In early 2016, FOTODOK, Vrij Nederland magazine and Stichting Dialoog joined forces to offer an emerging photographer a grant of 2,500 euros and the chance to make a documentary series with the theme ‘dialogue’. From 30 entries, the jury unanimously chose Cleo Wächter as the recipient of the first grant. Read the jury report below.


“According to the philosopher Martin Buber, dialogue is a meaningful conversation with another. A human only becomes truly human through a relation with another. Dialogue is a ‘turning towards the other’, and is therefore an important prerequisite for a meaningful life and successful society. Dialogue is an ideal, he argues, as well as an undertaking. However much we might like to hide behind our own sense of being right, self-knowledge is achievable only in relationship with others.


Last week, a jury made up of Jenny Smets (Vrij Nederland), Joost Janmaat (Stichting Dialoog) and Lisanne van Happen (FOTODOK) selected a winner from the entries. The winning photographer will receive a grant of 2,500 euros and will spend the next six months developing the project, with support from FOTODOK and Vrij Nederland.


In making its choice, the jury looked for a project that is visually compelling, conceptually powerful and can be realised in six months. The entries were remarkable in their range and diversity of approach, although the current refugee crisis was a recurring topic.


Unanimous decision

The jury was unanimous in its decision to award the grant to Cleo Wächter. She takes us to Scandinavia, through which her father hitchhiked at the age of 17. In her proposal, she writes: ‘Hitchhiking is only possible with mutual trust. Naive, many would say. But when successful, it is also proof that it can be done, even in this day and age. Fear of the unknown other is a frequent topic of current debate. What happens if we do start a conversation with the other? Are you still afraid?’


The project proposal regards dialogue as an undertaking, as a challenge to move forward: both physically and mentally. Wächter’s project is notable for its incisive visual and textual descriptions. She has a clear view of our modern world and a healthy dose of curiosity. We look forward to seeing where the dialogue takes her – and us.


Honourable mention

The jury also wants to give an honourable mention to Elise Schouman and Hillie de Rooij. They have an equally open and curious attitude, and both push the boundaries of communication. Schouman’s focus is on the interaction between different disciplines – writer, musician, artist and herself as photographer – and the role of listening and responding in making a connection. De Rooij, meanwhile, uniquely depicts the journey taken by refugees, weaving together fact and fiction using the refugees’ own stories.”


We will keep you informed of the progress of Wächter’s project over the coming months.