly derivative of) someone else’s work that you admire?
What are you really trying to tell your audience?
Do all photos form a song?
Do any of the images feel insincere?
Who is more prominently in focus: your content or your self?
How are these photos surprising?
Is your artist statement descriptive, and not overbearing or self-righteous?
How is your point of view different from others we have seen?
Did you take risks with the subject matter, execution of imagery, post processing?
Does one weak image take the others down?
Even though you captured important subject matter (cancer, crime, death), are the images interesting and different?
Have you gone too far just to be considered “different”?
Is the group of images cohesive?
Is the group of images repetitive?
Have you told anyone to blankly stare into the lens?
Are you trying too hard to solicit emotions from the viewer?
Were you engaged with your subject matter? How so?
Are you trying to please someone?
Have you taken a photo of a photo (or painting, or design) and if so, how have you made this your own image?
Do the images tell us something without having to read the artist statement?

Again, there are no right and wrong answers when creating a body of photographic work. It is yours, and should reflect your voice. But if we present the portfolio to others, especially within a competition, there seems to be another layer of pondering that might be useful in presenting something that is unique and therefore more aptly noticed.

Yoga For The Larger Woman

One of the most gratifying assignments I have had in 2012 is the series of images I created for the “Yoga For The Larger Woman” calendar and video, commissioned by The Yoga Project.

In a country where the beauty norm is often associated with ultra thin bodies, it is inspiring to see these women transcend stereotypes and show the world how they honor their bodies and minds within the practice of yoga.

Many thanks to Lloyd Lemmermann who captured sound, and Nina Johnson who was on hand to offer technical assistance and digital file management. Their support and energy toward the project was profoundly appreciated.

Contact The Yoga Project to order a calendar.  Your support and nod of encouragement means the world to these women who have lowered their blood pressure, discontinued anti-depressants, stopped needing insulin and have enjoyed a variety of other health benefits via their practice of yoga.

An added bonus: Angela Farmer wrote a poem specifically for this project.

View news story here.


Workshop: Teaching Students From The Middle East

Mercy Corps International asked me to teach a photography and storytelling class to 22 students from the Middle East.  Seven countries were represented, and the class was highly energetic and inquisitive.

I was amazed at how quickly the students incorporated various lighting, composition and subject approach techniques into their imagery in such a short period of time.

(Photos by Brynn Opsahl)

Copyright 2017 Joni Kabana. All rights reserved. Site by TD