Offering three extraordinary grants for photographers & professionals working in photography, The Smith Fund seeks applicants for its 2022 grant cycle.
Since 1979, the Smith Fund has supported some of the most prolific photographers and professionals working in the industry. Throughout its tenure, the organization has championed photographers, students, and professionals who model the ethos of W. Eugene Smith and address matters of global concern through their work. Now, in its forty-third year, the Smith Fund seeks applicants for its 2022 grant cycle via Picter.
W. Eugene Smith & His Contribution to Photography
W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) is largely considered one of the masters of modern photojournalism and is known for his extraordinary contributions to the field. In addition to his technical mastery in photography, Smith’s work reflects a strong sense of empathy and integrity. Furthermore, Smith is credited with developing the editorial photo essay. A member of Magnum Photos, Smith was profoundly dedicated to his mission as a photographer throughout his 45 year career. Subsequently, Smith’s own work has been characterized by the Smith Fund as “refreshingly direct, sometimes sentimental and often optimistic.”
A photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes—just sometimes—one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought.—W. Eugene Smith
The Smith Fund: A Driving Force for Photography
Through their grants, the Smith Fund has helped some of the most influential photojournalists of our time tell impactful stories about our contemporary world. The W. Eugene Smith Grant, for example, has supported a long list of notable photographers, including Sebastião Salgado, James Nachtwey, Paolo Pellegrin, and Robin Hammond. According to the Smith Fund, “the credos of those who have been awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography are generally more sober, less drawn to epiphany.”
Likewise, the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Student Photographers encourages and supports student photographers whose work reflects Smith’s tradition of humanistic and compassionate photography.
Lastly, The Howard Chapnick Grant supports leadership in fields related to photojournalism and documentary photography. In the past, grantees have used the award to fund photographic research, to establish a photography institute, and to finance photography education for indigenous and immigrant children. Currently, on the Picter Open Call page, all three grant opportunities are accepting applications through May 31st, 2022 at 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time.
How Many Grant Applications Does The Smith Fund Receive Yearly?
In the last three years of the competition, The Smith Fund has received around 500 applications across all three grants.
The Grant Review Process
How does The Smith Fund review all those grants? First, the grants are submitted through Picter and reviewed in Picter by a select group of international judges. Then, the Jury reviews the applications, making sure they have the required materials. Next, they select ten finalists based on the intellectual and substantive merits of their projects. After that, finalists are given the opportunity to refine their proposals and answer any questions from the Jury. Lastly, the jury will review any new material and select the grant recipients.
A lot has changed in 40+ years
We asked Scott Thode, President of the Smith Fund Board, what the organization has learned about running grants programs to make the process more seamless and efficient. He said that, “going digital changed everything.” In the early years of the grants, Scott recalls, photography prints were required in the application process. He added that creating a digital application has made it possible for a greater number of people to apply worldwide.
Advice to Potential Applicants
We asked Scott what advice he’d give to applicants in preparing their applications. First, he says that the best advice he can give is to “have a great story that you have to tell. One that, whether you win the grant or not, you will still find a way to give to the world because your passion for it won’t let you not tell it.”
Secondly, on a practical level, Scott points out that applicants should make sure that it’s a story that requires funding, time, and commitment. Additionally, while the story itself should be in the spirit of Eugene Smith, it does not have to be in his “visual language”. Certainly, applicants should demonstrate their distinct and original vision.
In short, Scott advises: “Be passionate, committed, and unafraid.”