Aperture—Baxter St Next Step Award
2023 Next Step Award
Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, in partnership with the 7|G Foundation, are excited to announce Pao Houa Her as recipient of the 2023–24 Next Step Award.
Her will receive a $10,000 artist’s grant and publish a photobook with Aperture, accompanied by an exhibition at Baxter St at CCNY in spring of 2024.
The Next Step Award supports US-based artists at critical junctures in their artistic development. Reconsidering equity across the country and in arts institutions, the award also supports the presentation of diverse opinions, as well as timely lens-based work that is relevant to today’s visual culture and society across a wide array of genres or approaches. The Next Step Award was initiated in 2020. Previous recipients include Zora J Murff and Tommy Kha, whose forthcoming publication and exhibition will be presented in February 2023.
“Baxter St is thrilled to present Pao Houa Her with the 2023–24 Next Step Award,” says Jil Weinstock, executive director of Baxter St. “As an incubator to support and amplify dynamic and emerging voices, Baxter St is proud to support Her’s work, which highlights the shared experience of the Hmong community both abroad and as immigrants in the US. Aligning with an ethos of uplifting voices deserving greater recognition, Baxter St is honored to support Her’s practice and ongoing artistic growth.”
Pao Houa Her has been granted this award for her various series exploring how the international Hmong community makes and remakes their collective memory. Her says, “My work attempts to break down the larger story of what it means to be a Hmong American into discrete moments in time. I see each small moment, each new portrait, as a kind of poetic note in a broader, diffuse narrative. My most recent work moves into even more conceptual space, using constructed/staged elements to play with themes of geography and longing.”
“For the many who were inspired by Pao Houa Her’s installation at the Whitney Biennial earlier this year, this exhibition at Baxter St and the accompanying Aperture publication provide a welcome opportunity to experience her work on its own terms,” observes Sarah Meister, Aperture’s executive director. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Baxter St and 7|G to support emerging voices in the field.”
Her was chosen out of an extremely competitive list of artists, nominated by a diverse group of artists and curators who brought expertise and artistic experience to the selection process. The nomination committee included Shantell Martin, Greg Harris, Wendy Red Star, and Akili Tommasino.
The roster of nominated artists who submitted to the prize included Nydia Blas, Rose Marie Cromwell, Jill Frank, Lizzie Gill, Genevieve Gaignard, Kyoko Hamaguchi, Tarrah Krajnak, Qiana Mestrich, Flo Ngala, Chanell Stone, and Patssi Valdez.
Pao Houa Her (b. 1982) is a Hmong American artist whose practice engages with legacies and potentials of landscape, portraiture, and documentary photographic traditions, creating works that examine identity, longing, and belonging in Hmong diasporic communities. Among Her’s solo exhibitions are Paj qaum ntuj / Flowers of the Sky, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Emplotment, Or Gallery, Vancouver; and My grandfather turned into a tiger, Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis. Recently exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, her work has been included in group exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC; Milwaukee Art Museum; MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Minneapolis Institute of Art; among many others. A prizewinner in the 2022 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, Her was also a recipient of the McKnight Visual Artists Fellowship and Jerome Fellowship for Emerging Artists. Notable public collections include the Singapore Art Museum and Walker Art Center. Her is an assistant professor in photography and moving images at the University Minnesota. She holds an MFA in photography from Yale University School of Art and a BFA in photography from Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her is represented by Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis.
Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other—in print, in person, and online. Created in 1952 by photographers and writers as “common ground for the advancement of photography,” Aperture today is a multiplatform publisher and center for the photo community. From its base in New York, Aperture produces, publishes, and presents a variety of photography projects and programs—locally, across the United States, and around the world.
7|G Foundation champions organizations and individuals that challenge inequality in human rights, education, art, and culture. By partnering with organizations, artists, and community facilitators, we seek to build strong community bonds that elevate local culture while supporting cultural change founded upon our core social impact and sustainability values.
2021-22 Next Step Award
Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, in partnership with 7|G Foundation, are excited to announce Tommy Kha as recipient of the 2021 Next Step Award. Kha will receive a $10,000 artist’s grant and publish a photobook with Aperture, accompanied by an exhibition at Baxter St at CCNY.
Kha was chosen out of an extremely competitive list of artists, nominated by a diverse group of artists and curators who brought expertise and artistic experience to the selection process. The nomination committee included Derrick Adams, Zalika Azim, Sergio Bessa, Antawan I. Byrd, Jesse Chan, Ivan Forde, Lyle Ashton Harris, Sheree Hovsepian, Sarah Kennel, Amanda Maddox, Marvin Orellana, Nandita Raman, Legacy Russell, Phil Taylor, Hank Willis Thomas, Eugenie Tsai, Diya Vij, and Jessie Wender.
