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The 2024 URBAN Photo Awards : Interview With Director Stefano Ambroset

Stefano Ambroset is the founder and director of the Trieste Photo Days festival and the URBAN Photo Awards, he takes us behind the scenes of these two events, which, each autumn, enliven the streets of Trieste, in the northeast of Italy.


What is your background and your role in the Urban Photo Awards?

I am Stefano Ambroset, the founder and director of the URBAN Photo Awards and Trieste Photo Days. With over two decades in photography and cultural event management, I’ve dedicated my career to celebrating and promoting photographers globally. I founded dotART in 2009, a cultural association in Trieste that supports photographers through exhibitions, workshops, and competitions. One unforgettable experience was seeing a young photographer win an award and subsequently have their work featured in prominent international publications. Moments like these fuel my passion for providing a global stage for talented photographers to share their unique visions of urban life.

What about the festival Trieste Photo Days, could you introduce it?
Trieste Photo Days is an annual international photography festival in Trieste, Italy, organized by dotART. It offers a vibrant platform for photographers to exhibit their work, connect with fellow artists, and engage with the public through diverse exhibitions, workshops, talks, and events. A highlight is the exhibition of winning images from the URBAN Photo Awards, showcasing top contemporary urban photography. The festival features solo and group exhibitions across various city venues. Workshops, masterclasses and talks by experienced photographers provide invaluable learning opportunities. I remember a workshop where an emerging photographer received transformative feedback from a renowned expert. Trieste Photo Days is a community celebrating the power and beauty of photography, supporting the medium in Trieste and beyond.
Could you tell us more about Trieste and why you chose this city for a photography festival and award?
Trieste, located in northeast Italy, east of Venice, is a city rich in history and cultural heritage, blending Austro-Hungarian architecture with modern elements, making it a stunning backdrop for urban photography. The city’s vibrant arts scene, with numerous museums and galleries, creates a welcoming environment for photographers. Trieste’s strategic location and easy accessibility make it convenient for festival attendees. The local community’s enthusiastic support has been invaluable. I remember a photographer from New York who marveled at Trieste’s unique architecture and vibrant street life. Trieste’s mix of history, culture, and urban beauty makes it the perfect setting for a photography festival, offering an inspiring platform for photographers to explore and connect.
How do the awards work?
The URBAN Photo Awards invite photographers worldwide to submit their work in categories such as Single Photos (Street, People, Spaces, Creative), Projects & Portfolios, and the URBAN Book & Zine Award. A prestigious panel of judges, including renowned photographers and industry professionals like Harry Gruyaert, Magnum photographer and Head of the Jury, and a special team of jurors from online photography magazines, evaluates entries based on creativity, originality, technical excellence, and the essence of urban life. The awards culminate in a grand ceremony during Trieste Photo Days, celebrating the winners on a global stage. I remember a winner who shared that their career skyrocketed after their work was exhibited at the festival, gaining international recognition and new opportunities. The awards not only honor talent but also provide significant exposure and career growth for photographers.
Why this choice of urban photography?
Urban photography captures the essence of city life, reflecting the dynamism, diversity, and ever-evolving nature of urban landscapes. It challenges photographers to explore and document the complexities of urban environments, from striking architecture to intimate human moments. The URBAN Photo Awards celebrate this vibrant field and encourage photographers to push the genre’s boundaries. One memorable submission captured the contrast between old and new buildings in Tokyo, telling a powerful story about the city’s evolution. Urban photography not only showcases the beauty of cities but also raises awareness about social, economic, and environmental issues.
What are the rewards for the winners?
Winners of the URBAN Photo Awards receive significant recognition and prizes, including a prize exceeding €40,000 and exquisite “Stele” trophies crafted by renowned Biennale of Venice artist Giorgio Celiberti. Winners gain unparalleled exposure by having their work showcased at the prestigious Trieste Photo Days festival, connecting with audiences, professionals, and industry leaders from across Europe. One winner shared that the exposure from the festival opened doors to international collaborations and exhibitions, significantly advancing their career. The awards offer not just accolades but transformative opportunities for photographers.
Do you know more about who are the photographers sending out their pictures? Their age? Their background: are they professional photographers? Amateur?
The URBAN Photo Awards attract a diverse community of photographers from around the world, ranging from young emerging talents to seasoned professionals. Participants vary in age and background, including both passionate amateurs and established professionals. This inclusivity fosters a rich exchange of ideas and styles. For instance, we had an 18-year-old amateur from Brazil and a renowned professional from Germany both win awards in the same year. This diversity enriches the competition, reflecting the multifaceted nature of urban life and showcasing a wide array of perspectives and stories.
How has the award evolved since its creation?
Since its inception, the URBAN Photo Awards have evolved significantly, reflecting the growing global interest in urban photography. The competition has expanded its reach, attracting more submissions each year from diverse perspectives and narratives. We’ve increased our categories and prizes to offer more substantial rewards. One notable change is our emphasis on showcasing photography that addresses important social, economic, and environmental issues. Introducing a category dedicated to climate change’s impact on cities drew powerful, thought-provoking submissions. The awards have also become a hub for community engagement and education through workshops and masterclasses.
What was the most striking submission, since you started working on the award?
One of the most striking submissions was a powerful image capturing a poignant moment between a young child and an adult, both victims of a natural disaster. This photograph highlighted the human cost of the event and showcased the profound storytelling capability of photography. Another memorable submission documented the lives of homeless individuals in New York, shedding light on urban poverty. These submissions stand out for their visual impact and emotional resonance, capturing the essence of urban life and sparking important conversations.
Your advice for the next applicants who can send their picture until mid-June?
For aspiring applicants, embrace authenticity and your unique vision. Urban photography thrives on personal perspectives, so capture the urban scenes that resonate with you. Pay attention to composition, lighting, and the story your image tells. Think beyond the surface and consider the deeper narratives your photos convey. Focus on technical excellence while also aiming for emotional and conceptual depth. Most importantly, enjoy the creative process. The URBAN Photo Awards are not just a competition but a celebration of photography as an art form and a platform for growth and expression.

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