C41 Magazine, in collaboration with Ph Museum Mobile Photography Prize, has selected its ten favourite pictures from the 2021 edition of the contest, aimed at supporting photographers, discovering new projects and exploring the boundaries of contemporary photography.

The online self-representation began with texts. Blogs, messaging platforms, tweets. Later, social media posts started to support a certain need to express ourselves and engage with larger audiences. A clear visual shift, which started soon after mobile devices became the main vehicle through which we document our everyday life and shape our digital representation.

With part of the Generation Z (born 1997-2012) and the whole Generation Alpha (early 2010 – mid-2020s) being the first people in human history to have full consciousness of their image and own portrayal since a very young age, how mobile phones and the digital environment are influencing the perception of the self and the way we live? How mobile phones are mediating our identity through images or simply shaping our persona? What does it mean “to be present” in a digital world base on representation?

With this open call, we wish to reflect on these relevant aspects and find images on identity, representation and self-representation in the era of mobile devices. Below you can see some images that try to understand this constantly evolving phenomenon and provoke new reflection on how the millenary human fascination for representation and self-representation is approaching this digital age.

 Discover our 10 staff picks — cover image: Mayita Mendez

Giorgia Bellotti lives in a small town in the province of Bologna, in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.

She almost exclusively does self-portraits. For her, photography is a liberating act, it is like a therapy. She has a very intimate relationship with it; it allows her to look at her own reflection and discover who she is, to heal herself. Taking pictures of herself is more than just my intention, it is something that she really needs and that allows her to delve into various aspects of my personality, to lay out her sufferings, and to embody her shortcomings.

The strong bond with the wonderful places of Apennines was the tool she used to convey her moods, and it inspired her to translate her feelings into images. Each action is a stage in a journey that allows her to delve into those emotions that I struggle to express in other ways. Wherever she is, she likes establishing a connection. Photography is in close contact with her inner universe, it is a liberating act that allows her to access the deepest part of herself.

About this shot:

 Fix the long-term memory. Olds Polaroids at grandma’s house, long time ago

Merel Raats is a Dutch artist, writer and visual anthropologist, all together combined in artistic research. After finishing her honors program at the Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy in the beginning of 2021, Raats found her voice combining her anthropological research as a starting point for her artistic approach into a hybrid practice influenced by philosophy, cultural anthropology and art as a medium and a tool of research. Her artistic work questions the interplay of the individual and the collective experience. How are the two reinforcing the contemporary societal climate we’re living in, and how does it affect the structure we keep on building in order to create meaning in life? Raats is specifically interested in the constant contribution of the individual in (re)creating a societal normative life and the human resistance towards the ‘different’. Focusing on the interwoven interaction of diversity versus similarities, she shows the underlying dynamics in the world. Strongly emphasizing the historical context, empirical observations, dialogue and epistemological questions, she works in an inductive style. Main topics in her work are daily activities that have to do with gender, sexuality, linguistics and spaces. Her work resulted in a published chapter in a book contributing to recreating the narrative around female participants of the art market in historical Netherlands, an exhibition as experience about the feeling of imprisonment by societal ideas funded by AFK (Amsterdam Fund for the Arts) and currently she is creating an archive movie that questions queerness outside the public domain.

About this shot:

While observing the landscape from my chair in the train through Latvia, I noticed this woman in an empty and deserted train-station doing her job. This photo symbolizes for me the change the country is going through in terms of recreating a national identity since their independence of the Soviet-Union. The woman gave me the feeling as if she was frozen to the floor, while the culturally dominated narrative of communism left. I couldn’t see any other cultural landscape but that old one. Taking this picture with a digital device, it reminded me how these imprinted beliefs are easily reproduced. For example, I could’ve taken a picture of a happy kid playing around, but my eye picked this picture worthy. For me mobile photography in particular makes me dissect the representation of my own beliefs because it is happening within a second and then is forever out there for me to reflect on’.

Mayita Mendez is a Salvadoran/American Fine Art photographer who’s work most recently was part of an exhibition at Foley Gallery in NYC. Her work has appeared in several publications including The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine. Mendez has always felt a yearning to belong, alongside a persistent feeling of being caught between places, languages, and even contradictory senses of self.

About this shot:

Her work focuses on documenting these states and the transitions that take her towards them and away. This past year, she became a migrant again. Because of the pandemic, she moved to a small island in British Columbia, Canada. These photographs are part of a more extensive visual diary, searching for moments of magic and sacredness meant to be seen and felt.

Oliver Vedast a photographer (b. 1997) from Mombasa, Kenya. In my work I seek to explore my inner self as well as the surroundings that shaped me. This surrounding of an urban African city has rarely been explored with emotional, intimate and/or poetic nuance; the need to highlight and showcase this is a big motivation for me.

About this shot:

For me the thing that really signifies this generation that has grown up on social media and the internet is the prioritization of their digital identity over the physical one. The face is someone’s biggest identifier; so for me the phone over the person’s actual face that has a social media post of their best selfie on the screen best symbolizes that.

Marianne van Loo is an international award winning photographer and has exhibited her images worldwide. She holds an MA in photography and is an associate member of the Royal Photographic Society. Marianne is a Dutch/British photographer living in the UK. Her practice explores time and place. In 2021 she was shortlisted for the Pink Lady Food photographer of the year, won 3rd prize in the Julia Margaret Cameron awards (street photography) and has currently 2 images shortlisted for the RPS IPE 163 exhibition. In 2020 one of her images was included in Portrait of Britain Vol. 3. book. Her images documenting her experiences during lockdown were also included in Rankin’s 2020 book and in the PHmuseum ‘INSIDE’ book.  Marianne has upcoming group shows in Barcelona, Paris, Trieste and London.