The roster of nominated artists who submitted to the prize included David Alekhuogie, Matías Alvial, Zalika Azim, Nathan Bajar, Jonas Becker, Chris Berntsen, Kennedi Carter, Pradeep Dalal, Dominique Duroseau, Lloyd Foster, Genevieve Gaignard, Camilo Godoy, S*an D. Henry-Smith, Sandy Kim, Clifford Prince King, Bria Lauren, Ian Lewandowski, Joshua Rashaad McFadden, Azikiwe Mohammed, Pau Pescador, Stephanie Powell, Susannah Ray, Jacqueline Silberbush, Dianne Smith, Meg Turner, D’Angelo Lovell Williams, and Suné Woods.
Tommy Kha (born in Memphis, 1988) received his MFA in photography from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. He is a 2021 Foam Talent, finalist for the 2021–22 Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship and Hyères 2019 Photography Grand Prix, recipient of a 2019 Creative Review Photography Annual and 2016 En Foco Photography Fellowship, and a former artist-in-residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York; Light Work, Syracuse, New York; the Camera Club of New York; and most recently, the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Brooklyn. Kha was named one of forty-seven artists in the inaugural Silver List in 2021. His work has been published in Foam, Creative Review, Dazed, Interview, McSweeney’s, Hyperallergic, Modern Painters, Slate, the Huffington Post, BUTT Magazine, BuzzFeed News, and Miranda July’s We Think Alone, and on the cover of Vice Magazine’s 2017 Photo Issue. He has collaborated with the Billboard Creative in Los Angeles, and exhibited in numerous group exhibitions including at Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York; the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, New York; Yongkang Lu Art, Shanghai; and Hyères Festival, France. His first solo show was at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon; it was followed by a solo exhibition at Baxter St at Camera Club of New York in 2019, where Kha was a 2018 workspace resident. He appeared in Laurie Simmons’s 2018 narrative feature My Art. Kha currently teaches photography at the New School, New York. He lives and works between New York City and Memphis.
2020-21 Next Step Award
Aperture and Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York have joined forces, in partnership with 7|G Foundation, to launch the inaugural Next Step Award and announce photographer Zora J Murff as its recipient. Murff will receive a $10,000 artist’s grant, the publication of a photobook with Aperture, and an accompanying exhibition at Baxter St at CCNY.
At a pivotal time in reconsidering equity across the country and in arts institutions, the Next Step Award aims to identify strong emerging or evolving voices whose work deserves greater recognition. The annual award will support
underrepresented US-based artists at a critical juncture in their artistic development. It will also support the presentation of diverse opinions, as well as timely lens-based work that’s relevant to today’s visual culture and society, across a wide array of genres or approaches.
“The Next Step Award was created with the specific focus on fostering inclusivity in the industry and taking action steps to create greater equity within it,” says Michi Jigarjian, president of Baxter St. “We are thrilled to partner with Aperture to present the work of Zora Murff to the cultural landscape and also invest in its scholarship.”
Selected for the work he began with the published series At No Point In Between and has continued in American Mother, American Father, Murff describes his project as “a discursive narrative on the evolution and perpetuation of anti-Black violence.” Lesley A. Martin, creative director at Aperture, notes that “Murff’s work distinguished itself for his rigorous approach to photographic storytelling, one that challenges how images can simultaneously support or subvert the spectacle of violence against Black individuals, while also using photography to explore memory and identity on a personal level.
Murff was named the winner out of an extremely competitive list of artists, nominated by a diverse group of artists and curators who brought expertise and artistic experience to the selection process. The nomination committee included Dawoud Bey, Nayland Blake, Isolde Brielmaier, Zoe Buckman, Howie Chen, Carmen Hermo, Justine Kurland, An-My Lê, Christopher Lew, Sarah Elizabeth Lewis, Aspen Mays, Sarah Hermanson Meister, José Parlá, Seph Rodney, Antwaun Sargent, Drew Sawyer, Lisa Sutcliffe, Mickalene Thomas, Ka-Man Tse, Jasmine Wahi, Deborah Willis, and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa.
Zora J Murff (born in Des Moines, Iowa, 1987) is assistant professor of art in the University of Arkansas School of Art, Fayetteville. He received his MFA from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and holds a BS in psychology from Iowa State University, Ames. Merging his educational experiences, Murff’s practice highlights the various intersections between social systems, social phenomena, and art. He has published books with Aint-Bad Editions and Kris Graves Projects. His most recent monograph, At No Point In Between (Dais Books, 2019), was selected as a winner of the 2019 Lucie Foundation Photo Book Awards (Independent Prize). Murff is cofounder and cocurator of Strange Fire Collective, a group of interdisciplinary artists, writers, and curators focused on work that engages with current social and political forces. Murff is represented by Webber Gallery, London.