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.
How Do We Focus Our Gaze? Connecting Photography & Social Impact
Featuring: Nancy Farese (Moderator), Sarah Blesener, Brian L. Frank, and Tomas Van Houtryve
Saturday, September 15 | 3PM – 4PM
Location: 60 Water Street, DUMBO – across from Photoville
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 is a documentary photographer based in New York City. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she studied Linguistics and Youth Development at North Central University. During her studies, she worked as a photographer for the organization, Healing Haiti, based in Port au Prince, Haiti, covering events surrounding the 2010 earthquake. Upon graduating 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 youth movements and culture in Russia, Eastern Europe, and the United States.
She is a recent recipient of the Alexia Foundation grant for her 2017 work in the United States, and a 2017 CatchLight Fellow, working with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. She is also one of Anastasia Photo Gallery’s Emerging Photographers.
A San Francisco native, Brian Frank has worked on social documentary projects across the Americas, focusing on cultural identity, social inequality, violence, workers rights and the environment.
In 2017, he was awarded a lifetime fellowship by CatchLight to continue work on his project documenting mass incarceration’s effects on minority communities. 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. His project on the drug war and culture of violence in Mexico, “La Guerra Mexicana,” was awarded the Domestic News Picture Story of the year by the NPPA. His work has been recognized with numerous other awards from both national and international press organizations.
After completing the journalism program at SFSU, Frank worked primarily for The Wall Street Journal from 2008–2014 and currently focuses on long-term documentary magazine features in California, the American Southwest, and Mexico.
His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Harper’s, 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, U.S.News & World Report, The San Francisco Chronicle and many other publications.
Tomas van Houtryve is a documentary photographer and conceptual artist whose major works interweave investigative journalism, philosophy and metaphor. Van Houtryve makes images using a wide range of processes, from 19th century wet plate collodion to thermal imaging and augmented reality. His projects challenge our notions of identity, memory, and the relationship between the individual and the state.
Van Houtryve’s works are widely exhibited and collected, including by the International Center of Photography Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography. In 2014, van Houtryve’s “Blue Sky Days” series was published in Harper’s as the largest photo portfolio in the magazine’s 164-year history. James Estrin of the New York Times stated that “’Blue Sky Days is one of the most important photo essays done in the last few years. It tackles issues that are very difficult to photograph but central to modern existence—privacy, government intrusion and modern antiseptic warfare.”
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 nonprofit 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.