Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography 2015 Grantee Cate Sampson All The Place You’ve Got

Juror's Statement

by Emma Raynes
Director of Programs, Magnum Foundation

Cate Sampson’s, All the Place You’ve Got, grants us access to a haunting liminal space where we experience cultural persistence as well as a pervasive anxiety about an uncertain future. The photographic process Sampson has chosen to use for this story, a relatively fragile historical process, ensures that the viewer feels this tension between the solidity of the moment depicted in the image and the instability of the ecology and society she documents.  The medium hints at the struggle for sustained life, but does not surrender to it. The way I see it, this work is primarily about perseverance.

The apparatus of image capture for the dry-plate process that Sampson uses can be cumbersome, demanding that she slows down and stays a while wherever she works.  Perhaps the process also offers a beneficial clumsiness that extends conversations and allows the vulnerability of the photographer and the often-shrouded process of image making to be demystified and physically present, in plain sight, for the subjects and the onlookers to observe. I am imagining that this slow process opens a space for unscripted interaction, and for gestures and utterances that may not otherwise emerge from within the well-rehearsed photographer-subject performance that circumscribes most corners of the practice of photography as a documentary form.

Sampson’s commitment to collect oral histories will bring an essential temporal depth and historical perspective to the photographs that will allow viewers the ability see and feel the cultural and environmental disruption that has occurred over time. The photographer’s intention to build a site-specific home for the body of work within the wetlands will also allow the work to maintain a life and continued vitality beyond the state of a static photo-essay. The photographs as situated objects will give the work a place to live within the cultural fabric of their origins, allowing for interpretation and re-interpretation by the communities and environments depicted in the images.

Congratulations to all of the Finalists in the 2015 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography

Jeremiah Ariaz

Lance Rosenfield

Sampson's Project Proposal

All images © Cate Sampson