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News / May 8, 2018

Moyra Davey Wins $50K Scotiabank Photography Award

”Her lens shifts our eyes to unseen, ordinary, and often overlooked moments,” said award jury chair Edward Burtynsky.

Moyra Davey has been named the winner of the 2018 Scotiabank Photography Award.

The Scotiabank Photography Award includes a $50,000 cash prize, a solo exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre during the 2019 Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, and a book of the winner’s work to be published and distributed by Steidl.

The announcement was made this evening at a ceremony in Toronto.

Moyra Davey was born in Toronto in 1958. She earned a BFA from Concordia University in Montreal in 1982 and an MFA from the University of California San Diego in 1988. For many years since, she has been based in New York. (More biographical information is available on the Guggenheim Museum website.)

“The material of my work—I guess it’s three things,” Davey says in a Documenta 14 video recently posted to Youtube. “It’s photography—that’s what I’ve been doing the longest, that’s where I had my training in art school—then also video and film,” as well as writing.

Writing and note-taking is key to Davey’s practice. As she details in that same Documenta 14 video, there’s “a notebook that I carry with me in my bag, and if I get an idea on the subway, for instance, I will write it in [t]here, or if I am reading something I will make a note and I will sometimes use it as a journal. And if I have an idea that inspires me, I’ll put a star beside it, and then I’ll come back to it and perhaps insert it into a text that I’m writing, a text that will become a narration for a video.”

Davey’s initial ventures into film and video were spurred, in part, by living in 2001 in New York, and being not far from the World Trade Center when it was attacked.

“I decided I wanted to write about it, and hopefully that writing would then become a video,” Davey says of the piece that resulted. “I took a break from photography [and] I wrote and I made a video that became Fifty Minutes.”

Davey is also known for having edited the influential 2001 book Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood, which includes fictional and nonfictional accounts of birth, artmaking and child-care by writers including Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Tillie Olsen and many other writers. She began compiling the book after giving birth to her own son, Barney, who occasionally appears in her artwork.

Mail art is another medium often used by the artist, with several recent exhibitions featuring tiled assemblages of photographs that she has folded up and sent to galleries through the mail, address labels visible and all.

“Her lens shifts our eyes to unseen, ordinary, and often overlooked moments,” said Edward Burtynsky, chair of the Scotiabank Photography Award jury, in a release. “Moyra’s passion for reflection has us eager to work alongside her to create a striking book, encapsulating her work.”

The Scotiabank Photography Award was founded in 2010 with Edward Burtynsky to “celebrate the creative vision and accomplishments of some of our country’s most gifted photographers.” It is billed as “Canada’s largest annual peer-nominated and peer-reviewed award that recognizes the achievements of an established mid-to-later career artist,” it aims to recognize artists as they reach for the next level of national and international recognition.

Greg Staats and Stephen Waddell were also finalists for this year’s award. The two shortlisted artists each receive cash prizes of $10,000.

Past winners of the award include Shelley Niro (2017), Mark Ruwedel (2014), Stan Douglas (2013), and Lynne Cohen (2011).

Members of the 2018 jury include artist Edward Burtynsky, writer/curator Candice Hopkins, Vox artistic director Marie-Josée Jean and artist Mark Lewis.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via