Off the Page, with photographer Ian Willms

Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. As we prepare for this year’s NMA bash, we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning photographer Ian Willms.

NMAF: Last year you won the Gold National Magazine Award for Photojournalism & Photo Essay for “In the Shadow of the Oilsands” published in This Magazine. How has winning this award helped you expand your career?

Ian Willms (Tintype by Marek Warunkiewicz)

Ian Willms: The NMA is a big award and I’m extremely grateful to have won it. I’m sure it has done quite a bit to promote my work and lift my profile as a documentary photographer. Above all else, I’m happy that this award brought the story to more viewers.

NMAF: What advice, either professional or artistic, would you give to current and future Photojournalism & Photo Essay NMA candidates? 

Ian Willms: Stay true to the vision that you have for your work. It’s so easy to lose that in the editorial realm. Take the time necessary to do the work that matters to you, in the way that you believe it needs to be done; even if it’s not profitable.

“In the Shadow of the Oilsands” by Ian Willms, This Magazine (Mar/Apr 2011)

NMAF: Since winning the NMAF Gold award, what photography projects have you completed?

Ian Willms: I’ve been working on a photo essay that explores the religious oppression of Mennonites in Europe and Russia during the 16th-20th centuries. The work is called “Why We Walk” and can be seen at

Ian Willms is a freelance photographer based in Toronto. You can view his work at His work has been exhibited extensively in Canada and around the world, and he’s currently a member of the Boreal Collective and Reportage by Getty Images Emerging Talent.

Special thanks to Jordanna Tennebaum for the interview with Ian. Tomorrow on the Magazine Awards blog we’ll throw the spotlight on this year’s finalists for Photojournalism & Photo Essay.

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