Industry Updates


Grantmakers Launch New Grants to Support Projects on Social Issues

June 9, 2017

By Holly Stuart Hughes

In 2017, CatchLight announced its inaugural fellowships supporting photographic projects designed to raise awareness of social issues. Previously known as Photophilanthropy, the organization used to give grants to photographers who worked with NGOs. Having changed its name to CatchLight, it now offers three $30,000 fellowships annually. The winning fellows receive a cash award and a partnership with one of three nonprofit photojournalism organizations—The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Marshall Project and Reveal, the online publication of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Those partners will help distribute and promote the finished photo essays. That way, the CatchLight Fellowship addresses one of the challenges of many photo grants: finding an outlet willing to publish or exhibit the work once photographers complete it, so scarce grant money isn’t invested in projects that may never be seen.

For more than ten years, the Gordon Parks Foundation has supported photo education and artistic endeavors that advance what photographer/filmmaker Gordon Parks called “the common search for a better life and a better world.” Parks could produce his groundbreaking photo essays, such as “A Harlem Family,” with backing from the now-defunct LIFE magazine. To help photographers, filmmakers or other artists who, like Parks, are working on projects centered on the theme of social justice, the Foundation established a fellowship this year.

The inaugural fellows won $10,000. Devin Allen will use his Parks fellowship to continue “Through Their Eyes,” a project to train students from Baltimore schools with underfunded arts education programs how to use photography to express themselves. Harriet Dedman, a photographer and filmmaker, will use the fellowship to finish her multimedia project, “Beneath These Restless Skies,” about a family that lives on the same block of Harlem as the family Parks once studied. Dedman plans to turn her project, which combines photos and film, into an interactive multimedia piece and an exhibition.

The Open Society Foundations’ Documentary Photography Project showcases photography on human rights issues in its annual Moving Walls exhibition, first launched in 1998. While Moving Walls has always highlighted finished projects by photojournalists, for the first time, Documentary Photography Project will offer grants to photographers and photo-artists who want to produce new work. Recognizing that many photo-artists are not content “merely to illustrate or document negative impacts as a neutral observer,” as the call for entries says, the new grants will be offered to photo-based artists working with conceptual photography, video or archival projects whose goal is to “resist” and “question.” Grantees will receive between $20,000 and $30,000. Their completed work will also be included in the next Moving Walls show, in order to demonstrate alternative ways to address social issues using photography.

This article is part of a larger series of trends and challenges in the photo industry. To read more articles in the series, check out The Ups/Downs of the Year Past and Year Ahead.