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Meet the photographers competing for this year’s $50,000 Scotiabank Photography Award

Rafael Goldchain, Angela Grauerholz and Isabelle Hayeur, left to right, are finalists for this year's Scotiabank Photography Award.

Three Canadian artists – two females, one male – are vying for this year's Scotiabank Photography Award, which offers a $50,000 first prize, one of Canada's richest purses for the visual arts. Announced Wednesday in Toronto, the finalists are Rafael Goldchain, 62, of Toronto, Angela Grauerholz, 63, and Isabelle Hayeur, 46, both based in Montreal.

This is the fifth consecutive year for SPA, created by Toronto photographer Edward Burtynsky and Jane Nokes, Scotiabank director of arts, culture and heritage, to recognize cumulative excellence in contemporary photography. Previous laureates have included Arnaud Maggs, Mark Ruwedel, Lynne Cohen and Stan Douglas.

This year's finalists were chosen from a long-list of 11 nominees by a three-person jury comprised of Nova Scotia College of Art & Design professor/curator/artist Robert Bean, Catherine Bédard, art historian/deputy director of the Canadian Cultural Centre (Paris), and critic and University of Guelph professor Robert Enright.

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The winner, to be named May 6, also gets a book of his or her work published by the noted German art house publisher Steidl and a solo exhibition at Toronto's Ryerson Image Centre in association with the 2016 Contact photography festival. Each runner-up receives $10,000.

If there's a favourite among this year's finalists, it's likely the Hamburg-born Grauerholz who's called Montreal home since the mid-70s. Most famous for her dreamy, almost monochromatic large-scale photographs, she was a finalist for the 2013 SPA won by Vancouver's Stan Douglas. In 2010 the National Gallery in Ottawa mounted a large exhibition of her work and last year she was named a winner of one of the Governor-General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Of Polish-Jewish heritage, Goldchain was born in Santiago, Chile and educated in Jerusalem before moving to Toronto in 1976, obtaining Canadian citizenship seven years later. Goldchain's signature work is a series of

self-portraits he started in the late 1990s of himself as his ancestors, male and female, many of whom perished in the Holocaust or left Europe for central and South America in the early 20th century. Princeton Architectural Press published a monograph of some of these images in 2008 titled I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions.

Hayeur describes herself on her website as a "digital image artist recognized for her large-sized photographic montages, videos and site-specific installations, in which she highlights urban blights and sprawl, among a number of industrial society's pitfalls." Her work has been collected by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery in Ottawa, the Vancouver Art Gallery and Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Photography.

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