Being an eternal optimist I always approach events in life with an open mind and as few preconceptions as possible. When Luís and Bruno approached me to chair this year’s awards, I was both flattered and intrigued. I had little knowledge of the awards, had never (to my shame) visited Portugal, and had no real insight into the quality of work that was being produced. Like not wanting to read reviews or listen to opinions before going to see a play or a movie, I decided to arrive completely oblivious so that I could reach my own conclusions and overall verdict. The legendary João Silva, the amazing Cheryl Newman and much respected Laurent Rebours from AP in Paris were to be my fellow judges for the week which did give me a clue that this was going to be a great week. However, nothing prepared me for the experience we shared. The work we viewed over those three days was quite simply stunning, of the highest quality and absolutely world class. I have had the privilege of judging many awards over the years, from World Press, Sony and Visa Pour L’Image to the Overseas Club of America, and this experience matched those in terms of the process, the extraordinary hospitality (I am still in denial over the “Bolas de Berlim”) and above all the quality of the work. This was no easy task, the quality was such that we labored many hours over the finalists and the judges were torn over decisions we knew we would eventually have to make. Being chair of the jury often means pushing your judges into making decisions that they would rather not make, but the process that had been put in place allowed us to highly commend work that was so close to winning thereby easing the pain of the final outcome. Bravo to a great team of judges for their expertise and hours of patience.
The state of the photographic industry may well be in flux, and some would argue that it has faced catastrophic obstacles over the past decade, but it is clear that the art of visual storytelling is alive and well in Portugal, proof being the powerful and compelling work you will see in this catalogue.
I thank Luís Vasconcelos and Bruno Portela and their team for their invitation, their generosity and their dedication. I thank the Mayor of Viana do Castelo, José Maria Costa for his support and having the vision to host this event. I congratulate all of the winners for their skill, passion and dedication. I salute the entire photographic community of Portugal for playing a part in keeping this industry alive and maintaining the standards and spirit that will attract future generations of skilled story tellers.