About this shot:

I never take selfies, but during lockdown I was walking in the field next to our lodge. I had never been there, it was tranquil, full off beautiful trees and the elements just came together so I could take this self-portrait of my shadow. At one with nature, a moment of mindfulness.

Born in France (1974), Tijana Pakic Feterman, a French-Serbian photographer, grew up and went to school in former Yugoslavia before returning to her city of birth in 2005, Paris, where she currently resides.

Tijana discovered photography on her journey to self identity and independence from her twin sister with whom she shares genes and her life journey. The similarities and differences between the countries that formed her, Yugoslavia and France, are also clearly visible in her works. Primarily focusing on portrait photography by carefully choosing different strategies, such as staged photography, appropriation, classic studio portraits or documentary photography, Tijana manages to unveil deeper themes such as the subconscious, genetics, today’s youth, heritage, as well as to illustrate the humanity of her chosen subjects.

After graduating with a BA from the Academy of Art BK  (2001) in Belgrade, Serbia, Tijana remained at the academy for another 2 years to work as a teacher’s assistant at the photography department.  Upon returning to Paris, she continued to work as a professional photographer, also getting involved with the music industry.

Tijana’s works have been recognized and selected by the International Center of Photography in New York and the National Centre of Contemporary Art in Moscow; her portfolio Čarolije (Magic) was shortlisted by Urbanautica Institute Award 2020. She has exhibited  in group and solo exhibitions in Serbia, Slovenia, France, Russia, Austria, United States and Denmark.

About this shot:

I am also a mother so I take many photographs of my daughter ( like all parents do) but I take them primarily because I am photographer. I use any equipment I have available at the moment, my analog camera, my digital camera or my smartphone. This image is from  the ongoing series WHEREVER YOU FIND ME THERE I’ILL BE, a series of photographs of my daughter which I started more than 5 years ago.

The artist Aljohara grew up in The Netherlands, she lived in various countries, and three years ago she chose to settle in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, indefinitely. She is one of these rare international cultural voices whose work is based upon her keen observations which she subsequently translates into her recordings. The versatile artist is a sensitive yet critical observing witness to the cultural metamorphosis engulfing the Kingdom as she endorses the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia without neglecting its rich history nor its traditions. Her practice explores the cultural landscape as a tool for uncovering and registering the many colours and shades known to the Kingdom and in this way, she creates a reflecting composite of the intricate and spirited dynamic scenery of today’s Saudi Arabia.

About this shot:

As long as I can remember I have been a woman and artist. Enraptured by techniques, I graduated in Product Design, after, Art-Photography, in between propaedeutic in Art History, and later in life I took courses in medieval artistry techniques (in China and in Portugal). Enjoying Saudi Arabia’s vibrant society so much and convinced that The Kingdom has all the elements to become the next artist’s hub on par with Berlin and the like, I choose to live and work in Jeddah.

Erika Pellicci, artist and photographer born in Tuscany, Italy. She obtained a Bachelor in Fine Art Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and a Master in Photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. Her work lives in constant change, pursuing that something that you can’t fully grasp but only feel. She uses the self-timer and photography as one of her main forms of medium, action, and performance the body as the medium that allows her to explore the subtleties of everyday life. Finalist now of the Combat Prize and the City of Treviglio.

About this shot:

The deposition of a tear on the face is a self portrait of a vulnerable moment.
A snapshot of a silent cry when the chest is burning. In these years of fatigue, it seems that the present cannot be grasped and that the future is covered by an opaque veneer of the present that is not fully expressed.
Since childhood, time was an obsession. Lisa Grace Lombardi began writing journals, so as not to forget anything. She fell in love with documenting herself and her life: her family, friends, landscapes, skies, and also her body. Actively participating in this magic, in this introspective journey in constant evolution, in which she tries to bring out emotions, feelings, and fears. She was intrigued by the dreamy and unreal part of life, creating her own world with her places and energies, playing digitally. Now both parts of it are connected. In the last years, she has been working as a Digital graphic designer.


About this shot:

A distortion of the reality through Instagram filters. I’m like a glass, I only reflect when I’m lucid. Keep your mind clear, hydrate yourself.
Alejo Reinoso was born on July 1981 in Quito, Ecuador. He remembers wanted to be an architect in his childhood. When he became a father at twenties he tried a lot of jobs: funeral services seller was the job where he lasted less. Alejo became a photographer by chance while studying Multimedia Design and making pictures of his daughter’s early years. He got an internship in a local newspaper in 2006 and that was the beginning of his relationship with press photography. Alejo ended in charge of staff photographers of another local newspaper for four years and enjoyed portraiture above all assignments.
In 2012 he decided to quit from newspapers to start a freelance career and from there he has moved away from photojournalism to a documentary and fiction narrative search.


About this shot:

I like blue skies a lot, and in a good mood sometimes I can relate daily personal moments, those that you just think are great to tell through images –moments without first words, just the click. Like an egg falling in blue.

But later, some things make sense and realized again, that maybe I am just a falling man (Blonde Redhead dixit.)