Catchlight’s Activist Awards identify outstanding work by photographers in collaboration with non-profit organizations worldwide. Since the inception of the Activist Awards in 2009, more than 600 photographers—in collaboration with more than 450 nonprofit organizations in 90 different countries—have submitted their work for consideration.

Catchlight was founded as PhotoPhilanthropy in 2009, with the goal of recognizing photographic excellence in service of, or partnership with, a non-profit organization addressing the issues of our time. As evolution in the visual media world has brought us new technology and powerful opportunities to connect people around visual storytelling, we’ve re-imagined ways we may better serve and grow our socially committed community.

This year’s awards generated submissions from an amazing 54 different countries! Catchlight was able to award $15,000 to the top professional photographer and $5,000 to an emerging photographer. You can learn more about each of these photographers below.

Secret Camps
by Åsa Sjöström

For the past three years, an annual, secret summer camp has been held for women and children in Sweden who’ve been subjected to domestic or honor violence. The nature and beauty of the camp, which is organized by the Women’s Rights Organization in Malmö, is meant to bring some sort of normalcy to the difficult lives of its attendees. Children play and smile, some take a bath in the lake for the first time, and mothers and children have the opportunity to do things together without fear.

Koodankulam: A Nuclear Plant in My Backyard
by Amirtharaj Stephen

While the women and children portrayed in Sjöström’s poetic essay find solace in secrecy, the opposite is true of the community at the center of the winning series in the emerging category—a community which struggles to be heard. Amirtharaj Stephen’s narrative essay captures, from an intimate vantage point, a story unlikely to be covered by the mainstream media: the uprising of a local community against the Indian and Russian Government on the commissioning of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), as well as the violence by government forces attempting to clamp down on the protesters.

The work is both personal and political. In the words of Stephen, “I spent the first 24 years of my life in the Atomic Energy Township there. I was always told by the people in my township that nuclear energy was safe, and that it was the future. I believed them.”


Editors’ Note: To learn more about the Catchlight Activist Awards and this year’s two winners, be sure to visit the organization’s website.