The World Through My Eyes photography competition began in 2009 when we set the challenge for people with familial dysautonomia to tell the story of how it feels to live with this rare genetic disease in a single image.
This disorder affects the development of the nervous system. Children grow up in a world without the ability to sense their bodies. They lack many of the normal processes that we take for granted including the ability to feel pain or temperature, and to control their internal organs.
It is impossible to imagine how it feels to live in a world without sensation. The World Through My Eyes gives people living with familial dysautonomia the chance to tell their story.
Each year the submissions are taken to an independent panel of artists, curators, and collectors who select winners in different artistic categories and decide the leading prize shot.
Overall Winner: Frances Cohen, Having a Good Time
Amid tough competition, this year’s winner of the World Through My Eyes Photography Competition was Frances Cohen. Her pop-art like image was praised for the vibrant use of green at the center of the frame. By focusing on her legs, the interesting vantage point gives an honest and raw composition that tells her story.
In a private and decadent moment, she captures herself in the simple pleasures of a pedicure with her feet up and toes spread. At a closer look, you see the asymmetry of her knees, with the swollen joint on the right having endured multiple painless injuries. She depicts herself having a good time, while she is aching inside. The judges likened her to Diane Arbus in her ability to capture physical differences in an intimate moment of self-indulgence.
Runner Up: Michael Brenner, My Love
Michael’s portrait of his girlfriend outside a record store was chosen by the jury for the Runner Up Award. His image is beautiful in its realism and details. Her shirt, her face, the floor tiles, all come together in stripes. It’s both humorous and real. Staged but spontaneous.
The photograph is exposed and fresh, explained artist Martin Salinas. Michael places us in his position, with the imperfections around him, and asks the viewer to look at the woman in front of them. At that very moment, we see his world, through his eyes and the portrait of a lover.
Black and White Category Winner: Gabi Jassie, Owners
Gabi’s cleverly timed image in black and white is part of her continuing series of self-portraits, many which feature her bird. The diagonal composition shows her face touching the beak of the bird. The light and dark together with the lack of symmetry speak of intimacy and trust. The bird is free to move at anytime, but remains close by her side.
The posed composition echoes the classic style of Renaissance masters, with the bird being a symbolism of the soul. The fact that the bird is free represents her independent spirit and adventures. She feels liberated, but safe. Free to explore, but supported and comfortable with the relationships and bonds that she has around her.
Interior Space Category Winner: Joshua Kietz, My Place
Joshua’s outstanding digitally manipulated image shows a pool table in front of a door with a painting of a naked woman. The central elements of the image are drawn out in a series of lines that frame his place of comfort. His abstract style is Dali-like in its inability to make logical sense.
The converging lines with white at the center create a composition that has recognizable painter qualities. The judges praised his digital skills and his clever eye for distortion while maintaining perspective.
Nature Photography Winner: Mara Clawson, Paddling Freely
Mara’s central composition with its balanced colors creates the sensation of fluid motion. Her clever use of darkness and light embodies chiaroscuro, creating an aggregate of life and darkness in the same frame.
The composition can be divided into thirds; with the lightness of the squid’s tentacles, the solidness of its body, and the blackness of the background.
The quid cuts the image across the center, trailing its bright tentacles that span downwards to create a sense of grounding. The bright blue hue above the squid’s body plays with the somber background capturing the effect of light and reflection.
The jury praised her unique take on a classic style and artistic eye.
Landscape Photography Winner: Ravid Mendelevitch, Presence
Ravid’s deceptively simple shot captures a field of flowers in a horizontal composition that draws the viewer in creating a powerful sensation of presence. Her photograph invites you in to share her memory.
The colors of the flowers merge into one another drawing the eye through different horizontal layers up to the houses and horizon. The far edge of the flower field blurs as it flows through the image, giving the sense of fading vision.
Her composition is thought provoking; inviting us to share her vantage point, in a fleeting but still moment, before it fades from sight and the flowers disappear all-together.
Life-style Category Winner: Sarah Zucker, Drinking
Sarah’s composition was praised for its duality and story-telling abilities through the symbolism of her dog. The top half of the image captures her the sensation of thirst with the dog drinking from a bucket. The bottom captures his satisfaction after his thirst was quenched.
The connection with her medical condition and the need to stay well hydrated is valid and presented with the metaphor of her dog. It captures an instinctive sensation, one essential for life, and the feeling of satisfaction having indulged and met a vital biological need. The judges thought that her shot sent the message of learning to listen to your body to feel better.
Wildlife Category Winner: Andrew Sigman, Contrasts
Andrew’s image places a grazing zebra at the center of the frame with its extended foreleg and attentive ears. The contrasting lines of the zebra create a geometrical element, enabling it to be clearly seen against the softer background of yellow flowers, grass and woodland.
Taken close to the zebra, his lens captures the horizontal and vertical black and white patterns of the coat. It conjures up the feeling that the animal is close, and appears relaxed, but all the while listening for the signal to flee at any moment.
