Hear from CatchLight’s founder and fellows about our unique focus on solving the giant mismatch between artists and their potential for social impact by surrounding longform storytelling with resources, networks and leadership to bring to life and amplify the reach of their stories.
Presenters: Sarah Blesener Brian L. Frank Tomas Van Houtryve
Moderators: Nancy Richards Farese
Location: Brooklyn Bridge Park – Water Street
We are at a unique moment, and it’s never been more important to use visual stories to help us make sense of a complex world. Modern day storytellers are culturally diverse and uniquely talented, pushing our understanding of the medium to reach new audiences, address chronic issues, and help us see and understand each other through a more nuanced lens. In 2017, CatchLight launched its fellowship program, honoring three storytellers who demonstrated excellence in the use of photography as a catalyst to spark new conversations.
Sarah Blesener’s project, “Beckon Us From Home,” examines the interplay of religion, love of country, and military-style training in the teaching of “New Americanism” among youth. Brian L. Frank’s latest work, “Out of Bounds,” looks at targeted policing and criminalization of youth in minority communities and asks what kind of a society we have built, where a prison camp becomes a boy’s only experience of summer camp. Tomas Van Houtryve’s project, “Lines and Lineage,” questions the role that photographs—both present and missing—have played in shaping the identity of the West.
In addition to an award of $30,000, each fellow entered a partnership with an established media outlet and worked with CatchLight to mobilize resources and activate community around their year-long projects, focused on driving measurable social change.
Hear from CatchLight’s founder and fellows about our unique focus on solving the giant mismatch between artists and their potential for social impact by surrounding longform storytelling with resources, networks and leadership to bring to life and amplify the reach of their stories. This public presentation will focus on the experiences of CatchLight’s inaugural fellows, and an open discussion of our approach to promoting social change through the arts.
Sarah Blesener was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She studied Linguistics and Youth Development at North Central University. While at university, she worked as a photographer for the organization Healing Haiti based in Port au Prince, Haiti, covering events surrounding the 2010 earthquake. Upon graduation in 2012, she studied at Bookvar Russian Academy in Minneapolis, concentrating on the Russian language. She is a recent graduate of the Visual Journalism and Documentary Practice program at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her latest work revolves around issues of youth culture and movements, focusing on Russia, Eastern Europe and the United States.
A San Francisco native, Brian L. Frank has worked on social documentary projects across the Americas focusing on cultural identity, social inequality, violence, workers rights, the environment and criminal justice.
A lifetime Catchlight fellow and Pulitzer grantee, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, California Sunday Magazine, Harpers, The Atlantic, GQ, Esquire, FORTUNE, Mother Jones, Newsweek, TIME, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Wired, Politico, Virginia Quarterly Review, PDN, American Photo, The Fader, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, U.S.News & World Report, the San Francisco Chronicle and many other publications.
After studying philosophy, Tomas developed a passion for photography while enrolled in an overseas university program in Nepal. After graduation in 1999, he moved to Latin America. In 2002, he was the first photographer to document the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay. Tomas returned to Nepal in 2004 to photograph the Maoist rebellion. The resulting photos earned the Visa pour l’Image-Perpignan Young Photographer Award and the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents. In 2010, Tomas was named the POY Photographer of the Year. Images from Blue Sky Days were first published in Harper’s in the largest photo portfolio in the magazine’s 164-year history. The series was awarded the 2015 ICP Infinity Award, World Press Photo and other honors. Tomas has been a member of the VII Photo collective since 2010.
Nancy Richards Farese is a social entrepreneur, photographer and philanthropist whose work centers on the nexus of art and social change. She believes that photos have a unique capacity to connect people to vital social issues, and to each other; and that there has never been a more important time to understand and advance that transformative power.
Nancy travels extensively as a social documentary photographer, shooting images and visual stories for nonprofits including CARE.org, The United Nations High Commission of Refugees, Mercy Corps and The Carter Center, which leverage her visual narratives for advocacy efforts. Recent work includes shooting in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, post-hurricane relief work in Haiti, and at The Child Abuse Prevention Center in San Francisco.
In 2009, Nancy founded the non-profit, PhotoPhilanthropy, to reward and promote advocacy through visual storytelling. PhotoPhilanthropy’s Activist Awards and exhibitions amplify the work of hundreds of photographers shooting “photography that matters” in 88 countries in collaboration with more than 400 social agencies.
Nancy re-positioned PhotoPhilanthropy as CatchLight in 2015 and dedicated the organization to visual storytelling and the power of photography to drive social change. CatchLight serves as a transformational force, urgently bringing resources and partners together to help photographers of all levels tell visual stories that have social impact.
Nancy serves as executive director and board chair of CatchLight.
The mother of five children, Nancy had a career in banking and personal finance before becoming a photographer. She is originally from Carrollton, Georgia, and now lives in Boston and San Francisco. Nancy holds a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
CatchLight is a San Francisco Bay Area-based non-profit that believes art is vital and the highest form of hope. They serve as a transformational force, supporting artists and creating programs that accelerate the social impact of visual storytelling to improve the world by informing how we see and understand each other.
In 2017, CatchLight launched its fellowship program, honoring three storytellers who demonstrated excellence in the use of photography and art as a catalyst to spark new conversations. Each fellow received an award of $30,000 and entered a partnership with an established media outlet to collaborate on a year-long project focused on driving social change.