What It Takes To Win An Aftermath Project Grant

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By Conor Risch

Earlier this month The Aftermath Project announced the winners of their two $20,000 grants for 2010, as well as the finalists.

Polish-born, Italy-based photographer Monika Bulaj won for her project �Afghanistan: Not Only The War,� which will explore several �hidden worlds� within the country, including the culture of Sufism and other minority religions.

American photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier was awarded a grant for his project, �Wounded Knee: Generations Endure a Massacre,� which will take into account both the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre and the 1973 uprising, during which armed American Indians reclaimed the Wounded Knee land and held it during a 71-day standoff with Federal authorities.

Jon Levy of Foto8, Andrea Stern of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Aftermath founder Sara Terry were the judges for this year�s grants. Terry invites new judges each year to evaluate submissions along with her.

In the December issue of PDN we profiled The Aftermath Project, a non-profit grant making organization founded by photographer Sara Terry in 2004.

Terry created The Aftermath Project to help fund photographic documentary work that examines the lasting effect of conflict on populations, and to inspire a larger conversation about the value of post-conflict documentation.

Each year the organization gives out two grants to photographers who are interested in telling post-conflict stories, and publishes the work of the winners and several finalists in a book the following year.

Aftermath grant applications are judged first and foremost on the strength of the photographer�s images. Photographers do not have to be working on their proposed project prior to applying for a grant, so the images they submit may have little to do with their proposal. �Bring your best game because we�ll look at your photos first,� Terry says.

After judges consider applicants based on their ability as photographers, they then assess the quality of the project proposals.

Terry says Bulaj and Frazier were recognized for their �masterly� photographic language and the depth of their thinking about the post-conflict stories they wanted to tell. Each identified specific issues facing the populations they wanted to cover and discussed in-depth how they would go about telling those stories, which set them apart from other applicants.

�There were at least half a dozen [photographers] in the final contention who had really strong work and were definitely looking at post-conflict settings, but their proposals didn�t raise post-conflict questions,� Terry relates, noting that the level of sophistication used by a large number of applicants to discuss and critique post-conflict settings increased this year over previous years.

Judges also consider which projects have already been funded. �We�re not going to fund another project on Iraq or Afghanistan veterans this year,� Terry told PDN before the 2010 judging was completed. �Not that [those stories are] not important, but when you can only give two grants, you keep casting the net wider.�

While other domestic project proposals have been submitted in the past, Frazier is the first Aftermath grant recipient working on an American post-conflict story. �I have been waiting for a long time for a photographer to come up with a proposal about the aftermath of an American conflict,� Terry says.

The creativity of the visual approach taken by many of the 2010 applicants this year also impressed judges. Three photographers, Olga Kravetz, Maria Morina and Oksana Yushko, submitted a joint proposal to treat post-conflict Grozny, Chechnya as a series of 9 hidden cities within a city. Finalists Jessica Hines and Helena Schaetzle both proposed taking personal, diaristic approaches to their stories. Hines submitted a fine-art based project that examined her brother�s participation in the Vietnam War and eventual suicide, while Schaetzle proposed using her grandfather�s World War II diary as a guide to exploring regions where he served.

This year, 160 people applied for Aftermath grants, up from 145 a year ago, and Terry says the applicant pool included many �big names,� which she considers validation for the organization and its mission.

The application for the 2011 grant will go online at theaftermathproject.org in mid-August, with submissions due in late November.


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