2017 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund
Project info

The 2017 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography
given to Daniel Castro Garcia for his work on immigration into Sicily

Fellowships to Edmund Clark and Alex Majoli
The Howard Chapnick Grant goes to Michael Shaw

New York, NY - October 18, 2017 – The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is pleased to announce that Daniel Castro Garcia is the recipient of the 2017 Grant in Humanistic Photography for his project, Foreigner: I Peri N’Tera — a Sicilian colloquialism that translates as "feet on the ground.”

Selected from a talented group of 12 finalists, Foreigner is the second chapter of Garcia’s ongoing project on the migrant/refugee crisis in Europe, focusing on Sicily, Italy and capturing the lives of those who survived the long journey across the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea.

The project takes a hard look at unemployment, exploitative labor, and the difficult process of receiving documentation in a new land. The Smith Grant will allow Mr. Garcia to continue his project with subsequent chapters set to explore the psychological impact of these journeys and the struggles of integrating into new communities throughout Europe.

The annual grant, which was increased to $35,000 by the Smith Fund’s board of directors this year, was presented to Mr. Garcia during the organization’s 38th annual awards ceremony at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Theater in New York City Wednesday evening.

“Receiving the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant in Humanistic Photography presents me with the most humbling and extraordinary achievement in my professional career,” he told attendees at the SVA Theater. “This support and infrastructure for my project is invaluable and it will enable the continuation of a project I believe can make a positive contribution to individual lives and a wider audience. I am incredibly grateful and moved to be given this vote of confidence and support and I will endeavor to respect the standards and expectations of both previous recipients and the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund organization.”

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund 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 enables recipients to undertake and complete worthy photojournalistic projects.

“The judges were struck by Mr. Garcia’s humanism which is appropriate for a grant that honors the legacy of W. Eugene Smith,” explained W.M. Hunt, longtime Smith Fund board member and the Chair of this year’s adjudication committee. “The pleasure of judging the Smith Fund is the strength and range of the work submitted. The judges were aware that having 12 finalists would be a bit unwieldy, but they wanted to ask questions and consider each of the proposals for a longer time,” Mr. Hunt continued. “They are delighted with the selection of Daniel Castro Garcia as the $35,000 Smith Grant Recipient and felt his work was blessed with clarity and wonder.”

Garcia undertook his Foreigner project in May, 2015, one month after reading about two boats that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea with an estimated 1,000 people dead. As select British media outlets used adjectives such as “cockroaches” to describe those who were onboard the vessels, Garcia made an unbreakable commitment to himself and this project, driven by the desire and belief that proximity and engagement with people could provide answers that often go unheard. As the son of migrants himself, he did not feel represented by the way the images of this crisis were used by the media, nor did he agree with the tone of the narrative being used to discuss migration as a solely negative issue. Feeling that much of the image-making and reporting were questionable, he set out to determine the truth and share his findings through his photographs and written word.

Additional Awards

Photographers Edmund Clark and Alex Majoli were also honored, each receiving a $5,000 Smith Fund Fellowship. Clark’s project “The Unseen Consequences and Networks of Air Strikes and Drone Warfare” is intended as a multi-media investigation of the expanded use of air-strikes and drone weapons as the primary strategy of the on-going American-led War of Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Majoli’s project, “Titanic,” deals with the fragmentation and polarization of Europe’s identity as it grapples to come to terms with the realization that it can no longer isolate itself from the crisis unfolding just across the Mediterranean. His photographic approach intentionally makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

“The $5,000 Smith Fellowship is important, of course, but given at the jury’s discretion,” Bill Hunt explained. “Two fellows were selected for recognition. The Jury petitioned the Board to request that both receive the $5,000 Fellowships rather than split it equally as in the past. It is the first time in the Fund’s history.”

Judges for this year’s grant and fellowship included W.M. Hunt (USA), Mitra Abbaspour (USA) and Enrica Vigano (Italy). Mr. Hunt is a New York City-based collector, former-dealer, writer, teacher and longtime member of the Smith Fund Board of Directors. Mitra Abbaspour is an art historian specializing in the history of photography and art of the modern and contemporary Middle East. Ms. Vigano is a curator of photography from Milano, Italy. In 2009 she founded Admira, an organization specializing in cultural events and traveling exhibitions in the field of photography including “W. Eugene Smith: More Real Than Reality”.

Recipients of the 2017 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grant and fellowships were selected from hundreds of submissions received from 51 countries. Recent recipients of the grant include Justyna Mielnikiewicz (2016), Matt Black (2015), Joseph Sywenkyj (2014), Robin Hammond (2013), and Peter van Agtmael (2012). A complete listing of recipients can be viewed at SmithFund.org.

