January 2020 – I’m proud to announce that the Board of Trustees of the W. Eugene Smith Fund has reappointed me as Co-Treasurer of the Fund for an eighth consecutive year. I served as Secretary of the Board for the three years prior to becoming Treasurer.

The W. Eugene Smith Fund for Humanistic Photography is a non-profit organization that issues annual grants to photojournalists to pursue photographic projects focusing on the human condition in the spirit of W. Eugene Smith, the famous LIFE magazine photographer. My tasks include fundraising, budgeting and bookkeeping. (I secured Canon USA’s sponsorship for the past nine years.) My fellow board members are affiliated with the International Center of Photography, the Pulitzer Center, Swann Auction Gallery, Vanity Fair, and other leading photography organizations.

The fund’s sponsors include The Incite Project, Herb Ritts Foundation, Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation and Canon USA. Additional support is provided by Aperture, Brilliant Graphics, Center for Creative Photography (CCP), the International Center of Photography (ICP), MediaStorm, MFA Photo Video, Photo District News (PDN), Pro Photo Daily, the School of Visual Arts BFA Photography, MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department, and Synergy Communications Inc.

On October 17, 2019, the W. Eugene Smith Fund Board announced that Yael Martínez (Mexico) was the recipient of the 2019 $40,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for The House That Bleeds. Selected from a talented group of 12 finalists, Mr. Martínez’s project looks at the epidemic of thousands of missing citizens throughout Mexico, often believed to be dead, due to the rise in organized crime and drug trafficking.

The Eugene Smith Grant, now celebrating its 40th anniversary, is helping Mr. Martínez develop the final chapter of this long-term work to photograph the wives and mothers of these victims who are challenging all aspects of Mexico’s social, cultural, and political structures in order to find out the fate of their loved ones. His ultimate goal is to produce a complete body of work that offers a historical and substantial way to face the violence that fractures communities, both physically and emotionally. Mr. Martínez’s project was selected from among 362 entries from 56 countries, the most ever submitted to the Smith Grant.

The grant was presented to Mr. Martínez during the organization’s annual awards ceremony at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Theater in New York City. “It is a great achievement for me to be the recipient of the prestigious Eugene Smith Grant, but also a great responsibility,” Mr. Martínez told attendees. “This grant will allow my photography to continue to be a voice so all the mothers and families who continue looking for their loved ones can be heard.”

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial 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, along with fellowships and other special awards, enables recipients to undertake and complete worthy photojournalistic projects. During its 40-year existence, the W. Eugene Smith Fund has awarded more than one million dollars in grants and scholarships to photographers whose past work and proposed projects follow the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s career as a photographic essayist.

Additional Awards

Photographer Siân Davey (UK) received a $5,000 Smith Fund Fellowship for A Poverty State of Mind, a long-term project that focuses on the financial costs of government austerity that have put the lives of women and children at risk across the UK.

The judges also presented special awards to Nadia Shira Cohen (USA, now living in Italy) and Matt Eich (USA) for God’s Honey and The Invisible Yoke, respectively. Sponsored by The Philip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the $2,500 awards are presented to Smith Grant finalists whose works were deemed “exceptional and worthy of recognition” by the judges.

Fawaz Oyedeji (Nigeria), a recent graduate of Yaba College of Technology (Nigeria) and currently pursuing a B.A.E in History Education at the University of Lagos (Nigeria), received the $4,000 Eugene Smith Student grant for Yours in Arms, a study of how changing times, unstable living conditions, and government decisions (over time) have impacted the life/fate of student-cadets in Nigeria.

This year’s $5,000 Howard Chapnick Grant was presented to Alicia Hansen, founder of NYC SALT, an organization that creates opportunities in visual arts and pathways to college for under-served New York City youth. Established in 1996, this award is presented to an individual for leadership in any field ancillary to photojournalism, such as picture editing, research, education, and management. For more than a decade, the programming at NYC SALT engages students through a rigorous blend of professional photography instruction, one-on-one mentoring, college prep workshops, and career exposure.

In an environment where newspapers and weekly news magazines are closing and assignments are few, the grants enable photographers to cover and educate the public about issues that affect our daily lives with a graphic strength that attracts one’s intellectual curiosity and pulls heart strings. I’m proud to help keep the torch of concerned photojournalism burning. The fund is accepting entries for 2020.

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