Calvert 22 Foundation and The Calvert Journal have named Russian photographer Alexey Vasilyev the winner of this year’s New East Photo Prize.
Vasilyev will be awarded the top prize of £1,000 for his project Sakhawood.
Sakhawood invites us behind the scenes of the remarkable independent film industry in Far Eastern Russian region of Yakutia, where several feature length films are shot each year and where local movies outrank international blockbusters. Though the majority of directors and actors that Vasilyev photographs have no formal education in film, Yakutia’s movies have found success at international festivals in Europe and Asia. The movies range from romantic comedies to fairy tales and are based on local legends and beliefs.
“Yakutian films are shot for little money. Film production costs somewhere between 1-2 million rubles (£10,000 - £20,000), which is modest even by most Russian standards,” says Vasilyev, who began his career as a reporter for a local newspaper and whose documentary projects focus on the everyday lives of people in Yakutia.
This region, at the very edge of northern Asia, is frequently associated with its severe climate and gold mining industry. Vasilyev wanted to look beyond these representations and shine a spotlight on its superb cinematic talent.
“Most directors don’t make a living from just making films. That doesn’t stop them in their ambitions to win over audiences in Russia and across the world.”
Two special prizes have also been awarded as part of this year’s competition.
New East Photo Prize judges Davide Monteleone and Spazio Labo presented the Mentorship Award to Uzbek photographer Hassan Kurbanbaev for his series, Logomania: Owning the World at Half Price, while Marina Istomina, originally from Ust-Kut, Siberia, has been awarded a £500 voucher for photography equipment for her series Suffocation.
Launched in 2016, the New East Photo Prize seeks to broaden perceptions of the New East through the medium of photography. This year, the biennial prize received hundreds of entries from 26 New East countries.
The work of all 11 finalists — from Albania, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and Uzbekistan — will be published on The Calvert Journal over the next few weeks. Read our interview with Hungarian finalist András Ladocsi here.