NPPA Announces Six 2012 Short Grant Winners

DURHAM, NC  – Six talented photojournalists have learned that they will be receiving $3,000 each to work on photography projects as winners of the 2012 NPPA Short Grants Competition. The winners are Jared Soares, Amanda Lucier, Paul Kitagaki Jr., Torsten Kjellstrand, Christopher Capozziello, and Jenn Ackerman.

NPPA President Sean D. Elliot notified the winners by telephone. As one of this year’s judges, Elliot said, “These recipients represent exactly the mission the NPPA seeks to pursue with these grants, intensely personal stories told with passion and commitment in the finest tradition of visual journalism.” The other judges this year were Victor Blue and Yunghi Kim.

Each winner submitted a detailed proposal and was subjected to reference checks before receiving the grants. They were among more than 120 entrants for the grant program. Last year the NPPA Short Grant programkicked off with five winners,however this year NPPA decided to raise the number of grant awards to six. Even so, Elliot said, “The judges faced a daunting challenge picking only six recipients. There were dozens of proposals that deserved serious consideration, and in the end the judges felt strongly they had found the best representatives of the field for this year's grants.”

Grant winner Amanda Lucier graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Reed College with a degree in Political Science and is finishing her Master’s degree in Photojournalism at the University of Missouri. Currently a staff photographer at the Virginian-Pilot, she interned at The Herald in Jasper, IN, and the Dallas Morning News. She was twice a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Runner-Up 2008 College Photographer of the Year, and was recently named Virginia News Photographer of the Year.

Her project will examine the ways children are impacted by domestic violence in their homes. After photographing the memorial service of Derwin "DJ" Watts, a 19-year old honors student who was just weeks away from graduation when he was fatally shot protecting his mother from her abuser, Lucier was left with unanswered questions about DJ’s story, and the story of kids like him. What else is happening to children caught in households of violence? And what will happen to them as they become adults? Lucier plans to explore these and other questions through her photography.

Jenn Ackerman is a 2012 McKnight Fellow and has been named one of PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch. Her photographs have been recognized by the Inge Morath Award, Magnum Expression Award, CENTER Project Competition, Photojournalism Competition on Human Rights, Emerging Photographer Fund, the PGB Photo Award, the Honickman First Book Prize and others. Her multimedia and video stories have been recognized with an honorable mention for a Webby and a Telly, and two of her short films have been screened at film festivals. One of her most recent projects, Trapped, was named NPPA’s Non-Traditional Photojournalism Publishing Project of the Year and the project’s short film won an Emmy.

Ackerman plans to use the grant to document the struggles of women Somali refugees in Minnesota. The Somali community in Minnesota is quickly becoming a large part of the human landscape. Ackerman says she will focus on a high-rise housing complex in Minneapolis known as Little Somalia, which contains the largest concentration of Somalis in the country. There are 20,000 Somalis living within a three-block radius.

Torsten Kjellstrand is former John S. Knight Journalism Fellow as well as the winner of a Fulbright Grant in literature. He was the 1996 POY Newspaper Photographer of the Year, and he also won a Special Recognition in the Community Awareness Award category that year. He's won numerous awards including from the Society of Professional Journalists, Society of Newspaper Design, NPPA, POYi, Overseas Press Club. He was a staff photographer at The Herald in Jasper from 1994 to 1997, The Spokesman-Review from 1997-2004, and The Oregonian in Portland from 2004 to 2011.

Kjellstrand has reconnected with many of the farmers he worked with two decades ago for a project on Black farmers in Missouri’s Bootheel region. He plans to use the NPPA Short Grant to connect stories and photographs from 2012 to the ones he told two decades ago, and as a way to investigate what has – and hasn’t – changed politically, agriculturally, and culturally. 

