British photographer Jo Longhurst won Canada’s most prestigious photography award, last night, the $50,000 Grange Prize. Longhurst accepted her award in front of a packed museum court at the AGO, where some of photography’s most remarkable contributors watched on. She rose to podium, corrected the pronunciation of her name, and uttered a brief thanks, in a somewhat anticlimactic return to the anticipation. But the party surged on, afterwards, lasting until nearly midnight.
Longhurst was one of four finalists, including Montreal’s Emmanuelle Léonard, Toronto’s Annie MacDonell, and Jason Evans, of Wales. The nominees received $5,000, and all four finalists also receive an artist’s residency at the AGO.
Not only is the Grange Prize Canada’s most prominent recognition of excellence in photography, it is this country’s only art award to be determined by the public. Voting began 10 weeks ago online and in person at the Canada House in London and the Art Gallery of Ontario, where exhibits of all the nominated photographers’ work remain on display until Jan. 6, 2013. Close to 19,000 people voted.
Longhurst’s work focuses on the quest for perfection through series including breeding show dogs (“The Refusal”) and gymnasts (“Other Spaces”). The artist subtly reflects on photography’s role in that pursuit. Longhurst, 50, is a PhD graduate of the Royal College of Art, has exhibited in London, Paris, and Berlin.
The Grange Prize is bi-national, working each year with art experts from a different country. Two nominees are selected from that country and two from Canada. While this year the United Kingdom was the partner, past nominating countries were India, the U.S., Mexico and China. The Prize, sponsored by The Art Gallery of Ontario and Aeroplan, started in 2008.
Longhurst begins a residency at the AGO next week and remains until Dec. 15. Each of the other finalists also earns a residency: Evans will be in Toronto next spring, while the two Canadians will travel to the U.K. in 2013.