Brenda Ann Kenneally Wins The 2005 NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant

By Donald R. Winslow 
News Photographer magazine

Brenda Ann Kenneally, a freelance photojournalist from Brooklyn, NY, is the winner of the 2005 NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant, committee chairman Bill Luster announced today. Kenneally’s ongoing essay, “Legal Guardian: The Long Arm of the Law Reaches Inside America's Most Vulnerable Families,” won over 36 other entries. Matt Black, a freelance photojournalist from Lemoncove, CA, was the runner-up.

Kenneally is the first two-time winner of the honor. She also won in 2000 for "Money, Power, Respect: Real Life Stories from the Hip-Hop Generation,'' about the legacy of drug use from generation to generation in her Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“This grant means that I can continue to be a photographer for another year!” Kenneally told News Photographer magazine today. “It means I can keep working. I’ve been walking around saying that I would quit my job, if I only had one! No, really, it’s harder now than ever to do these kind of long-term projects, especially one based in America. It’s a time when we’re turning our interests to other countries, like Iraq and the war, and away from this kind of story that used to be a mainstream story here in the States. So now I can keep working on it for another year.”

The Sabbatical comes with a $15,000 stipend so that working photographers can afford to take time to work on their essay unencumbered by daily assignments.

“Brenda's work is very fascinating and indicative of the commitment of a concerned photographer, one who not only cares deeply about her work but also about her subjects,” Luster said. “She’s first class in every way."

"The final two entries, Brenda's work and that of Matt Black, the runner-up, were tough choices for the judges. The judges felt that Brenda's work was very intimate, and that carried the day,” Luster said.

Judging was done in Washington, DC, on February 5 at the offices of U.S. News & World Reportmagazine. The judges were Kathy Moran, an illustrations editor at National Geographic magazine; David Griffin, former creative director ofU.S. News & World Report who is now the senior editor of photography and illustrations for National Geographic magazine; and Todd James, an illustrations editor at National Geographic magazine.

About Kenneally’s essay, Moran said "It's so rare to find anyone that engages that much with the subject. This entry is total immersion." James agreed. “This is a level of intimacy and commitment to documentary photojournalism that one does not see often.”

Nikon, along with the National Press Photographers Association, created the award in 1985. It was first won by photojournalist April Saul of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Over the years two winners have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize: John Kaplan's project, which showed the diversity of lifestyles among 21-year-olds in transition to the adult world, won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography; and David Peterson’s essay “Shattered Dreams – The Iowa Farm Crisis” for The Des Moines Registerwon the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. Both essays resulted from their ongoing work after receiving the NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant.

“I’d like to thank everyone at Corbis and especially Brian Storm, Maria Mann, and Christina Cahill," Kenneally said today. "And also to thank Kathy Ryan at The New York Times Magazine who initially gave me the assignment for the first family, and writer Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of the book Random Family, who wrote the Times magazine story.”

Kenneally was a Soros Criminal Justice Media Fellow, and she attended the University of Miami where she earned a BS in sociology and photojournalism. She also has an MA in studio art from New York University. Her work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Ms. magazine, among other publications.

In 2000 she won the NPPA-University of Missouri POY Community Awareness Award and in 2001 she was awarded the International Prize for Photojournalism in Gijon, Spain. Her essay on her Brooklyn neighborhood has also received the support of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, the Mother Jones Documentary Fund, and the Open Society Institute.

Last year's winner was Felicia Webb, a United Kingdom freelancer associated with the Independent Photographers Group agency (IPG), for her project "Fat Times in the USA." Webb was the first non-American to win the sabbatical. The 2003 winner was Jon Lowenstein for his project "From Guerrero to Gringolandia and Back: Day Labor, Family, and the New Global Economy." Lowenstein, who lives in Chicago, IL, specializes in long-term, in-depth documentary photographic projects which strive to challenge the status quo.