2016 First Book Prize in Photography Countdown Highlights Past Winners: From 2004, Steven B. Smith’s “The Weather and a Place to Live”

Louisville, Colorado, 1999. Photograph by Steven B. Smith

Louisville, Colorado, 1999. Photograph by Steven B. Smith

The CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography is a biennial prize that offers publication of a book of photography, a $3,000 award, and inclusion in a website devoted to presenting the work of winners of the prize. Each year a significant and innovative artist, curator, or writer in photography is chosen to judge the prize and write an introduction to the winning book.

In the months preceding the 2016 prize’s submission deadline—September 15—we’re taking a look back at previous winners. In 2004, Maria Morris Hambourg, the founding curator of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, selected Steven B. Smith as the second winner of this prestigious award. In compelling black-and-white photographs, The Weather and a Place to Live: Photographs of the Suburban West (2005) portrays the surreal intersection of suburbia and desert in California, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado, where sprawling suburbs are reconfiguring what was once vast unpopulated territory. Scroll down to watch a video of Steven B. Smith and Maria Morris Hambourg in conversation about his prizewinning project, and go to firstbookprizephoto.com/photogalleries to view work by all past winners.

Steven B. Smith

Steven B. Smith

“My favorite type of photography is documentary in style but tends to be more interesting in book form,” said Smith. “The book confines you to a linear narrative, and that’s what I had in mind for this project. Early on, I wanted to make a larger statement about what is going on in our culture. I wanted to do it with all the great describing, and also confounding, power that photographs have. In my mind, these pictures overlap and talk to each other. The format was an important part of how the whole project came together and went forward. Exhibitions are great, but I feel like the work was created to be a book and is best served by the form. . . . Through a long sequence of pictures, that’s how I started to explore, and that’s also how I started seeing this longer, extended sequence of pictures that’s somewhere between a novel and a poem.”

Submissions for the eighth CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography are now being accepted through September 15, 2016. Peter Barberie, the Brodsky Curator of Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be this year’s prize judge. Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief of the Aperture Foundation, will chair the selection committee that chooses the finalists.

For information on how to apply, and to view galleries of past winners: firstbookprizephoto.com.

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