This year's Howard Chapnick Grant was presented to Michael Shaw, founder and publisher of Reading the Pictures, a web-based educational and publishing organization dedicated to visual culture, visual literacy and media literacy through the analysis of news, documentary and social media images. The grant is awarded to an individual for his or her leadership in any field ancillary to photojournalism, such as picture editing, research, education and management.

The Reading the Pictures Salon is a documentary research project and online webcast analyzing the visual representation of major social issues. The project, “U.S. Media’s Visual Representation of the US/Mexico Border Wall,” focuses on how that controversial barrier has been characterized. It will also explore how photographers and the media are using imagery to capture the political narrative, inject opinions, or to outright challenge the wall from a human rights and social justice perspective.

“I am honored to receive the Howard Chapnick grant on behalf of myself and Reading the Pictures,” Mr. Shaw said. “I never had the privilege to meet Mr. Chapnick, but I greatly appreciate his legacy. He was dedicated to photographers, to developing their vision, and to capturing deeper truths. We feel his conscience is in our work. Chapnick might have been surprised by how much photography and visual culture have taken off, and now permeates daily life. But I’m certain the commitment to understanding that imagery, and helping people read it, is a mission he would have thoroughly recognized,” Shaw added.

“Michael Shaw and his team at Reading the Pictures have brought deep analysis to daily news photography,” said Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm, Smith Fund board member, and Chair of this year’s adjudication committee for the Chapnick Grant. “Their online salon brings together experts and practitioners in an effort to raise visual literacy."

Lynsey Addario, the famed New York Times and Pulitzer Prize documentary photographer delivered the evening’s keynote address. Ms. Addario’s best-selling book, “It’s What I Do,” is currently being produced as a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jennifer Lawrence as Addario.

The Smith Fund took a moment during the ceremony to recognize and pay tribute to two members of the journalism community who passed away this year:

A recipient of the Smith Fund Grant in 2004, Stanley Greene became one of the leading international conflict photographers of his generation. A founding member of the photographer-owned agency Noor Image he was highly regarded and liked by his peers. He succumbed after a long battle with liver cancer, last May, at age 68.

A legendary photo editor and co-founder of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, John G. Morris was an amazing globe-trotting centenarian. He passed away in July. “A humanist and a pacifist, he was photo-journalism’s tireless defender and champion, and possibly its most exceptional chronicler and historian. But most of all, he was our friend,” said Smith Fund board member, Robert Pledge.

Sponsors

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is supported by generous contributions from The Incite Project, Herb Ritts Foundation, Canon USA, and The Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation. 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 BFA Photography, MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department, and Synergy Communications

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Foreigner: I Peri N’Tera

Executive Summary

‘Foreigner: I Peri N’Tera’ is the second chapter of my ongoing project on the migrant/refugee crisis in Europe; this chapter focuses on Sicily, Italy. ‘I Peri N’Tera’ is a Sicilian colloquialism that translates as ‘feet on the ground’. I first heard this phrase on my initial visit to Catania in May 2015 used to ensure people do not get carried away with their hopes and dreams. It is a provocative title investigating the reality of life in Sicily for those who survive the journey to Europe across the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea. Despite ambitions to work and provide for their families, in Italy their reality consists of ghettoisation, unemployment or exploitative labour and a long and difficult process to receive documentation. My new body of work explores the psychological impact of these individual journeys to Europe, and subsequently ideas of identity and integration within their new community. How do the individuals at the centre of this crisis locate themselves within their ‘new’ landscape and what effect do these experiences have on their daily lives?

Photography, Information and the General Public

I use photography as an empowering and collaborative tool. I am concerned and fascinated by how the media reports on this crisis, specifically through photojournalism and the visual culture that has come to define it. An online search of the words “migrants Europe” or “refugees Europe” produces dramatic, chaotic scenes of hundreds of people defined by a single moment, often violent, traumatic or pitiful. There are no names and no personal accounts. Such a humanitarian crisis requires pragmatic journalistic documentation and analysis, not sensationalism - the dignity and image of the individuals in question must be protected and clearly communicated, and furthermore the intelligence and attention span of an audience must not be so readily underestimated and manipulated.

Where is the project at now?

