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W. Eugene Smith Grant Awarded to 5 Photographers

W. Eugene Smith Grant Awarded to 5 Photographers

W. Eugene Smith Fund breaks 40-year tradition and presents 41st annual grant in humanistic photography to five photographers.

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Grant, one of the most important photography prize in the world, is presented annually to photographers whose work represent the tradition of the documentary photography.

A student is having trouble memorizing the Qur’an. She needs silent places to memorize. If she cannot pass the exam she will need to study two more years in school © Sabiha Cimen

This year, the W. Eugene Memorial Fund is breaking from its 40-year tradition of presenting its $40,000 annual grant to a single photographer by announcing it has selected five recipients of this year’s grant. Each recipient will receive $10,000 for their entries which, in the eyes of the judges, follow the tradition of the compassionate photojournalism exhibited by W. Eugene Smith during his 45-year career.

Recipients of the 2020 W. Eugene Smith Grant are: Andres Cardona (Colombia), whose work focuses on violence in Colombia; Sabiha Çimen (Turkey), whose portraits shot in conservative Quran boarding schools for young girls show their daily lives;  Laura El-Tantawy (Egypt) and her poetic exploration of the relationship between man and land;  Mariceu Erthal Garcia (Mexico), with a project who explores the absence of a missing woman, Gemma Mávil, who left home in 2011 for a job interview and never returned; and Yuki Iwanami (Japan), documenting the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

A man looks around his abandoned hometown, Fukushiman, Japon © Yuki Iwanami

Recognizing the widespread financial need caused by the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, especially for the arts, including documentary photography, the Smith Fund’s Board of Trustees determined the grant would have greater significance if shared among several photographers. 

Today’s announcement of grant recipients coincides with the 42nd anniversary of Smith’s death on October 15, 1978. Since the Fund’s inception in 1979, it has awarded over $1 million to photographers whose past work and proposed projects follow the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s career as a photographic essayist.

Letters to Gemma © Mariceu Erthal Garcia

“I am proud of the decisions the board of trustees made this year to adjust the structure, and tradition, of the Smith Fund to financially support more documentary photographers during an unprecedented time in our history,” explained Phil Block, president of the W. Eugene Memorial Fund. “Equally important and impressive were the entries to this year’s grant, including this year’s recipients, which reflect the overall quality of documentary projects being produced around the world.”

Farmer Mustafa Foqha, 64. Palestinian farmers who lost their land to the Israeli Occupation feel an overwhelming loss of identity. I’ll Die For You © Laura El Tantawy

The Smith Fund also announced that Ksenia Kuleshova (Russia), a graduate student at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Germany, is the recipient of the $5,000 Smith Student grant, and Stephen Ferry (Bogota, Colombia) representing OjoRojo Fabrica Visual (Red Eye Visual Factory), is the recipient of the $10,000 Howard Chapnick grant, honoring group documentary projects.

In February 2021 will be released Minamata, a drama film directed by Andrew Levitas, based on the book of the same name by Aileen Mioko Smith and Eugene Smith. The film stars actor Johnny Depp as photographer Eugene Smith, who documented between 1971 and 1973 the effects of mercury poisoning on the citizens of Minamata, Kumamoto, Japan.

More information:

Wreck Family and Colombian Conflict © Andres Cardona

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