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  1. #1

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    W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography

    An acquaintance of mine is an accomplished social documentary photographer working on a long-term project in humanistic photography. I have been following his activities for many years.

    He does not make his living as a photographer, he is a physician. His profession gives him the access and trust that allows him to work on a difficult but worthwhile photographic project. His work has also come to public attention and has had a significant impact in raising awareness about an important social issue.

    I have encouraged him to apply for the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography as his project is all about raising awareness through photography and stimulating social change. He tells me that as an outsider to the photographic community he is at a disadvantage, and as a physician he is seen as a privileged member of society who does not need funding in the same way that a struggling artist is. He tells me that these grants are best left to photographers who aspire to work for Magnum.

    So, are non-professional photographers wasting their time by pursuing these sorts of competitions and grants?

  2. #2

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    I do agree with your friends take on the situation and have respect for him. B/c there does exist struggling artists: literally people who live from day to day, eat poorly, and struggle to pay rent, just to find means to produce work they believe in. A grant like this can go a loooong way to help someone who's currently sustaining on $20k a year in a major urban area.

    It would be nice for your friend to get his project out there once he feels it is time, maybe via a book, but he's a good person for understanding the grant may be able to help more.

  3. #3

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    The real question is not regarding the merit of the work or justifying an application. The real question is in regards to bias on the part of judges against people outside of the photo-community who have established themselves in another field. If the grant is to help the career of a photographer, and the applicant is a doctor who happens to be a serious photographer, will the judges discriminate against the non-photographer no matter how good their work is?

    Aaron Copeland was an insurance executive who composed music in his spare time, Cezanne was a banker who painted, and Chekhov and Eliot Porter were qualified physicians. Today we know these people for their art, not because of their other professions. Yet they are among the greats for all time because of their artistic contributions.

    Likewise there are many accomplished photographers, who make their livings in other fields, who can pursue long-term projects without the need to worry about commercial concerns or recognition. Are they any less deserving of funding and recognition than someone struggling to make a living from photography alone? Do their other professions not sometimes give their art a depth, maturity, stability, and perspective that photography alone would not? Being an amateur is something to celebrate!

  4. #4
    BWKate's Avatar
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    I think the merit of the work is what the award is based on. The award is not based on financial need alone. I believe it's based on the quality of the work and the committment to the project. There have been financially established photographers that have won this award. It's the work that is the most important.

  5. #5
    Joe Lipka's Avatar
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    He won't find out unless he applies for the grant.

    I like to think that work is judged on merit, not by who does the work. If his work is worthy of merit, then the jurors would be silly not to award the grant to this person. If they feel that inferior work by a "struggling artist" is worth the award, so be it.
    Two New Projects! Light on China - 07/13/2014

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    250+ posts and still blogging! "Postcards from the Creative Journey"

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