The First Book Award is a photography publishing prize open to photographers who have not previously had a book published by a third party publishing house (this does not include self-published print on demand projects).

The award was established in 2012 to support emerging photographers. The call for submissions emphasises a predilection for projects conceived in book form: works that find a voice through the book.

The award is not an open submission. Each year, a diverse array of international nominators are asked to recommend suitable projects. A panel of judges, including Michael Mack and Polly Fleury (Wilson Centre for Photography), as well as three guest judges together assess all submitted dummies, shortlisting 10 works; from the shortlist, a single project is chosen as the winner to be published by MACK.

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The 2019 winning work Oobanken by Jerome Ming was announced during PhotoLondon16 – 19 May 2019.

Combining fragments of personal history, of memory and imagination, Oobanken builds photographic narratives through constructions and performances. The spaces created are different in character from their wider surroundings, as if confined in an enclave or compound, revealing an attentiveness to what lies beyond the threshold of this self-imposed isolation. Made while living in Yangon, Myanmar, this series derives from Jerome Ming’s early interest in built structures and interventions.

Jerome Ming is an artist and works primarily with photography. While studying Fine Art at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham, Ming utilised photography in his installation and performative work. He later joined the photojournalism program at the London College of Printing and subsequently was based in Asia for about 19 years as both photographer and artist. Ming received an MFA in Photography from the Hartford School of Art in 2014. He currently lives in Pretoria, South Africa.

Judges for the 2019 prize were: Sarah Allen (Photography Specialist, Assistant Curator at Tate Modern), Emma Bowkett (Director of Photography at the Financial Times FT Weekend Magazine), Polly Fleury (Director of Special Projects at the Wilson Centre for Photography), Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa (photographer and writer) and Michael Mack (publisher and founder of Mack Books).

Previous winners include: Hayahisa Tomiyasu (2018), Emmanuelle Andrianjafy (2017), Sofia Borges (2016), Ciarán Óg Arnold (2015), Joanna Piotrowska (2014), Paul Salveson (2013) and Anne Sophie Merryman (2012).

The First Book Award is supported by MACK, the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation, Wilson Centre for Photography and Optimal Media.