Behind the Lucies: Cat Jimenez

Resource Magazine, 10/22/13

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Cat Jimenez

Resource continues its all-access, behind-the-scenes look at this year’s Lucie Awards, which will honor six visionary photographers for their achievements in the fields of photojournalism, humanitarian photography, fine art, editorial, documentary and publishing. Today, we sit down with the Lucie Foundation’s executive director Cat Jimenez to talk about the 2013 honorees, what goes into the big night and how a bunch of photographers get to Carnegie Hall.

How did the Lucie Awards come about?

In 2003, Hossein Farmani, an entrepreneur and visionary, wanted photographers to be celebrated in a way that brought them out from behind the lens and into the spotlight. Hossein organized an Advisory Board of players that would be responsible for nominating deserving individuals annually. The Lucies were created as an opportunity for master practitioners of the craft to gather together in celebration of their commitment to the field. The Lucies are truly the highest form of peer recognition in the photography community.

How long have you been involved with the awards?

I volunteered for The Lucies in 2003, and then again in 2004. I joined the staff in 2005. And they haven’t been able to get rid of me, since. Thankfully.

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2010 Lucie Awards at Tully Hall, © Robert Leslie

What do you see as the purpose or mission of the awards?

To acknowledge some of the most important voices in the medium. To organize a vast record of the movers and shakers in the industry, from organizations, large and small, to the heroes and heroines of our community. I find this work to be incredibly rewarding, and since we’ve grown from the awards program into the Lucie Foundation, I’m constantly interacting with the medium, year round, through a variety of platforms. We wouldn’t exist without the support of photographers and our sister-effort, The International Photography Awards. There is a reciprocity to the work we do. We are supported by photographers and we exist to support and champion photography.

Why is it important to honor leaders in the field of photography?

They are the beacons, they represent history, and they have paved the way. They have shared their unique vision with us and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their long-term commitment to contemporary photography. These leaders have a singular vision, and for that we must recognize and celebrate their work, and their contributions.

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2008 Lucies: Tony Bennett and Herman Leonard, © Samantha Yanofsky

How do you think the global photography scene has changed in the eleven years since the awards were started?

One word: technology. The way we see, experience and share photography has changed exponentially since 2013. I find that technology makes the printed matter even more precious and special. And, on the other hand, the immediacy that technology offers is incomparable.

How would you describe this year’s slate of honorees?

Diverse, infinitely inspiring and fierce. Each of this year’s honorees are ground-breaking, risk-takers. From Lisa Kristine, who travelled the globe for years to document the face of modern-day slavery, to Benedikt Taschen‘s imagination when printing Helmut Newton’s SUMO.  Both Minkkinen and White are passionate educators, whose impact on the future generation of image-makers is definitely inestimable. Li Zhensheng‘s documentation of the Chinese Revolution is exceptionally noteworthy, and has received very little fanfare in the United States. Victor Skrebneski is a true original and an artist in the finest sense. His darkroom process can certainly be attributed to his background studying painting and sculptural. I also feel like Victor hasn’t received the credit he deserves as a fashion and portrait photographer in the US. Broadly speaking, this year’s honorees (aside from Taschen because of his notoriety + publishing fame) share something in common: They are all quite humble. They have focused on their work, and in some cases, sharing their knowledge through education, rather than being motivated by eminence. I’m deeply proud to pay tribute to these individuals; they should be known in the canons of photography.

The winners of the International Photography Awards will be presented in conjunction with the Lucie Awards. How do these two sets of honors complement each other?

It’s a beautiful balance (and treat) for the audience to see a diverse range of photography, from the ICONIC imagery of the Honorees’ work, to the current, winning pictures from the IPA competition, which represents a global community. I hope there is some mutual inspiration happening between the Lucie Honorees and the IPA Finalists. It’s a nod to the incredible work that we’ve been seeing for decades, and it’s a chance to see what’s happening now.

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2006 Lucie Awards: Bruce Weber, © Robert Leslie

Why did you decide to move the ceremony back to New York, and to Carnegie Hall, this year? How do you think the esteemed venue will shape this year’s event?

The Lucies started in Los Angeles, in 2003. For the 10th Anniversary we had to come back “home,” knowing that we’d always return to New York.  Moving to a venue like Carnegie Hall adds another level of excitement for us, our honorees and attendees. We co-opted the famous Carnegie Hall joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Our response: Focus. Focus. Focus.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s ceremony? What makes this evening special?

There are many elements of the show that keep me inspired. My favorite is meeting the honorees after working for months with them, or their people. I love seeing everyone dressed to the nines in honor of photography. The speeches can be quite poetic. I think there is tremendous power in acknowledgement. In general, people want to be seen. This is our way of saying, “We see you.” There is a true spirit of community at The Lucies. And we do this for the photography community, inclusive of everyone passionate about the craft. The Lucies are about access—to community, to your heroes and mentors, to your inspiration, to a path that reveals why you chose photography (that’s very personal and individualistic). It’s a magical evening. I hope that people leave feeling moved and inspired to do their best work (whatever field that may be).

Resource will continue its behind-the-scenes look at the Lucie Awards throughout the week. Check back tomorrow as we talk to this year’s honoree for achievement in Fashion Photography, Victor Skrebneski!

The 2013 Lucie Awards Gala will take place this Saturday, Oct. 27, at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City at 7:00 p.m. To purchase tickets visit

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