Barbara Spohr Memorial Award

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About the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award

Every two years the Walter Phillips Gallery awards the Barbara Spohr Endowment Fund to a recent Banff Centre Visual + Digital Arts residency alumni. The prize of $6,000 CAD in value goes toward supporting the recipient in completing a residency in Visual + Digital Arts at Banff Centre.

Created by the family and friends of the late artist Barbara Spohr, this award is intended to encourage the development of Canadian contemporary photography by providing financial and creative assistance to an artist whose work has made a significant contribution to the field. 
Open to: Canadian artists (Canadian citizen or permanent residents) working in photography who attended a Visual + Digital Arts Residency at Banff Centre from December 31, 2015 – February 23, 2018.

Closing date: March 30, 2018.

Barbara Spohr, "Bread on Saucer" (unknown date). C-print, 50.3cm x 60.7cm

Barbara Spohr, "Bread on Saucer" (unknown date). C-print, 50.3cm x 60.7cm


The award is open only to resident Canadian artists who work specifically in the field of photography and have been enrolled in a Visual + Digital Arts residency program at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity from December 31, 2015 – February 23, 2018.

How to Apply

If you are eligible, please include the following in your application:

  • Cover letter (500 word maximum) outlining your body of work, eligibility, and suitability for the award
  • 10 digital images of work produced in the last two years and an image list
  • Current CV (three pages maximum)

Apply at:

The deadline to receive applications is March 30, 2018. The winner will be selected by a jury and will be announced end of April 2018. Only complete applications will be considered.

For questions and further information, please contact Aliya Mazari, Gallery Assistant at

About Barbara Spohr

Barbara Spohr, title unknown (unknown date). C-print, 40.3 cm x 50.6 cm.

Barbara Spohr, title unknown (unknown date). C-print, 40.3 cm x 50.6 cm.

Born in 1955 in British Columbia, Barbara Spohr attended the Alberta College of Art in Calgary for formal training in drawing, painting and fibre art. As a photographer, Spohr often captured the details of ordinary life—in mundane domestic settings, or through momentary instances—ultimately leaving behind an exhaustive archive of the everyday. Spohr’s act of documenting everyday banalities transforms them into quietly lyrical moments. The objects she depicted retain an imprint of humanness, suggesting a deconstruction of self-portraiture through the representation of personal objects.

Spohr spent much of her artistic career at Banff Centre. She first attended a drawing and painting summer session in 1974. She began exploring photography in 1977, and was later chosen in 1980 as one of 10 photographers for the Alberta Anniversary Photo Project. Nancy Tousley, the longtime art critic for the Calgary Herald, praised her ability “to find beauty, mysteries, and light-hearted absurdities in the everyday,” performing, “not as a detached, inquiring eye, but as a narrator held a bit in awe by the wonder of her own tale.”

When Spohr died in 1987 at the age of 32, after a battle with Hodgkin’s disease, family and friends from across North America honoured her memory by creating an endowment fund to support young photographers enrolled in Banff Centre’s Visual + Digital Arts programs. Her memory is now honoured with the now-biennial Barbara Spohr Memorial Award.

Recent Winners of the Award

Varying art pieces on wall.

Elise Rasmussen, “Atlantis: Fact or Fiction,” “Atlantis: The Antideluvian World,” “The Story of Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria,” C-Prints, 11x14in each; “Research Materials,” Paper, sizes variable; “Plato,” C-Print, 20x26.5in, 2016. Courtesy the artist.

Elise Rasmussen

Elise (b. 1977, Edmonton, AB) is a research-based artist working in photography, video, and performance. Using historical texts and artworks as a platform, her practice metabolizes accepted historical recollections, straddling the line between fact and fiction while positioning the artist as investigator in order to propose alternative readings. Her work has been exhibited, performed, and screened at international venues including the Brooklyn Museum; Pioneer Works, NY; Bard CCS Hessel Museum, Annandale-on-Hudson; ESP (Erin Stump Projects), Toronto; TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary; and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin where she was a recent Artist in Residence. Elise received her BFA in Photography from Ryerson University and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Other past winners include:

Colin Miner (2013)
Celia Perrin Sidarous (2011)
Maegan Hill-Carroll (2009)
Ramona Ramlochand (2007)
Justin Waddell (2005)

Dianne Bos (2005)
David McMillan (2004)
Lorraine Field (2001)
Shari Hatt (2000)
Dorthe Alstrup (2000) 


Stephan Ballard (1995)
Ernie Kroeger (1994)
Serge Jongue (1993)