Photographer Allen Morris Plays with Light

Meet the 2023 Hal Prize photography judge

Allen Morris. Photo by Skott Chandler.

We are only days away from the opening of the 2023 Hal Prize, and this year, we’ve been working with our partners – Write On, Door County and Peninsula School of Art – to create what we hope will be one of the best contest years yet.

Each month leading up to the contest’s close, we’ll introduce you to our four judges: Toya Wolfe, fiction; Edward McPherson, nonfiction; Sean Hill, poetry; and Allen Morris, photography, who is the featured judge this week. 

Morris is a photographic artist and an assistant professor at Black Hills State University in South Dakota. His bodies of work examine the relationship between humans and their environments, with a particular interest in the impact they have on the creation and evolution of human identity on social, personal and political levels.

What follows is an excerpt from a recent Door County Pulse podcast episode with Morris that has been condensed and edited for clarity. Listen to the full episode below.

Grace Johnson (GJ): Your style is described as “alternative processes,” which is different from what we have usually had in the photography category. Can you explain that style?

Allen Morris (AM): I have been a certified photo nerd for a very long time. One of the things that I think is really amazing about being a photographer is that, no matter what approach we take to the medium – whether we’re shooting editorial photos or more fine-art work – we’re kind of wizards, and we get to manipulate things with chemistry and light. 

In contemporary-art circles, it’s become this sort of space in photography where you don’t necessarily have to make printed images anymore. You can expand to light-based manipulation onto sculptures or drawings or paintings. That’s kind of in my wheelhouse these days.

GJ: Has there been anything that you’ve discovered along the way that has really stuck with you – something that you have wanted to try to get into?

AM: I think, for me, the world of photography is so wide open, and I get super excited about any aspect of it. I’m so happy to do any workshop or any class about any facet. But I think what really excites me is when students start to see and experience the photograph outside of the frame – whether that’s the printed frame or the viewfinder frame – and start to really think about not necessarily what a photograph is, or has been, but what it can be.

GJ: Do you have any advice for people entering the Hal Prize competition in the photography category?

AM: I think any opportunity that we have as self-described artists, or certified and pedigreed artists, to get our work in front of a jury or our peers – and fresh eyes – is absolutely worth its weight in gold. There’s something really amazing that happens in that process, when you put your work out into the world. 

Give it a try, and in the best-case scenario, you might win a prize. Worst-case scenario, you’ve got the experience of submitting work and working within those guidelines that are so common for galleries and competitions and those sorts of venues. I think it’s always worth a shot.

The 2023 Hal Prize competition opens May 1. Submissions are accepted in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and photography. Learn more about the contest and how to submit at

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