25 Under 25:
Up-and-Coming American Photographers
Editors Note
November 2008

by Iris Tillman Hill

Making photographs is and isn't child's play. For many of the young photographers in this book, the camera became part of their lives at an early age, and in years they are not far removed from their own childhoods. Still, looking at their photographs, we know at once that they have left childhood behind to take on challenging issues and subjects and to seize those compelling moments when photographs are made. Honing their technical skills, sharpening their critical thinking, they have not been shy in looking and bringing back images that probe, question, and give expression to a wide range of feelings. Some take risks to engage with a world that has grown increasingly violent; others explore the puzzles of the inner self and intimate social interactions. There is humor here too, and pathos, and throughout these pages a respect for human life and culture. The camera has given these 25 photographers the license to go out into the world; a privilege they are not wasting.

Since its beginning in 1989, the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) has undertaken the encouragement of young photographers as part of its mission. More than a decade ago, CDS published the first in what was to become a series of books focused on photographers 25 years old and younger. In 2003, with the publication of the second book, we joined forces with powerHouse Books, our extraordinary partner in this ongoing venture. With this third title, the series itself is coming into maturity as a vehicle to launch the careers of emerging American photographers.

Each book, published at five-year intervals, introduces a new generation of remarkably talented visual artists from throughout the United States. Selected in an open competition, the photographers in this edition of 25 Under 25 were born on or after April 28, 1980. We received almost 300 submissions, and the 25 winners were chosen by renowned photographer Sylvia Plachy. Plachy judged this contest with an acute eye, generous mind, and unbounded enthusiasm for images. Not unlike the iconic photographer she describes in her introduction who searches for the "pearl in the ocean," that secret found in the moment when a photograph is taken, Plachy looked at every photograph submitted by every photographer, and then looked again. Her commitment to creating this book has been immense.

I thank Alexa Dilworth, my editorial partner at CDS, whose advice and drive for perfection save me from my mistakes. Bonnie Campbell, CDS's book designer, took my sequencing of the photographs and my rough suggestions for layouts and transformed them into a unified book of beautifully realized photo essays, and I thank her for accomplishing what seems to me a kind of magic.

My thanks go also to Tom Rankin, CDS's director, who entrusted me with this work, and to Jack Murrah, president of the Lyndhurst Foundation, who has been a constant friend to me personally and to CDS as a whole.

My last thank-you should be my first, because without these 25 gifted photographers this book would not exist. I thank them, as well as the hundreds of other young photographers who submitted their work to the competition—without their dedication and love for photography, there would be no 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers.

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© Iris Tillman Hill

Iris Tillman Hill, editorial director of Lyndhurst Books, co-edited "Beyond the Barricades: Photographs by Twenty South African Photographers" (Aperture, 1989), and has edited books by Larry Towell, Mitch Epstein, and Wendy Ewald, among others. As chief editor of university presses in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, she edited groundbreaking titles in American studies, Southern history, and gender studies. She lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.