I recently had the distinct honor of receiving two Honorable Mentions for my photographs in the prestigious Documentary Family Awards (@documentaryfamilyawards) this past March. The Documentary Family Awards, now in its fourth year, is an esteemed international photo competition that celebrates the art of documentary family photography. This year, photographers from over 40 countries submitted their work, showcasing a diverse range of styles and perspectives.
The level of competition in these awards is incredibly high. Thousands of entries undergo a rigorous two-stage judging process. The initial round of evaluation is conducted by a three-person jury, which this time included renowned documentary photographers Kholood Eid and Khalilah Hall (@khalilahhallphoto @kholoodeid), along with Wall Street Journal photo editor Parker Eshelman. They independently reviewed each submission, ultimately selecting 697 images to advance to the final round. This second round of judging brings in additional expertise, with documentary photographers Kirsten Lewis Bethmann (@kirstenlphotog) and Jenna Shouldice (@jennacshouldice), the founders of the awards, and a rotating guest judge, this time Kholood Eid, making the final decisions.
I have been submitting my photographs to the Documentary Family Awards since its inception and, until now, had never progressed beyond the first round of judging. So, you can imagine my overwhelming emotion when, during the live judging, I discovered that not one, but two of my images had made it to the final round. I admit, tears were shed (I’m somewhat emotional about my work!). In a field overflowing with extraordinary talent, some of which I consider far surpasses my own, it was an unbelievable feeling to see my work recognized alongside such esteemed peers. I was in such disbelief that I half-expected to be told there had been a mistake in selecting my photos.
However, when the official list of award winners was published, there they were – my photographs, rightfully holding their place. Even if it had been an error, it was too late to take back these Honorable Mentions, and I embraced them wholeheartedly.
For anyone interested in viewing the breadth of talent and storytelling captured in this competition, I highly recommend visiting the Documentary Family Awards website at https://www.documentaryfamilyawards.com/awards/. The site offers a comprehensive overview of the awards, the winning images, and provides a glimpse into the world of documentary family photography.
Reflecting on this journey, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of accomplishment. Participating in the Documentary Family Awards has been an annual tradition for me, a way to gauge my growth and progress as a photographer. Each year, I’ve submitted my work with a mixture of hope and realism, understanding the incredible level of competition and the subjectivity of art. Making it past the first round had always seemed like a distant goal, one that I aspired to achieve but also recognized as a significant challenge.
Seeing my photographs selected for the final round was a validating moment. It was an affirmation that my work had resonated with a panel of highly respected judges, who see thousands of images from talented photographers around the world. This recognition felt like a nod to my journey in photography – the early mornings, the late nights, the endless pursuit of capturing those fleeting, real-life moments that tell a story without words.
These Honorable Mentions are more than just accolades; they are a reminder of why I fell in love with photography. They symbolize the power of visual storytelling, the beauty of capturing everyday life, and the joy of preserving moments that might otherwise go unnoticed. They are a testament to the fact that art is subjective, and sometimes, what one person might overlook, another will find extraordinary.
This experience has also taught me a valuable lesson about self-belief and perseverance in the face of doubt. It’s easy to compare oneself to others in any field, especially in a creative one like photography, where styles and skills vary so widely. But these awards have shown me that there is value in every artist’s unique perspective, including my own. It’s a reminder to continue honing my craft, to keep pushing boundaries, and to keep submitting my work, even when the odds seem daunting.
As I look back at these achievements, I am filled with gratitude and inspiration. Gratitude for the recognition, for the platform to share my work, and for the opportunity to be part of a community that values and celebrates documentary family photography. And inspiration to continue capturing the beauty of everyday life, to tell stories through my lens, and to share my perspective with the world.
I hope my journey inspires other photographers, whether seasoned professionals or those just starting out, to pursue their passions and to never underestimate the impact of their work. Photography is not just about taking pictures; it’s about capturing moments, telling stories, and connecting with others on a deeply human level. It’s about finding beauty in the ordinary and sharing it in extraordinary ways.
As I move forward in my photographic journey, I do so with renewed confidence and excitement for what lies ahead. I am more committed than ever to capturing the essence of family life, to documenting the real, the raw, and the beautiful. And who knows, maybe next year, I’ll find my work not just in the Honorable Mentions but among the top winners of the Documentary Family Awards. For now, I cherish these recognitions and continue to shoot, explore, and tell stories through my lens. Here’s to capturing more of life’s unforgettable moments and to the endless possibilities that photography brings.