2016 First Book Prize in Photography Countdown Highlights Past Winners: From 2012, Gerard H. Gaskin’s “Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene”

Baby (painted black) walking for tens, Legends Ball, Brooklyn, 2000. Photograph by Gerard H. Gaskin.

Baby (painted black) walking for tens, Legends Ball, Brooklyn, 2000. Photograph by Gerard H. Gaskin.

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. Gerard H. Gaskin was selected as the 2012 prizewinner by renowned curator, historian, and photographer Deborah Willis. Gaskin’s black-and-white and color photographs found in Legendary: Inside the House Ballroom Scene document the African American and Latino house and ballroom community, taken over a twenty-year period in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. “The balls were born out of a need for black and Latino gays to have a safe space to express themselves,” writes Gaskin. “My images try to show a personal and intimate beauty, pride, dignity, courage, and grace that have been painfully challenged by mainstream society.” Willis says that she found Gaskin’s photographs “innovative and spirited,” the images filled with both hope and struggle as “they explore ideas of longing, beauty, and desire.” Scroll down to watch a video and interview with Gerard H. Gaskin about his prizewinning project, and go to firstbookprizephoto.com/photogalleries to view work by all past winners.

Gerard H. Gaskin

Gerard H. Gaskin

“When I was being trained as a photographer, I was taught that book was the culmination of any long-term endeavor, to really complete the project,” said Gaskin. “I also love photography books, I love to just sit and look at pictures, to look at book covers over and over again. I believe that a good book is a book you want to return to. I always wanted to see my images in book format. When you told me I had won, I started to cry like a baby. I just started to think about my life and how hard I had worked to make this happen. I also thought about my mother, who had supported me for so many years. She died three days after I found out I had won.”

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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