Evett-Miller wins photography portfolio competition

December 9, 2008

Jessica Evett-Miller (M.F.A. ‘09) is the 2008–2009 recipient of the annual Margaret Bourke-White Photography Portfolio Prize. Evett-Miller’s winning portfolio, Strata, will be on exhibit in the John Hartell Gallery from January 19 through 30, 2009. 

A public reception was held on January 29 where she was presented with a check for $7,500. More than 700 photos were submitted in 76 portfolios for this year’s competition. Patti Philips, chair of the Department of Art in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, stated that there was “consensus and genuine enthusiasm for the quality and character” of the winning portfolio among the judges. 

An anonymous donor created the competition in 2007. The competition is named after Margaret Bourke-White, renowned photographer and one-time Cornell student. The annual contest is unique in that it is open to all regularly enrolled undergraduate and graduate Cornell students. The 2008–2010 competition will be announced during the spring 2009 semester and deadlines for submissions will be in November. 

Evett-Miller was honored by the recognition and commented on the significance of receiving an award established in the memory of Bourke-White. “As a pioneer in advancing the position of women in the field of photography, Margaret Bourke-White helped pave the way for me to pursue work in this field as well,” says Evett-Miller “Her commitment to her work, her independence and sense of adventure, and her compassion for others continue to inspire young women photographers, myself included,” says Evett-Miller.

While photo portfolios are considered strictly on their merit for the Bourke-White prize, Evett-Miller is also part of a family legacy at Cornell. Her father, professor emeritus John C. Miller, M.Arch. '60, taught design and theory in the Department of Architecture from 1977 to 2003. Her mother, Elissa Evett '67, M.A. '76 and Ph.D. '80, taught art history from 1976-81; and grandfather, Kenneth W. Evett, taught painting in the Department of Fine Arts from 1948-78. 

Bourke-White (1904–1971) first studied photography at Columbia University and later graduated from Cornell University. She helped define the field of photojournalism in the ‘20s and ‘30s and is well known for her haunting images of the Great Depression. Bourke-White is associated with many “firsts” including first western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union, first female was correspondent during WWII, and first female photographer for Fortune and Life magazines.

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