The Magnificent Spiral (No. 5)

The Clarence John Laughlin Award

The Clarence John Laughlin Award was created by the New Orleans Photo Alliance to support the work of photographers who use the medium as a means of creative expression. It honors the life and work of Clarence John Laughlin (1905-1985), a New Orleans photographer best known for his surrealist images of the American South. The Clarence John Laughlin Award grants one $5000 prize annually to a photographer whose work exhibits sustained artistic excellence and creative vision.

Both emerging and established photographers residing in the U.S. may apply.

The New Orleans Photo Alliance invites photographers working in all mediums, styles and schools of thought to apply. Still images made from all photographic processes, both traditional and digital will be considered. There are no restrictions on subject matter or genres. Traditional, contemporary, avant-garde, creative and experimental works that include old and new processes, mixed techniques, and challenging personal and emotional statements are all welcome. Still photography or photographic techniques should be integral to the works submitted.

The Magnificent Spiral (No. 5)
The Magnificent Spiral (No. 5) by Clarence John Laughlin, 1948. © The Historic New Orleans Collection. Accession number 1981.247.1.981.

2016 Recipient – David Emitt Adams
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2015 Recipient – Adam Davies
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2014 Recipient – Keliy Anderson-Staley
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2013 Recipient – Walker Pickering
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2012 Recipient – Lee Deigaard
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2011 Recipient – Joni Sternbach
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2010 Recipient – Charles Grogg
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About Clarence John Laughlin

For a solid 35 years between 1930 and 1965, Louisiana-born Clarence John Laughlin (14 August 1905—2 January 1985) photographed and wrote about things that interested him and that he thought others should notice, too. A resident of New Orleans from the time he was five years old, Laughlin found hidden meanings and universal truths in a variety of sources: everyday objects, the architecture of New Orleans, Louisiana’s plantations, and Victorian architecture of the United States. All of these topics, and many others, formed the structure of his photographic groups, a system that served to both organize his archive and define it along thematic lines. He interpreted these subjects, and others, through black and white photographs, accompanied by texts he composed to steer the viewer in certain directions about the photographs’ contents. Collage, multiple exposures, combination printing, and hand-coloring were among the tools he incorporated in crafting his pictures.

Laughlin’s insistence on including the texts with the displayed works often drew criticism from curators and fellow photographers, and his unyielding stance on this point may have slowed the recognition of his unique vision, though his 1948 Ghosts Along the Mississippi was critically acclaimed and remained in print for some four decades. In the years following his active photographic career, Laughlin tweaked the codification of his work and continued his writing. In an era where more museums and galleries collected and presented photography exhibitions, Laughlin’s recognition grew. Museums around the world house his prints.

Though not educated past early high school, Laughlin’s vast personal library covering a dizzying array of topics, informed both his writing and picture making. In addition to these two pursuits, book collecting on a large scale was the third leg of his philosophical tripod. Prior to his death, his archive of photographs and writing was acquired by The Historic New Orleans Collection. Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge holds his library.
~John H. Lawrence, The Historic New Orleans Collection

Clarence John Laughlin Award Guidelines

You may view the guidelines online here
You may download a PDF of the guidelines here
You may apply for the Clarence John Laughlin Award here

Please read the guidelines and application requirements thoroughly. If you have any further questions you may contact: