A University of Guelph student will receive a year’s free tuition as one of three winners of an Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) prize for photography.

Alison Postma, now studying studio art at U of G, was selected for the 2015 Aimia |AGO Photography Prize. The annual national contest, which began in 2013, recognizes three full-time undergraduates entering their final year of study at one of 15 participating institutions across Canada.

Alison Postma
Alison Postma

The other winners this year were from Ryerson University and the University of Manitoba.

Postma will receive $7,000 toward tuition, and U of G will receive a $1,000 honorarium.

She said she was surprised to learn she had been chosen from more than 100 applicants.

“I’m feeling a little overwhelmed as this all happened pretty fast; I sent in my application at the beginning of March and found out I won just last week,” Postma said.

“I am very thankful to everybody who made this possible, especially as there aren’t a lot of scholarship opportunities in the arts to begin with.”

The winners were selected for “taking on the conventions of various photographic approaches,” the jury wrote. “Alison Postma’s masterfully executed compositions investigate the uncanny dimensions of personal space.”

Postma said she tries to create emotions in viewers by allowing them to interpret her work.

“My photography is subtle. I don’t want to spell out a scene for my viewers. A lot of my photography focuses on the mundane, and aims to make the viewer pause and reflect.”

She credits her Guelph professors with helping her develop her art.

“U of G has one of the best studio art programs in the country, and I wanted to choose a school that wasn’t dedicated to the arts, as I like being able to take a wide variety of courses,” she said. “My professors are all practising artists; they are supportive while pushing you to go outside your comfort zone.”

Alison Postma’s winning photo

Photography professor Susan Dobson, School of Fine Art and Music, said Postma has a unique photographic style.

“Alison is interested in spaces that are virtual or dreamed rather than tangible and accessible,” Dobson said. “What is especially interesting about this work is how she employs both traditional photographic tropes as well as photo-sculpture to convey this sense of dislocation.”

Dobson said Postma’s win – following graduate Samuel de Lange’s win in a 2014 national art competition – is a credit to the school.

“I expect that our program will continue to garner attention in the years to come, as the University of Guelph’s studio art program provides a very effective combination of studio work and intellectual rigour, combined with intimate class sizes and individual attention that produces students of exceptional calibre.”