I have been based in Piazza Armerina, Sicily, since early June 2017. In this time I have commenced my new body of work at the Zingale Aquino Reception Centre for Unaccompanied Minors which, in turn, has resulted in me gaining access to a further two centres, The Morgantina Hotel, which is home to 25 unaccompanied females and the Santa Lucia Centre which is home to a further 65 boys. All of these children arrived to Sicily after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea after leaving Libya.
I have started to photograph and document individuals and explore the breadth of problems they each face. Already I have discovered an extremely diverse and wide-ranging number of issues both on an individual level and on a more extensive social level.

Working With Children and Trauma

*Please note that some of the following information is disturbing. Also note that when referring to minors in key stories I will be referring to them by initial only. Please do not distribute the following information to anyone or publish.

The following list serves as a small example of the experiences lived by some of the children I have been working with:

R. is the victim of genital mutilation. Her parents stitched her vagina so tightly that she has been left with a hole that allows her only to pass urine with great difficulty. Her menstrual cycle has become a source of agony. When she was taken to the local hospital for an examination she had a breakdown and refused to receive assistance to correct the scarring. This act was done to protect her virginity.

B. was imprisoned for no reason in Libya and witnessed a man get shot in the face with a shotgun. In a tightly packed cell he and others watched as the man bled out and took over two hours to die with blood draining from his throat and mouth.

A. received news that his best friend was murdered in Libya days before his departure to Italy. Often, I find him alone in the dark corridors of the centre sat in a corner with his head in his hands incapable of speaking.

Bo. held his friend as he bled out due to a gunshot wound to the stomach in Libya. He has flashbacks and nightmares most days yet he is positive about his future.

It is vital to emphasise that I do not wish to create a body of work that defines these children as simply being victims. No aspect of this project aims to develop a sentiment of pity or sorrow. Their experiences are a reality, and an emotional response to them will not change anything. The key with this work is to engage on a deeper level and avoid sensationalist conclusions. Trauma is a reality in their lives yet it does not need to control or destroy their futures. What is needed is critical and in-depth analysis of the situation and a valid consideration must be held for the potential consequences of ignoring their problems.
My presence has been received positively and with great enthusiasm by all of the children I have met. I have been completely transparent about my reasons for being here and there is a complete understanding of my aims and objectives. Everyone is keen to engage with me and determined to collaborate on a project that can not only allow them to explore and express their own situations, but to also find ways to communicate their stories and experiences to a wider community. Their version of the truth is just as valid as that of any journalist or politician.
The situation in Italy cannot be reduced to black and white when the reality is so much more complicated and diverse. Both the Italian and wider European community is capable of understanding a more delicate and nuanced interpretation of the story. Ultimately, how can the local community understand anything about those arriving if they are not given the information? How often, if ever, do local or national newspapers or news programs afford migrants the opportunity to put their version of events across in public? If and when it is done, it is generally voyeuristic and fleeting, a quick report and then it’s over.

Why am I interested in migration?

I started the “Foreigner” project for many different reasons. My primary concern was for photography, because I did not believe in the simplistic, dramatic and provocative images I was seeing. As the son of migrants myself, I did not feel represented by the way the images of this “crisis” were used by the media, nor did I agree with the tone of the narrative being used to discuss migration as a solely negative issue. On both sides of the argument, organizations seek to either vilify or sanctify those arriving to Europe and so I felt and feel that the ethics and the moral compass of much of the image making and reporting are questionable.
When in April 2015 two boats capsized in the Mediterranean with an estimated 1,000 people dead, sections of the British media used adjectives such as “cockroaches” to describe those who were onboard. From that moment I made an unbreakable commitment to this work driven by the desire and belief that proximity and engagement with people could provide answers that often go unheard.

—Daniel Castro Garcia

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Titanic

This project is strongly rooted in the philosophy that each individual plays a specific role, just like in a theatre play, in the events transpiring in Europe.
We wear masks that accommodate these fixed societal roles, and in that way we exist trapped in our own play.
I want these photos to help people identify these masks and make them question their own role and how it is shaping our society for future generations.
What is my role in these events? How do I perceive the influx of people fleeing war torn areas to come to Europe and the resistance they experience? These are the questions I want people to ask themselves.
The only way to understand our complex reality, then, is to acknowledge and question the meaning of the theatrical elements that have constructed this play - our core societal narrative.

My vision for the final body of work is for it to become part of a larger project called SKENE, which strongly concentrates on the characters we come across our daily lives around the world, blurring the line between fiction and reality. It is a project with a larger scope than Titanic as it does not focus solely on European identity.

I feel incredibly honored to receive a fellowship from the Eugene Smith Grant as both a recognition of the work done so far and a vessel to allow me to continue this exploration of fiction and reality.

—Alex Majoli

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