The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund announced on Wednesday evening, Oct. 17, that Mark Peterson is the recipient of this year’s $35,000 Grant in Humanistic Photography for his project, The Past Is Never Dead. Selected from a talented group of nine finalists, Peterson looks at the organizations, political parties and candidates bringing the message of white supremacy to the halls of various state and local governments. The W. Eugene Smith Grant will help Peterson further explore the social life of the resurgent Confederacy, the removal of Confederate statues and names on schools and streets, and record the process of the long-term impact of these initiatives. Peterson’s project was selected from 314 entries from 53 countries, the most ever submitted to the Smith Grant since its inception in 1980.
The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant is presented annually to photographers whose work is judged by a panel of experts to be in the best tradition of the compassionate dedication exhibited by W. Eugene Smith during his 45-year career in photojournalism. The grant, as well as fellowships and other special awards, enables recipients to undertake and complete worthy photojournalistic projects.
“The judges were extremely impressed with the urgency of Mr. Peterson’s work, and his commitment and courage in revealing a difficult and enormously relevant subject in society today,” said Stephen Frailey, W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund board member and the chair of this year’s Smith Grant adjudication committee. “Participating as a judge in this competition gave us tremendous insight to the range of narratives from around the world by so many remarkable photographers. The passion and intelligence each one brings to their respective picture stories is quite evident, and the strength and conviction of work submitted was inspirational.” Joining Frailey on the adjudication committee were Jody Quon, photography director at New York Magazine, and Azu Nwagbogu, founder and director of African Artists’ Foundations (AAF), based in Nigeria.
Photographer Sarah Blesener (U.S.) received a $5,000 Smith Fund Fellowship for her project, Beckon Us From Home, which looks at how the interplay of religion, love of country, and military-style training in youth education is being implemented at patriotic camps and clubs across the United States. Photographed in 12 different states, Beckon Us From Home is an ongoing photography project investigating how the United States instills patriotism and passes down traditions to new generations.
The judges also presented special awards to Monika Bulaj (Poland) and Enayat Asadi (Iran) for their projects, Broken Songlines || Three Manuscripts, and Rising From the Ashes of War, respectively. Sponsored by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the $2,500 awards are presented to Smith Grant finalists whose works the judges deemed as “exceptional and worthy of recognition.”
The W. Eugene Smith Student Grant was awarded to Marwan Bassiouni (Swiss/U.S./Egyptian), a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (Netherlands), who received the $4,000 grant for New Dutch Views, a statement that challenges the idea that there is only one national identity and that Islam is separate from the Netherlands. By photographing the Dutch landscape from inside Dutch mosques, Bassiouni invites viewers to step inside the perspective of a Muslim person and rediscover his or her own landscape.
This year’s $5,000 Howard Chapnick Grant was presented to Pete Brook for his project, A History of Prison Photography, Written by Prisoners. The grant is awarded to an individual for leadership in any field ancillary to photojournalism, such as picture editing, research, education, and management. For more than a decade, Brook has written about and curated images of mass incarceration in the U.S. For this project, Brook is teaching the history of photography to 28 men in San Quentin State Prison in California.
The following photographers were recognized as finalists for this year’s W. Eugene Smith Grant:
Mary Calvert: Defending the Forces: Reforming America’s Military Justice System (U.S.)
Giancarlo Ceraudo: Destino Final: The History of Dictatorship in Argentina (Italy)
Antonio Gibotta: Stuck in the Cold of Belgrade (Italy)
Raffy Lerma: In the Midst of Violent Change: Covering the Philippine Drug War (Philippines)
Stephanie Sinclair: Child Marriage in the United States (United States)
The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is supported by generous contributions from the Incite Project, the Herb Ritts Foundation, Canon USA, the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, and Carla Shen. Additional support is provided by Aperture, Brilliant Graphics, Center for Creative Photography (CCP), the International Center of Photography, MediaStorm, Photo District News (PDN), the School of Visual Arts MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department, the School of Visual Arts Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography, and Synergy Communications.