Paolo Pellegrin Wins the W. Eugene Smith Grant

Italian photographer Paolo Pellegrin has won the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his project, "MAKTA--It Is Written: A Journey Through the Lands of Islam." An additional $5,000 Fellowship Grant has been awarded to Teru Kuwayama of New York City, for his project," No Mans Land: Survival at the Ends of Empire."

The awards were presented Thursday evening at a ceremony held at the HBO Theatre in New York City.

Similar in many respects, both Pellegrin and Kuwayama shoot moody, black-and-white images that explore the people, land, and culture of Islam. Pellegrin, a member of the Magnum agency, showed a massive body of work beginning with a pre-Sept. 11 essay on Muslim immigrants in Marseille and stretching through assignments in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. Some of his most emotionally searing work depicted Lebanese civilians killed in this past summer's fighting with Israel.

In his proposal, Pellegrin writes: "Islam remains the fastest growing of any major religion and is engaged not only in a debate with the West, but in one with itself. This dialogue is sometimes as fluid as it is volatile and is one that houses numerous opinions and infinite solutions under an increasingly large and complex set of circumstances."

Kuwayama's project differs slightly in that it shows more a sense of place and is concerned primarily with the Hindu Kush, a region he has been photographing for the past five years, traveling across Afghanistan and into Tajikistan, Pakistan and Kashmir. The work is conceived as "a family portrait of a people who are caught in recurring disaster and war," and aims "to reveal the fallout of disintegrating colonial territories."

This years winning proposals were selected from 149 entries representing 33 countries. Finalists include Christophe Agou, Christopher Anderson, Marcus Bleasdale, Heidi Bradner, Alvaro Leiva, Jon Lowenstein, Alex Majoli, Zeng Nia, Anderson Schneider and Stacia Sprague-Brande.

Sue Brisk, Editorial Director of Magnum Photos, headed a jury consisting of Anthony Bannon, eirector of the George Eastman House and Chab Touré, professor of aesthetics, Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, University of Bamako, Mali, and director of photographic galleries in West Africa.

An additional grant, the $5,000 Howard Chapnick Grant, went to Daylight founder Michael Itkoff to help with future publications of the documentary photography magazine.

Following tradition, each year the Smith Fund invites past grant-winners to present their latest work. This year Donna Ferrato, winner of the 1985 W. Eugene Smith Grant, showed a rough cut of a documentary on victims of domestic violence, an issue that the photographer has pursued for over two decades.

This is the last year that Nikon will be the main sponsor of the Smith Fund, ending a relationship of more than 20 years. Smith Fund President Helen Marcus thanked Nikon for its longtime support and said that the board of trustees is confident it will be able to find additional resources.

For a list of past Smith Fund winners and information on how to apply for the 2007 grants, visit www.smithfund.org.

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