Pao Houa Her wins Aperture’s Next Step Award

Maroon backdrop, 2017
My grandfather turned into a tiger series
archival pigment print
52.5 x 40 inches

Pao Houa Her has won the 2023–24 Next Step Award, an honor that comes with a $10,000 grant, a photobook published by Aperture, and an exhibition at Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York. Founded in 2020, the prize recognizes “US-based artists at critical junctures in their artistic development” and “supports the presentation of diverse opinions, as well as timely lens-based work that is relevant to today’s visual culture and society across a wide array of genres or approaches.”

As Her told the prize committee, “My work attempts to break down the larger story of what it means to be a Hmong American into discrete moments in time. I see each small moment, each new portrait, as a kind of poetic note in a broader, diffuse narrative. My most recent work moves into even more conceptual space, using constructed/staged elements to play with themes of geography and longing.” 

Previous Next Step recipients include Zora J Murff and Tommy Kha (who participated in an artist talk with Her at Paris Photo 2022). The honor caps a momentous year for Her, who participated in the Whitney Biennial, won an Outwin Prize from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, had her first museum solo show, and was named Minnesota artist of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In March 2022, Her’s photography was featured by Aperture.