THE WINNER of the 2020 Aperture Portfolio Prize is Dannielle Bowman. Aperture’s annual international competition aims to “identify trends in contemporary photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition.” Recent bodies of work, made in the past five year and not previously published or displayed prominently are considered. The goal is to discover new talents and exhibit and publish their work.

Bowman’s practice centers people absent from the grand historical narratives. She’s documented monuments and historic landscapes. The prize recognizes “What Had Happened,” a series of photographs that are more personal in nature, exploring displacement, family history, and notions of home captured in the Los Angeles neighborhoods where she grew up—Baldwin Hills, Inglewood, and Crenshaw.

The prize includes a $3,000 cash award and Bowman’s work will be published in Aperture magazine and exhibited at Baxter St. at the Camera Club in New York. It’s a familiar venue, Bowman had a solo show there earlier this year, presenting works from her “What Had Happened” series.

Bowman lives and works in New York. She earned a BFA from The Cooper Union and an MFA from the Yale School of Art (2018). Shortly thereafter, she landed a high-profile assignment, photographing The 1619 Project for The New York Times. Published in August 2019, the project centers the legacy of slavery in the American narrative. Bowman’s image of a dark and ominous expanse of open water illustrated the cover of the Times magazine special issue.


DANNIELLE BOWMAN, “Vision (Bump’N’Curl),” 2019 (digital pigment print, 32 x 40 inches | © Dannielle Bowman


Applicant portfolios were reviewed by Aperture staff and editors. Lesley A. Martin, publisher of the Aperture book program, wrote a statement about Bowman’s winning series. She wrote in part:

    Bowman makes excellent use of the pleasures of photographic space, described in elongated tonal-gradations of black, white, and maximum greys balanced against compositions etched sharply by California-noir shadows—Robert Adams meets Maya Deren in the Los Angeles suburbs. These elements lure the viewer to linger within the work. Aside from the surplus of visual gratification, the work simmers with the tension of a story mostly withheld. What has happened? On one level, these pictures are about the neighborhoods in and around the artist’s family home in Los Angeles. On another, Bowman’s work describes the passage of time and memories of home—or more precisely, the homes one makes on leaving old ones; about the search for better places in which to put down new roots and grow. Dig further, and the work begins to hint at even more specific histories—those of the Great Migration, which drew African Americans from the South (like Bowman’s own grandparents) into not only the North, but also the American West. The clues are not part of the standard-issue, broad brush–stroke narrative of the African American diaspora; they are found in details, such as the framed family photos on the mantle and the bump ’n’ curl hairdo worn by the woman standing on her flamingo bedecked lawn.

There were four runners up for the 2020 prize: Jessica Chou, Daniel Jack Lyons, Gloria Oyarzabal, and Lindley Warren Mickunas. CT


READ MORE about Dannielle Bowman on Culture Type

FIND MORE about Dannielle Bowman on her website


DANNIELLE BOWMAN, “Untitled,” 2019 (digital pigment print, 16 x 20 inches). | © Dannielle Bowman


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