Jared Soares is an independent documentary photographer based in Washington, DC. He divides his time between documenting social issues in Martinsville, VA, and client commissions. From 2006-2010 he worked as a staff photojournalist at The Roanoke Times. His photography there was honored by NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, the Virginia Press Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists. He has also worked as an assistant in the Paris office of VII Photo Agency. His project, Small-Town Hip hop in Virginia, was exhibited as a solo show during the Look3 Festival of the Photograph for the month of June 2012. It has also been shown at the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke as a solo show in October 2009, and at the Fotografia Festival Roma in Italy as a group show in September 2010.

Soares will use the grant to work on a project on Disappearing Mining Communities of Western Pennsylvania. The Laurel Highlands, a spur of the Allegheny Mountains in Western Pennsylvania, has a heritage rich in coal mining and steel production. These once powerful industries began to weaken in the late 1980s. As a result, the communities started to decline. In Vintondale, a mining community, 32 languages were once spoken during the pinnacle of the coal boom. The population has since dropped from 3,000 people in the 1970s during the peak to 400 in 2010. Soares will examine the influence of the declining coal and steel industries on communities located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and how people within these communities identify themselves. The completed body of work will speak to the region’s cultural history along with providing a look at the current economic condition.

Paul Kitagaki Jr. has been a senior photographer at The Sacramento Bee since 2003. During his 34 years as a photojournalist he has worked at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Oregonian, the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Progress, and the San Mateo Times. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcasting from San Francisco State University in 1978. Kitagaki’s body of work includes six Olympic games, and national and international events from Vietnam to Iraq. His awards include being named California photographer of the Year in 1990, NPPA’s Best Of Photojournalism contest, Pictures of the Year, POYi, San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association, McClatchy President’s Award 2004, and sharing in the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake while at the San Jose Mercury News in 1990. He is married to Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Renée C. Byer.

Seventy years ago the first group of first-generation — Issei — and second-generation — Nisei — Japanese-Americans were lead into assembly centers that were set up in racetracks and fairgrounds on the West coast, guarded by United States Army soldiers. Ultimately they were sent to permanent internment camps in desolated locations away from the west coast. In the early 1980s, Kitagaki learned from his uncle that acclaimed documentary photographer Dorothea Lange had photographed his grandparents, father, and aunt in 1942 as they waited for a bus in Oakland, beginning their journey into detention that lasted until the end of the war. Kitagaki gathered his family and photographed them at the same Oakland departure point six decades after they had been sent away. Lange made over 900 images of the families held in the internment camps for the War Relocation Authority, and Kitagaki has been searching since 2005 for the identities of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans whose images of forced relocation were captured by Lange and the other War Relocation Authority photographers. He will use his NPPA Short Grant to document survivors of the internment camps in a way that mirrors the original photography, showing the subjects’ strength and perseverance.

Christopher Capozziello is a freelance photographer and a founding member of the AEVUM photography collective. His work has been honored by World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, the Alexia Foundation, the Aftermath Project Grant, the National Headliner Awards, the China International Press Photo Contest, Days Japan, PDN Photo Annual, Photolucida’s Critical Mass, Review Santa Fe, American Photography, the Golden Light Awards, Communication Arts, the Magenta Foundation, Blurb Photography Book Now, NPPA’s Best Of Photojournalism, Px3 – Prix de la Photographie, and he was also awarded the Berenice Abbott Emerging Photographer Prize.

Capozziello says he will use his short grant to continue a project photographing his twin brother, Nick, who has cerebral palsy. Ten years after Capzziello made the first pictures of Nick, he began to see their story emerging in his ever-growing picture archive. “The images are my lament and my guilt about being the healthy twin, pursuing my dreams, while Nick stayed at home.” The project, called “The Distance Between Us,” is on its way to being a published book – with a tentative release in the fall of 2013 – and will also be published with MediaStorm.

“I offer my heartfelt congratulations to these winners,” NPPA president Elliot said, “and I look forward to seeing these stories told.”

The NPPA Short Grant Program is chaired and administered by Alicia Wagner Calzada, an NPPA past president.