PhotoNOLA 2009 Review Prize


At the close of the PhotoNOLA Portfolio Review, each reviewer is asked to select three favorites from the work they have seen. The photographer earning the most votes wins the PhotoNOLA Review Prize, which includes a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery during the following December and a cash award of $1,000. Second and third place winners are showcased online and profiled in NOPA e-newsletters.

2009 PhotoNOLA Review Prize Winners

Jessica Ingram, Michael Donnor and Nancy Newberry were selected from among sixty photographers who participated in the 2009 PhotoNOLA Portfolio Review.

Jessica Ingram

PhotoNOLA Review Prize
A Civil Rights Memorial

Four years ago, I wandered downtown Montgomery in the sweltering heat, picked up a walking tour trail, and found myself facing a large, ornate fountain, situated on a brick pavilion. A Historical Site sign said that I was standing on the former Court Square Slave Market, where slave traders sold men, women, and children to the highest bidder. It presented cold hard facts, detailing dollar values for slaves at the time and how none were given last names.

I was speechless. The fountain was erected at a time when this site was not considered for it’s history, the sign placed in a gesture of reconsideration. The language printed on the sign was so void of sentiment – in no way testifying to the experience and meaning. I watched people pass by and wondered if they knew or thought of the history beneath their feet. Curious about what I might find at other historical sites (marked or unmarked) through the South, I began my search. I have been traveling through Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana, and documenting sites where Civil Rights era atrocities, Klan activities, and slave trade occurred.

I am interested in these sites, their memorials or lack thereof, how some have faded into the landscapes, while others awkwardly stand out, but seemingly go unnoticed. How do the affects of this history still reverberate in these communities and in the landscape? I hope to create this context in my photographs, and to remember these individuals and events through the images I am taking. My larger body of work is about families and communities. This project is absolutely about that. It is a meditation and a recapturing. These images are renewed representations, a new memorial to these events. My hope is that the viewer will consider the relationship of this history within current contexts.
- Jessica Ingram, December 2009


Jessica Ingram was born and raised in Tennessee. She received degrees in Photography and Political Science from New York University and her MFA from California College of the Arts. She was included in 25 Under 25, (PowerHouse Books 2003) and American Photography 20. She contributed to What We Want Is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art (SUNY Press 2004). Along the Way, a video she completed with the Cause Collective was a 2008 Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival. Recent portfolios of her work have been published in OjodePez in conjunction with PhotoEspana and GUP magazine. Jessica’s work is motivated by her desire to understand how people relate, what they long for, and what motivates the choices they make. Along with her art practice, Jessica develops and leads community based arts programs, most recently Fostering Art, a photography and writing program for foster youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jessica lives between Nashville, TN and Oakland, CA where she is an Assistant Professor at California College of the Arts and works with PixelPress Magazine. Jessica’s work is shown internationally.

Michael Donnor

Second Place
Silent Moan

I have always been fascinated with the idea that people are not as they seem. My self-included. I believe it is a rare happening that the true self is shared, and even more rare that when true self is shared it is seen. Instead what is shown to the world is a projection of the blurred truth of self; a projection of how people think they should be seen.

Curiosity leads me down this path like the curiosity to know what is behind a closed door. What is behind the door of a blurred projection of self? I always find the answer to this though is not as amazing as is the way a person builds their façade. We have marvelous tools of ego architecture that allow us to construct these grand fortresses that protect the fragile truth inside.

It is these fortresses of ego that I am at wonder about. To know a truth about someone and watch them from behind the stage, as the lights go on, and the curtain goes up; to see the performance, a great one at that. Knowing I am the only one realizing… what a show it is.

This project is my exploration from behind the stage of the greatest show of all… us. It is my view of false projections, fortresses of a facade, and the egos that stand upon them. The fragile truth that is covered up can be many things: a secret best not shared, an event best forgotten, a failure best not remembered, or perhaps a dead dream that will not rest. Whichever the case, they are all a part of us that we will carry; the past that is a silent moan.


Michael Donnor is a fine art photographer based in Buffalo, New York. Graduating from the University of Buffalo where he studied Art and Photography he began working alongside the world’s premier photographers at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. After moving on with personal endeavors, including consulting in San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Chapel Hill, he has opened the doors to Donnor Photographic, where he pursues his art and commercial outlets. Excitedly this year he is returning to the workshops as an instructor. His work is collected and exhibited nationally; Donnor is represented by Soulcatcher Studio in Santa Fe, Gallery 291 in San Francisco and John Cleary Gallery in Houston.

Nancy Newberry

Third Place

An exploration of the chaotic nature of self-identity and its expression, Mum is centered around a gift-giving ritual virtually unknown outside of Texas, the Homecoming Mum.

