SVA alumnus Ilona Szwarc (BFA 2013 Photography) was recently named a winner of the Magenta Foundationâ€™s 2013 Flash Forward Festival Emerging Photographers Competition for her series â€śRodeo Girls,â€ť a portrait project about young girls who compete in rodeos on a professional level. The four day festival, which was held May 16 â€“ 19 at Boston’s Fairmont Battery Wharf, offered an array of activities including networking events and educational programming alongside the curated indoor and outdoor exhibitions. For the past nine years, the Flash Forward competition has encouraged photographers to produce unique and arresting images, and has increasingly been recognized as an important platform for introducing emerging talent from Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. to world-wide audiences. The win also secures Szwarc a spot in The Fence 2013, a curated outdoor, summer-long photography exhibition organized by United Photo Industries and Photo District News (PDN) and held at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
In her â€śRodeo Girlsâ€ť series, Szwarc critiques gender norms by concentrating on young girls who live in Texas and participate in the male-dominated sport. While the girls who ride seem to take on so-called masculine gender identities to compete, Szwarc was struck by how the animals seem to become substitutes for the feminineâ€”the horses are often meticulously groomed and delicately costumed and styled. The series also seeks to celebrate a part of American life that is becoming more difficult to witness first-hand. For more photos and info about Szwarc, visit her website.