The judges thought his image sent the message of how contrasts make it easier to understand the unpredictability of stillness.
Perspective Category Winner: Sophie Blumberg, Murphy
Sophie’s clever use of perspective draws the viewer into her composition detailing her dog in a moment of rest with toy. She chooses to place the camera on the floor to provide an interesting angle with a vanishing point.
The details of her picture emerge, with the soft fluffy textured weave on the carpet and the monotone color scheme. The playfulness of the dog captures her happy mood as he waits for her next move eyes intently watching. The moment between them, in all its simplicity, is one of a fun and games. Sophie’s playful image was praised for its ability to capture connections.
Urban Landscape Category Winner: Sam Landau, Reflection
Sam’s instantly recognizable image of New York’s iconic Freedom Tower looks like a painting. The top of the tower becomes obscured and blurred by white clouds, while the bottom part is more solid and realistic.
By blending the two styles he creates an effect with a unique geometric style and soft qualities. The solidness of the Freedom Tower dissects the image spanning from the top to the bottom of the frame. This is contrasted against the changing atmosphere of the blue sky.
The judges praised his professional style with the use of textures and color to create a very nice picture, with an iconic urban image and reflected light in motion.
Conceptual Art Category Winner: Alexia DeGunzburg, My Studio
Alexia captures her easel, canvas and paints with a post-impressionist style. The hanging elements at the top of the frame add an instant feminine essence which contrasts with the darker muted colors that make up her paint pallet for the day.
Within the picture are the dark blue letters F and D painted in thick brushstrokes – the abbreviations of her rare condition; “FD”. By placing her diagnosis at the center of the frame, she adds herself to the picture with a conceptual style.
Entertainment Award Winner: Rebecca Newman, Live Performance
Rebecca’s literal style uses tones of purple to capture a moment on stage at a fundraising event for the Dysautonomia Foundation that supports her medical care. Her image shows the multiple dimensions of her moment. It draws you immediately to the importance of the central character behind the piano on a raised stage, who she was intent on capturing.
Her angle from below creates a sense of depth, as if she is reaching up. The image fades to black in the right corner creating a mystical sense of escape. The curved lines spanning the bottom of the frame outline the path to follow.
Portrait Category Award Winner: Sharon (Channie) Profesorske, Balance
Channie’s self-portrait embodies happiness as she balances on a beam supported from behind. Smiling with glasses, she looks directly at the camera with an expression telling us “here I am”.
The bright pink of her shirt draw attention to her inner strength with her arms outstretched. Her image is both uplifting and happy. The floor of the playground, and the small blurred child emerged to create a fluidity to the image.
The arms around her waist and the freedom of her expression suggest the feeling of support in the face of adversity.
Pet Photography Award Winner: Rachael Eisenson, Reassurance
At the core of Rachael’s image is the question of relationships and connection. The small dog looks up towards the lens with melancholic eyes seeking reassurance. The symmetrical face of the dog reminded the judges of the cinematic style of Wes Anderson, with its balanced central framing.
The dog’s expression captures the feeling of being scared and needing love. The raw emotion of an identifiable relationship connection is shot in a muted tone, allowing the viewer to lose themselves in the space between them.
Congratulations to all the photographers who have contributed to the project over the last 10 years. This unique collection of images from very special people is an archive of expression. The competition exhibits the strength and courage of those living with familial dysautonomia and their abilities to use the cameral lens to capture their world.
2018 Frances Cohen
2017 Lisa Gross
2016 Sharon (Channie) Profesorske
2015 Gabrielle Jassie
2014 Aaron Menzel
2013 Joshua Kietz
2012 Chana Perelstein
2011 Jamie Goldblat
2010 Jackie Goldberg
2009 Rachael Eisenson
The 2018 photography competition is in honor of Lisa Gross. Lisa entered the contest every year since its beginning. She captured the unpredictability of everyday life with FD, winning last year with her still-life of a seahorse. We lost Lisa in March 2018.
2018 Jury Members
Nelba Valenzuela (Chair): The founder of Spotte Art and a curator of contemporary art and design, Valenzuela’s mission is to support young upcoming Latin American artists.
Rafael Bueno (Founding Chair): An art collector and painter whose paintings have been exhibited in New York, Miami, Paris, Buenos Aires and Uruguay. He has recently published a book chronicling his life’s work.
Roberto Gil: A designer and Director of Casa Collection in Brooklyn, Gil’s modernistic furniture designs have been sold at the MoMA, New York.
Sabrina Merayo Nuñez: A celebrated artist specializing in biological art, Merayo Nuñez has received numerous awards and artist residency scholarships.
Martin Salinas: A contemporary artist and architect, Salinas works with different media including paint, textiles and sculpture. He is currently doing an artist residency in New England.
Nazarena Febrero: Trained as an architect, Febrero specializes in European contemporary industrial design from Sweden and Italy.
Pia Brancaccio, PhD: An Associate Professor of Asian Art, Brancaccio has published several monographs, book chapters, journal articles and reviews on Buddhist art from South Asia.