Joseph Sywenkyj Receives $30,000 Grant from W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund in Humanistic Photography for Verses from a Nation in Transition

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Project Looks at the Profound Impact the Revolution and Russian Supported War in Ukraine Has on Families

A young woman steps off a destroyed vehicle that was used to form a barricade during a lull in violent clashes between demonstrators and police forces on Hrushevsky Street in central Kyiv. January 21,

Receiving this grant is a tremendous honor and will allow me to continue documenting Ukraine at this historic time of immense transition.

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is pleased to announce that Joseph Sywenkyj is the recipient of its 2014 grant in humanistic photography for his project, Verses from a Nation in Transition, which takes a sensitive look at families who have been seriously impacted physically, mentally and economically by the crisis they currently endure in Ukraine. A U.S. Citizen who divides his time between New Hampshire and Ukraine, Sywenkyj has spent more than a decade documenting a country his family called home until after WWII. The $30,000 grant was presented to Joseph Sywenkyj during a special ceremony at the SVA Theater in New York City this evening.

Believing that photographs are unique visual poems, Sywenkyj applied different approaches to the time he spent with a family in Odesa, compared with his time covering the revolution. “One represents the formalities of domestic life, while my images from the revolution are more immediate, which is the reason I made them in 35mm,” he explained in a recent interview.

“Receiving the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography is a tremendous honor. The grant will allow me to continue my long-term documentation of Ukraine at this historic time of immense transition,” he said. “The fact that the award went to a project that touches upon life in this nation will hopefully help create more awareness about the situation here and its effects on individuals and families,” Sywenkyj added.

Smith grant recipients were selected from 170 entries received from 42 countries. Past recipients of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grant include Jane Evelyn Atwood, Donna Ferrato, James Nachtwey, Eli Reed, Eugene Richards, Paolo Pellegrin, Gilles Peress, and Sebastiao Salgado, to name a few. This year’s panel of judges was comprised of Jury Chair Stuart Alexander, Anne McNeill, and Dora Somosi.

Also honored last night was Moises Saman, the recipient of a $5,000 Fellowship from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for Discordia: The Arab Spring. Through the eyes of Saman, Discordia takes the viewer on a four-year journey through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria as these states drift from revolutionary throes to violent fallouts. Saman’s personal journey chronicles the indelible transformation of the region in this momentous period in Arab history. “I am humbled and thrilled to receive this year’s Eugene Smith Fellowship, an award that puts me in the company of so many photographers that I have deeply admired throughout my career,” Moises Saman said.

This year's Howard Chapnick Grant was presented to Muriel Hasbun for laberinto project, a collaborative arts and lens-based media, education and cultural legacy preservation project, consisting of digital photographic archiving of artwork, documenting the histories of artists working in Central America during the Salvadoran civil war and its aftermath.

“Being the recipient of this year’s Howard Chapnick Grant is a great honor,” said Muriel Hasbun. “I wholeheartedly believe in laberinto projects, and to be supported in this way is humbling, validating and exciting,” Hasbun said. “The grant will help relate an important – and as of yet untold – story of how art gives voice to a community.”

Hasbun plans to use the Chapnick Grant to work with a group of students and colleagues at the Corcoran School of the Arts + Design in Washington, DC to populate the digital archive and implement Legacy and Memory: Mapping the Labyrinth, a pilot, lens-based engagement program planned for March 2015 at the Centro Cultural de España in San Salvador.

Award recipients presented their work on Wednesday evening to a capacity crowd at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Theater in New York City. Clarissa Ward, CBS News Foreign Correspondent, gave the keynote presentation. Ward is among the most intrepid and recognized international journalists working today. She has reported from every major news hotspot in the past decade and has earned numerous honors for her work from inside the civil war in Syria, as well as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.

In addition to Miss Ward’s keynote, presentations included remarks from ICP Executive Director, Mark Lubell, segments from an upcoming documentary on the life and career of W. Eugene Smith, a presentation of work from past Smith Grant recipient, Eugene Richards, and this year’s Smith Grant finalists including Mary Calvert, Ed Ou, Matt Eich, Encarni Pindado, and Majid Saeedi.

"Joseph Sywenkyj’s Verses from a Nation in Transition takes a sensitive and poignant look at how Ukranian families who are most affected by acts of war and terrorism are not even on the international community’s radar,” explains Stuart Alexander, vice president/international specialist at Christie’s, Smith Fund board member, and lead adjudicator for this year’s grant. “His images remind us that in the end it is the citizens, the communities, and the families that are always the ones who suffer most, and forces us to look at who we are as a world community to allow it to continue. His work stood out among many worthy candidates including Moises Saman who is receiving the $5,000 Fellowship for his project about Arab Spring," Alexander concluded.

Now in its 35th year, the grant is a testament to W. Eugene Smith, an acknowledged pioneer in exploring the human condition with his camera. Established in 1979, the grant is intended to support and encourage photographers producing humanistic photo stories in the Smith tradition.

Financial support for the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund comes from the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Anastasia Photo, Canon USA, The Harbers Family Foundation, and Open Society Foundations. Additional Smith Fund support is provided by Anastasia Foundation, Aperture Foundation, Center for Creative Photography (CCP), International Center of Photography, MediaStorm, Open Society Foundations (OSF), Photo District News (PDN), School of Visual Arts (SVA), and Synergy Communications, Inc.

About The Smith Fund Grant
The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is presented annually to photographers whose work is judged by a panel of experts to be in the best tradition of the compassionate dedication exhibited by W. Eugene Smith during his 45-year career in photojournalism. The grant enables recipients to undertake and complete worthy photojournalistic projects.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Portfolios from this year’s award recipients are available upon request. Please contact Lou Desiderio at lou(at)pr-synergy(dot)com

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