Interview with Steven Music - Organiser of Skin, Visible White Photo Prize 2016

For this interview we spoke to Steven Music (founder of Celeste Network and Celeste Prize) with regards to the upcoming contemporary art award Skin, Visible White Photo Prize 2016 which he is organizing. The award is open to and supports emerging  artists worldwide.

SG: The celeste competitions are widely recognised and highly regarded open calls and have been for many years. How did you come up with the idea?

SM: I wanted to shake up the way in which selections in art prizes were made. Elitist systems in which handpicked or invite only winners were fed down to participating artists, quite frankly nauseated me. The selection process is at it's sharpest in Celeste Prize, where roles and choices are divided between jurors and finalist artists in order to arrive at the winners.

SG: What do you think makes the Skin, Visible White Photo Prize 2016, different from other opens?

SM: It's the artistic perspective on photography which makes the difference. Visible White Photo Prize is one of the few, international photography prizes which each year takes a close look at a pertinent theme, inviting photographers to engage from an artists' point of view with top quality works in photography. 

SG: How many people are involved in creating this open call and how long does it take to plan it?

SM: Each edition of Celeste Prize or Visible White takes the best part of a year to organise, of course we are working on the prizes and programming for Celeste Network in parallel. I like to have a strong, legitimated jury team (mainly top international curators), in which artists and photographers recognise in each juror a true contribution to current, artistic practice in his or her everyday career work. In Celeste staff we are in 6: 3 full, 3 partime. Celeste Prize juries can vary from between 12-15 jurors, while this year we have 7 jurors in Visible White.

SG: What advice would you give someone entering the competition?

SM: Check, that you understand exactly the selection process and that you agree with it; what you get in return for participating; if in the past the organiser has delivered all he or she has promised; and of course the quality of jurors and their track record. Issues of how much promotion and contact an applicant receives, important as they are, should follow the above.

SG: How does the selection process work? Are there particular characteristics that you and the jury look for? 

SM: Since 2006, Celeste Prize divides selection of finalist works and winners into two distinct and separate phases. The aim is to keep jurors from deciding the winners, while at the same time recognising their role in guaranteeing a strong and interesting selection of finalist works. In the second phase, the very 55 finalist artists, in a secret vote during the final exhibition, determine winners in each of the 6 prize categories. We oblige jurors to publish all their choices for finalist works. They do this without consulting fellow jurors. In this way choices are made independently and form the basis for a purer, more widespread shortlist of finalist works. Contemporary work and vision are what our juries are looking for in works. I personally do not get involved in any of the choices. I'm the founder and organiser, who ensures all that's promised in the prizes' terms and conditions is delivered: openess, legitimacy, access, participation and rule: mine is an administrative, armslength role, which bolsters the dissemination of jurors' choices, I hope to the advantage of artists.

SG: Is there one image that has stood out and you still able to visualise from all of the entries that you’ve seen over the years?

The Dead Sea will be a lot of fun by Piero Steinle

The Dead Sea will be a lot of fun by Piero Steinle

SM: Is there one image that has stood out and you still able to visualise from all of the entries that you’ve seen over the years?
I enjoy very much the humour and hope in Piero Steinle's work 'The Dead Sea will be a lot of fun'.

Visible White Photo Prize 2016, 5th edition:
Celeste Prize 2016, 8th edition: