NPPA Short Grants Judges' Comments

DURHAM, NC (October 14, 2013) – The NPPA Short Grant judges this year were Melissa Lyttle, Torsten Kjellstrand, and Sung Park. 

Here are the judges' comments following the competition:

In a year when a lot of the stories were focused on disaster porn of cities in ruins -- like Detroit, Chicago and Gary -- the stories that rose to the top were ones that had something extra, something beyond the obvious poverty and urban decay, something that that counterbalanced that. That something was a glimmer of hope. As judges we appreciated those proposals that highlighted the humanity or those affected, like Diane Weiss' look via Instagram of her own backyard in Detroit that was refreshing and real, and her idea of giving back to that community with a public gallery or show, which she's hoping this grant will allow her to do. 

April Saul has been working on a story on victims' of violence in her backyard, in Camden, NJ and is hoping this grant provides some time for her to finish it properly since time and space at her paper is at a premium. As judges we thought that would be a good use of grant money, to help a veteran photojournalist continue to further her commitment to her community when times are tightening. 

Another refreshing idea was Cengiz Yar Jr.'s proposal that he called "Chiraq" – combining Chicago and Iraq, with the hope of looking at Chicago for what it's become, a modern day war zone. His idea was to hire fixer and embed himself on the streets and with both the people causing and being effected by the killings. 

Logan Mock-Bunting is taking a personal project, a very intimate look at his mother's death, and taking it a step further by tuning his camera on a place and people that provide end of life services for homeless and other individuals who have no one else. We applauded his efforts to continue working on something so close to his heart  

John Locher surprised us with a story and proposal on a group of nomadic Peruvian sheepherders in Arizona, and we were excited to learn about a culture and way of life that we didn't know existed in this country. His commitment to opening people's eyes to this as well as forging bonds with people so different from himself is to be commended. 

Matt Black's continued work in migrants in California's Central Valley is taking a new twist with his look at Black Okie's. His in-depth, long-term commitment to this topic is impressive and immersive. We want to help him continue his project and his life's work on truly giving a voice to the voiceless. As one of his references, Sue Morrow, said, "A lot of people talk about doing work like this and Matt lives it. He's the real deal."

And lastly, William Plowman's story on Gary, Indiana, offered at nice balance between the harsh realities of a depressed place and people trying to persevere. When William received the call that he's won, he was in disbelief and commented that the people who have had his back in Gary and believed in this story are going to be just as excited as he is to see it completed.