2012 W. Eugene Smith Grant Recipients Named

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Disco Night September 11,” Which Looks at Conflicts of Afghan War on American Soil, Gives Peter van Agtmael Top Honors in W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography

Massimo Berruti Receives Smith Fellowship for “The Dusty Path,” Which Looks at the Violence and Political Corruption That Has Enveloped Once Peaceful Pakistan

David J. Spear and Two River Eagle School Receive Howard Chapnick Grant for “Our Community Record,” to Help Students Document Culture and History

NEW YORK, NY — October 17, 2012 – The Board of Trustees of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund announced that Brooklyn, New York photographer Peter van Agtmael is the recipient of the prestigious 2012 W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography for Disco Night September 11, an American view of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project earned Mr. van Agtmael a $30,000 grant to continue focussing on these wars, subjects that otherwise would be difficult to finance.

In addition, Massimo Berruti from Italy received a $5,000 W. Eugene Smith Fellowship for his documentary, The Dusty Path, which looks at Pakistan, a one-time peaceful nation now caught up in violence and political corruption…”a trembling giant on the brink of a deep abyss,” as Massimo Berruti describes it.

In addition to the W. Eugene Smith Grant and Fellowship awards, the annual Howard Chapnick Grant of $5,000 was presented to David J. Spear and the Two River Eagle School, a tribal middle and high school on the Flathead Reservation in Montana, (USA) for “Our Community Record.” The project was created as a way for the students to connect with their community by documenting their culture and history through photography.

Smith Grant recipients were selected from entries received from more than 43 countries.

The presentations were made to a capacity crowd at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Theater on West 23rd street in New York City. Kimberly Dozier, AP correspondent and author of the book, “Breaking the Fire: Fighting to Report and Get Back to the Fight,” gave the keynote presentation.

“It was one of the great validations of my career to receive the W. Eugene Smith Grant,” explains Peter van Agtmael. “I tremendously admire Smith’s work, integrity and legacy, as well as that of the winners over the years. It will allow me to pursue work that otherwise would be difficult to finance. Most stories have a short media shelf life, yet their importance continues well beyond their presence in the public eye. This is a value that Smith embodied with his work and it’s an honor to continue in that tradition.”

“I was in bed checking my email one night when I received word that I received the Smith Fellowship award,” recalls Massimo Berruti who didn’t sleep at all after receiving the news. “There are many issues and stories I want to work on for the future and this gives me immense motivation, and tremendous pride, knowing that my stories are seen and have an impact.”

“What I find absolutely astonishing is the level of photography we continue to see year after year,” says Marcel Saba, President, Redux Pictures, LLC., and President of the Board of Trustees for the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award. “The quality of the proposals is inspiring and visually expresses the passion, and respect these photographers have for their subjects, and their craft. It is a wonderful homage to Smith who was himself an early innovator and master of the photo essay. The works of Mr. van Agtmael, Mr. Berruti, Mr. Spear, and his students exemplify the power of photography and how it can foster change when needed, and build communications bridges between generations of people.”

“It seems that each year we are completely overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness, passion, and professionalism we see in the entries we receive and it is we, the judges, who are humbled by the works of these documentary photographers,” explains Lauren Wendle, Vice President & Publisher, Photo District News, and Jury Chair for the 2012 W. Eugene Smith Grant. “I see great photography everyday but photojournalism and documentary photography explore the joys and sorrows of everyday life and bring new dimensions to our perspective on life, and our own lives in particular.”

The adjudication panel for the W. Eugene Smith Grant included Lauren Wendle (President & Publisher, Photo District News, and Jury Chair for the 2012 W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography), Susan Bright (Curator and Writer), and Kira Pollack (Director of Photography at TIME Magazine).

The 2012 panel of judges for the Howard Chapnick Grant was drawn from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Board of Trustees including Rich Clarkson (co-founder of the Howard Chapnick Grant), Helen Marcus (photographer), Robert Pledge (President, Contact Press Images), and Marcel Saba (President of Redux Pictures LLC and President of the Smith Fund).

Additional Finalists

  • Michael Christopher Brown (USA) “A State of Ashes, Libya”
  • Bharat Choudhary (India) “The Silence of Others”
  • Jon Lowenstein (USA), “Shadow Lives USA”
  • Justin Maxon (USA) “When the Spirit Moves”
  • Ami Vitale (USA) “Watching the Second Hand of a Clock”
  • Farzana Wahidy (Afghanistan) “The New Young Generation of Afghan Women”
  • Robert Yager (United Kingdom/USA) “Loaded”

Now in its 33rd year, the continued interest and demand for photographic grants is a great testament to W. Eugene Smith, a true pioneer in exploring the human condition and exposing the truth with his camera. Established in 1979, its primary purpose is to support and encourage photographers producing humanistic photo stories in the style of the legendary American photojournalist who sought to expose the truth about issues affecting and afflicting humankind.

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is supported by generous contributions from American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Open Society Foundations, School of Visual Arts BFA Photography; MFA Photography, Video and Related Media departments and Canon USA, with the support of MediaStorm, Photo District News and Synergy Communications, Inc. The 2012 Howard Chapnick Grant is co-sponsored by Rich Clarkson and Associates LLC and NYC FOTOWORKS.

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