The game of football is inextricably rooted into the bedrock of Texan culture, and the Homecoming tradition is at its heart. Homecoming week brings communities together to celebrate native pride, while solidifying support around the local high school football team, as they mark their ascent to a pinnacle moment, the last home game of the season.

A roughly 60-year-old tradition takes place on Homecoming Friday, aka Game Day. Exchanged between boyfriend and girlfriend, parent and child or friend to friend, the Homecoming Mum is an elaborate corsage, or for the boys, a garter worn on the arm. What began as a simple gift of a chrysanthemum for girls to wear to the game has evolved into an institution regarded as seriously as the game itself. The Mum consists of a large silk flower decorated with long glittery ribbons, bells, stuffed animals and other trinkets, which indicate the wearer’s interests, social standing, and allegiances to loved ones and friends. Homecoming mums are proudly worn for all activities on Homecoming Friday, and then immortalized as trophies on bedroom walls all over Texas. Each year the collection grows with a more elaborate Mum, marking progress and personal history. As both adornment and insignia, the Mum offers its wearer the opportunity to promote self-image, while identifying their status as an integral member of their particular community. At a time when many American high schoolers may seem actively disengaged from the world around them, the Homecoming Mum constitutes both a unique act of cultural immersion, and a specifically Texan brand of folk art, full of complex systems of encoded symbology.

The seeds of the Mum project were planted when I injured both my hands, and was forced into a different sort of homecoming, retreating to my childhood home in North Texas to recuperate. While trying to fill my time with something other than learning to open doors with my feet, strains of the high school marching band lured me to my alma mater’s Homecoming Game. Confronted by stands packed with cheering Mum devotees, I immediately realized an opportunity to not only reconnect with the optimism and energy of my own teenage mythology, but to deconstruct and document the Mum praxis.

My approach to these portraits has been one of rigorous chaos – a deliberate flexing of the boundaries of formal portraiture. To that end, I have thus far limited the settings of the photographs to in an around the subject’s personal space, precious as it is to a teenager, to further contain and charge the portraits through confines of the subject’s own making. The urgency to continue the Mum project derives from my fascination with the ritual trappings of collective history, and the personal fanfare that drives the bursting forth part of the cycle of escape and return. Human existence is a creative act; the mystery is in how we are driven to innovate and engage the unspoken narrative of ourselves. – Nancy Newberry


Nancy Newberry is an award winning photographer currently living in Texas. She continues to earn recognition for her approach to the medium including, American Photography, Photo District News, The Photo Review, Communication Arts Photography Annual, International Photography Awards, and Creativity Annual. She is also an Official Webby Honoree. Recent portfolios of her work have been published in Photo Raw, from Helsinki, and have been selected to appear in The American Photography 25 Annual, The Photo Review International Photography Competition Best of Show, and as a Finalist for Photolucida’s Critical Mass.

Throughout her larger body of work, in both personal and commissioned projects, her photographs explore the struggle between self and culture; visually interpreting the layers between the actual and the perceived. “Mum” brings Nancy back to her roots by confronting both her own teenage mythology and deconstructing and documenting the Mum Phenomena.

2008 PhotoNOLA Review Prize Winners

Sarah Wilson, Susan Burnstine and Susana Raab were selected from among 60 photographers who participated in last year’s portfolio review.

PhotoNOLA Review Prize recipient Sarah Wilson is based in Austin, Texas. Her series, “Blind Prom,” will be featured in a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery during the Fourth Annual PhotoNOLA. The series focuses on an American right of passage, the high school prom. Wilson serves as the official prom photographer for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, producing the students’ formal portraits and also capturing candid moments throughout the night. Doug Parker, Photo Editor of The Times-Picayune said “The success of Sarah’s work starts with a great idea, and maintaining that theme with supplemental photos that help move the project along without being redundant…The images are insightful, poignant and intimate. They help us understand a world very different from our own without being either intrusive or condescending.” You can see more of Wilson’s award-winning project at

Susan Burnstine, second place winner, is a fine art photographer who resides in Los Angeles. Her ethereal black and white images are created from a collection of homemade lenses and cameras, assembled out of plastic, vintage camera parts and random household objects. Rendered with a dream-like haze, Burnstine’s photographs suggest myth and memory in a voice that is both personal and universal. Burnstine was profiled in the March NOPA Newsletter and will exhibit work during PhotoNOLA at Canary Gallery. You can see more of her work at

Third place winner Susana Raab is a documentary and editorial photographer based in Washington DC. Her series “Consumed” examines the influences and traces of fast-food production in the U.S. Her colorful depictions of American consumption capture the absurdity of our food culture with clear-eyed humor and wit. Raab was interviewed in the April NOPA Newsletter. To see more of her work visit