2016 First Book Prize in Photography Countdown Highlights Past Winners: From 2008, Jennette Williams’ “The Bathers”

Budapest, 2004. Photograph by Jennette Williams.

Budapest, 2004. Photograph by Jennette Williams.

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, we’re taking a look back at previous winners. Jennette Williams was selected as the 2008 prizewinner by celebrated photographer Mary Ellen Mark. Williams drew on gestures and poses found in iconic paintings of nude women for her stunning platinum prints in The Bathers (2009, CDS and Duke University Press). She traveled to Budapest and Istanbul for eight years to photograph public baths and the women bathers who unapologetically inhabit and display their bodies with comfort and ease. “The Bathers questions what makes for beauty in women,” said Williams. “I don’t really have an answer to that, but I know that it has something to do with an acceptance of one’s form, being within a community of women, and living in, rather than fighting against, your body.” The acclaimed book was widely reviewed and was featured in The New Yorker and Photo District News, among other publications. Scroll down to watch a video and interview with Jennette Williams about her prizewinning project, and go to firstbookprizephoto.com/photogalleries to view work by all past winners.

Jennette Williams

Jennette Williams

“This was the third or fourth time I applied for this prize, and I’m glad I did,” said Williams. “All photographers—I won’t speak for everyone—but most photographers I know want to see their work published, because it’s a way of getting work out of the box in your apartment or studio, out of the box in your gallery, to have the work accessible and seen. . . . I wanted to honor the subjects that I was photographing, which were women who were very comfortable in their bodies, which I was not or had ever been. . . . The Bathers questions what makes for beauty in women. I don’t really have an answer to that, but I know that it has something to do with an acceptance of one’s form, being within a community of women, and living in, rather than fighting against, your body.”

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.

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