Focal Points: 2017 Catchlight Fellows

19 Jul 2018 2018 CONTAINER

“Focal Points” invites viewers to recalibrate their understandings of the past, present and future of the United States. Featuring the work of CatchLight’s inaugural Fellows, three photographers explore visualizations of the U.S.- Mexico border, growing nationalism among American teens, and life inside a youth prison camp in California.   

Featuring: Sarah Blesener, Brian L. Frank and Tomas Van Houtryve

Presented by

CatchLight in partnership with United Photo Industries with additional support from Digital Silver Imaging

Curated by

Sam Barzilay


CatchLight’s inaugural “Focal Points” exhibition features work from the 2017 CatchLight fellows, Tomas Van Houtryve, Sarah Blesener, and Brian L. Frank who were each paired with a media partner — the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, The Center for Investigative Reporting, and the Marshall Project, respectively.

Sarah Blesener’s project, “Beckon Us From Home,” captures the emotion and vulnerability of youth in today’s political climate. “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” imagines what the history of the Mexican-American border might have looked like at the time of the area’s Mexican administration. It questions the role that photographs—both present and missing—have played in shaping the identity of the West.

“Focal Points” invites viewers to recalibrate their understandings of what they think they know about the past, present and future of the United States.



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.



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.



Brian, a San Francisco native, has worked on social documentary projects across the Americas that focus on cultural identity, social inequality, violence, workers rights and the environment.
His project Downstream, Death of the Colorado, is held in the permanent collection at the United States Library of Congress and was recognized by POYi with the Global Vision Award. After completing the journalism program at San Francisco State University, Brian worked for The Wall Street Journal. In 2014, he began focusing on long-term documentary and magazine feature work in California, the American Southwest and Mexico.


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.

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