The Critical Mass Monograph Award – Learn All About It!

The Critical Mass Monograph Award is a prestigious award connected to our Critical Mass programming – over the years we have published 16 titles.  The Monograph Award winner is chosen from the Finalist list after proposals are solicited by Photolucida. Once published, a copy of the book is sent to each of the jurors that participated in that year’s Critical Mass – this serves as a thank-you for their time, and also puts the work in book form on the desk of many important industry professionals. We also send out a copy of the book to every person who enters Critical Mass. In the past few years, we have sent an average of 900 books out annually to people in 35 countries.

Our Critical Mass books are also distributed, making their way to bookstores and galleries large and small. Critical Mass publications are always a meaningful accompaniment to exhibitions the award winners have had.

Photo-eye Bookstore is a wonderful collaborative supporter of our Critical Mass titles – offering them for sale through their website, and working with us on book signing events, both in their store and at SPE conferences.

Also, as part of Photolucida’s Photography Resources Program, we send titles from our Critical Mass library and DVDs from each year’s Critical Mass to 200 libraries and photography educators in Oregon.

So – again, Photolucida is working with the word “exposure” in different ways, coming at it from different angles.

We are happy to share some thoughts from past Critical Mass Monograph Award winners with you below!

Mila Teshaieva’s Promising Waters © Mila Teshaieva

Winning the Critical Mass Book Award has been the most important turning point in my photography life. It was thrilling to work on the book and I got great support from Photolucida to realize it according to my ideas. After publication the book has been sent to nearly 1000 professionals, among these 200 curators from all around the world, most of whom I would never have been able to meet. The response was immediate: Wally Mason from Haggerty Museum offered me a solo show on the same day he got the book from Photolucida. Thanks to the book I had a solo exhibition in the West Coast Museum of Art in Germany earlier this year and took part in several group shows. Suddenly doors have opened for me; several galleries in Europe have offered me representation, the work got published in a French magazine and I got a chance to share my vision with a wider audience by giving interviews and presentations on the book.

Besides that, I got really inspiring messages from people who got the book from Photolucida, telling me of their appreciation for the work. It’s hard to believe that all these have happened in less than one year. Taking part in Critical Mass has opened opportunities for me that I could never have imagined.

– Mila Teshaieva, Promising Waters

Winning the Critical Mass book award has really changed my life. It has exposed my work to so many people, and over the past couple years I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of them. David Bram of Fraction Magazine first saw my work as a juror, which then led to a feature on Fraction and that led to gallery representation with Jennifer Schwartz Gallery. Since then I have had my work featured in PDN, Flak Photo, and One One Thousand. I’ve shot assignments for The New York Times and Oxford American Magazine.

Not only has my work been exposed to over 200 jurors in the photo world, but it is still being seen in a new and more final way through the publication of the monograph. I can’t express in words how thrilling it has been to work on the monograph and share it with so many people in the photo community.

– Jeff Rich, The French Broad River 


SurfLand on the shelves of MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) Bookstore


Winning the Critical Mass book award had a huge impact on me, and really changed my life as a photographer.

—Joni Sternbach, SurfLand 

I am not exaggerating or being dramatic by saying that Critical Mass changed my life, for it is very true that you can make the best images in the world but they mean nothing if all they see is the inside of a box. Critical Mass has been just that for me, that tipping point that has made so much more possible, like some video game I have found the gold key and may now advance to the next level! Because of Critical Mass, JD Talesek found me, and told American Photo about me via Brian Clamp and since then I have had magazines from all over Europe and the US including Outside, Focus Magazine, and Men’s Journal publish my work. I even got a call from Time magazine. I have made many print sales through my galleries.  Not too shabby, huh?

—Camille Seaman, The Last Iceberg