Sebastián Liste, Mehran Hamrahi, Win 2014 Alexia Foundation Grants

Photographs from the winning Alexia Grant proposals by photojournalists Sebastián Liste (at top) and Mehran Hamrahi.
Photographs from the winning Alexia Grant proposals by photojournalists Sebastián Liste (at top) and Mehran Hamrahi.

SYRACUSE, NY (February 27, 2014) – The winners of the Alexia Foundation 2014 grants were announced today, and Sebastián Liste of Spain is the professional winner and Mehran Hamrahi of Islamic Azad University in Iran is the student winner.

The Alexia Foundation was established by the family of Alexia Tsairis, an honors photojournalism student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University who was a victim of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight #103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988. She was returning home for the Christmas holidays after spending a semester at the Syracuse University London Centre.

Liste will receive the $20,000 professional grant for his ongoing five-year project, "The New Culture of Violence in Latin America" which is an investigation of crime, punishment and security in Latin America. Over the last two decades, the photographer said in his winning proposal describing his project, crime rates in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have soared making these countries the world's most violent regions despite the fall of military rule and the restoration of democracy.

Finalists for the professional grant were Stephen Dupont, of Austinmer, Australia, and Pau Coll Sánchez of Barcelona, Spain, for their respective projects about mental health treatment in Angola and prisons in Central America.

Hamrahi, the student grant winner, was recognized for his project "Iranian People, Ordinary or Criminals." His photographs attempt to portray the daily life of Iranian youth, people Hamrahi says are dreaming of living "a free life." He says that deprived of basic human rights and social freedoms, today's Iranian youth dream of immigration and living in a free country abroad. As the winner he will receive tuition for the Syracuse University London Program, a $1,000 grant to help produce the proposed body of work, a $300 gift card from Dury's Photo for equipment and supplies, and $500 will be awarded to his school's academic department.

The second place student grant winner was Shahria Sharmin of the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute for her project, "Call Me Heena." It explores the different responses Bangladesh and India have to transgender identity of the Hijra, a South Asian term referring to an individual born male, but who identifies as female, and eventually adopts the feminine gender roles. Shahria will receive half tuition for study at the Syracuse University London Program, a $500 cash grant to help produce the proposed body of work, and a $250 gift card from Dury's Photo for equipment and supplies.

Farzana Hossen of Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Andrew Renneisen of Syracuse University, and Sarah Ann Jump of the Rochester Institute of Technology each received Alexia Awards of Excellence. 

Hossen's project, "Lingering Scars" tells the story of women who are the victims of acid and kerosene burns in Bangladesh as they try to rebuild their lives in a society where violence against women is on the rise and is sanctioned by both society and the state.

Renneisen's project, "Hip Hop, Save Me," will look at a group of aspiring hip-hop artists trying to make it as rappers at night while struggling to provide for their families by day. This is the second year that Renneisen has been awarded an Alexia Student Grant; last year, he received an Award of Excellence for his project "Violent Times: Crime in America's Cities."

Jump's project, "New Roots: Refugees Resettling in America” will be a photographic documentation of the first year of resettlement for a refugee family settling in Rochester, NY.

The new Gilka Grant, honoring the late National Geographic photography director and Syracuse University adjunct professor of photojournalism Robert E. Gilka, has been awarded to Renneisen and Jump to allow them to attend the Kalish Workshop.

This year's judges were Stephen Mayes, Karen Mullarkey, and Yukiko Yamagata. Mike Davis, who as the Alexia Chair at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications runs the grant selection process, said that 231 people submitted proposals and bodies of work to the professional grant competition this year. The judging took place on February 22.

This year's winning photographs and more details are on the Alexia Foundation Web site here.

Last year's winners were Abir Abdullah of the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Bangladesh for the professional grant, and Sara Naomi Lewkowicz of Ohio University's School of Visual Communication for the student grant. 

Alexia Tsairis, who was known as a promising photojournalism student, had interned for the Associated Press in New York City and she was deeply committed to world peace, supporting the efforts of Amnesty International and Greenpeace. The annual photography grants to professionals and students are "dedicated to helping photographers produce pictures that promote world peace and cultural understanding."