Every year the prestigious Eugene Smith memorial fund awards grants to photographers who stand out for a project they’ve released or are in the process of making. This year’s edition took place at the School of Visual Arts in New York on 16th October. It was an evening with a compelling and perfectly-balanced rhythm - the precision that Americans are great at achieving when it comes to this type of event. It presented a combination of interventions and the projection of a number of extremely high-quality photographic works. Alison Morley, Chair of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism at ICP New York, introduced the first projection: photographs by Takeshi Ishikawa.
You might be wondering who Takeshi Ishikawa is - just like I wondered when I read his name on the evening’s programme (or perhaps you already know). Ishikawa, who served as Eugene Smith’s assistant between 1971 and 1974, followed the photographer during the making of his famous work Minamata Bay about the implications of mercury poisoning. Ishikawa recalls: “Whilst working at Minamata I would take pictures but I had no intention of publishing them. I wondered what life was like there at that point and what I could have done as a photographer working for Minamata and Eugene Smith. Hence I decided to shoot the very same patients who’d posed for me 40 years before (sometimes even in the same locations) and to release a “Minamata Notebook” to recollect my experience there and the memory of Smith’s project”. The first part of Ishikawa’s photos depicts Eugene Smith at work - home with his wife, asleep on the floor amongst his photos. They’re beautiful black & white shots that emphasize the delicacy of every look and light. The second part comprises a series of diptychs portraying those sick with Minimata’s disease 40 years ago and now.
On with the evening, Brian Storm, President and founder of Mediastorm, announced the 2013 Howard Chapnick Grant winner - the no-profit organization FotoKonbit. Chair of the organization, Maria Arago, explained the project’s goal -depicting Haiti through the eyes of Haitians. FotoKonbit operates all over the country, setting up photo workshops for adults and children, and building up a large national archive of images.
Photo projections followed one another in rapid succession - each being introduced and presented by their author. This year’s finalists were: Bharat Choudary - “The silence of Others” (on the difficulties of Muslim integration in non-Muslim cultures), Edmund Clark - Extraordinary Renditions and Hidden Spaces on the Global War on Terror”, Maxim Dondyuk - “TB epidemic in Ukraine”, Sebastian Liste - “The new culture of violence in Latin America”, Benjamin Lowy - “The fetishization of violence in America”, Pierpaolo Mittica - “Fukushima - No Go Zone”, Ebrahim Noroozi - “Victims of Forced Love”, Sim Chi Yin - “Dying to breathe” and Christian Werner - “Deplete Uranium: the silent genocide”.
Madrid-born Javier Arcenillas won the $5,000 2013 E. Smith Fellowship to continue his work “Red Note: violence in South America” on the sky-high level of violence in South American countries. The photographer will be using these funds to portray the situation of Central America women that are victims of violence.
The announcement and display of the $30,000 2014 Grant winner took place an hour and a half into the evening: Kiwi Robin Hammondwon with “Condemned” - a report on the living conditions of the mentally ill in African countries.
It was an undoubtedly powerful evening of high-standard images.
The articles here have been translated for free by a native Italian speaker who loves photography and languages. If you come across an unusual expression, or a small error, we ask you to read the passion behind our words and forgive our occasional mistakes. We prefer to risk less than perfect English than limit our blog to Italian readers only.