Featuring: Lalo de Almeida, Dario De Dominicis, Kimberly dela Cruz, Fabiola Ferrero, Melissa Lyttle, Zed Nelson, Cristopher Rogel Blanquet, Nicoló Filippo Rosso, Danielle Villasana
Text: Phillip S. Block
Bios: Elizabeth Krist
Photo Editor: Aidan Sullivan
Production: Leandro Villaro
Since the first W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant four decades ago, the world of photography has been radically impacted by technology—from the basic tools to distribution and publication. So much has changed, yet the fundamental practice of the photographers the Smith Fund supports remains the same. We celebrate photographers who make a commitment to a documentary practice that bears witness to events throughout our world, and seeks to tell stories based on direct observation and personal engagement. This is certainly no easy task in this modern world—where basic agreement over simple truths is now contested territory, and the looming threat of evermore sophisticated artificial intelligence further challenges the work of documentarians. But the one constant in these past 40 years is the dedication and persistence of a community of photographers who believe that picture stories play a central narrative in building our understanding of the world, and resultantly, sacrifice greatly to bring these essays to life. It is these photographers we honor and support. We believe their work makes a difference.
The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is supported by generous contributions from the The Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, Meero Foundation, James Balog/Earth Vision Institute, John P. and Anne K. Duffy Foundation, Carla Shen, and Chris Schott.
W. Eugene Smith Fund link to our “News” page
Links to the 2021 Finalists’ websites:
About The Artists
For 25 years, Lalo de Almeida worked for Folha de São Paulo in his native Brazil. He has won honors from World Press Photo, POY Latam, and the W. Eugene Smith Fund. In 2021, de Almeida was awarded Ibero-American photographer of the year by POY Latam. He is represented by Panos Pictures.
Dario De Dominicis began publishing in newspapers in 1993, turning to personal projects in 1999. He published the books “A Cuban Story” and “Rubber Soldiers.” He taught at the Roberto Rossellini State Institute for Cinema and Television in Rome before moving to Rio de Janeiro in 2009. He has presented at the international photography festival Paraty em Foco.
Kimberly dela Cruz co-produced “Si Kian,” which won a National Children’s Book Award, while covering the war on drugs in the Philippines. Dela Cruz was selected as an IWMF Fellow and shortlisted for the Alexia Foundation Grant and Inge Morath Award. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Guardian, TIME, Al Jazeera, Nikkei Asian Review, and exhibits across the globe.
Born in Caracas in 1991, Fabiola Ferrero participated in the Joop Swart Masterclass, the Eddie Adams Workshop, the World Press Photo 6×6 Talent Program, and is a Magnum Foundation Fellow as well as a Ruda Collective member. Her work has been featured in TIME, the New York Times, National Geographic, Le Monde, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, and VQR.
Now based in Washington, D.C., Melissa Lyttle began her career working for nearly 15 years at Florida newspapers. An Emmy winner and two-time IWMF Fellow, Lyttle’s work has also been recognized by UNICEF, POYi, NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, and the Alexia Foundation. Lyttle served for two years as president of the National Press Photographers Association.
Zed Nelson’s first project Gun Nation was awarded five major photography prizes, and his second, Love Me, was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize and was short-listed for the Leica European Publishers Award. Nelson was awarded the Photoworks’ Senior Research Fellowship at the British School at Rome. His most recent book, “A Portrait of Hackney,” was the basis of his feature-length documentary.
Cristopher Rogel Blanquet, born in Mexico City in 1984, works with Getty Images and Cuestione. He has published in the New York Times, Milenio, El Universal, Vice, and has collaborated with Médecins Sans Frontières and NCD Alliance. His projects have been honored with the Ortega y Gasset Prize, by the International Documentary Photography Competition, and the Mexican Endowment for Culture and Arts.
An Italian documentary photographer based in Colombia, Nicoló Filippo Rosso has been documenting the Venezuelan migration to Colombia since 2018. In 2021, he traveled to Central America and Mexico to document the crossing of migrants into the United States. Besides his personal and editorial work, he often lectures about photography and journalism in universities in Colombia, Europe, and the United States.
Although based in Istanbul, Danielle Villasana’s work focuses on Latin America. She’s a National Geographic Explorer, Magnum Foundation awardee, Women Photograph grantee, IWMF Fellow, and member of Ayün Fotógrafas. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Villasana champions inclusivity with We, Women, Authority Collective, The Everyday Projects, and as a Photo Bill of Rights co-author. FotoEvidence published her book “A Light Inside.”
The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund’s mission is to identify documentary photographers around the world who tell extraordinary stories and award them annual grants and fellowships, helping to further their initiatives. Since its inception in 1980, two years after Eugene Smith died, the fund has awarded more than $1 million to documentary photographers worldwide. It also serves as a platform for photographers to share their stories with the world. Run by a fully volunteer board of trustees and advisors, virtually every dollar raised by the Smith Fund is applied toward photographer grants and fellowships.