The Evolution of Storytelling: The Potential of Photography in the 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

Written by Robert Rosenthal, CatchLight Board Member

I have had the honor and privilege for many years to work with many talented photographers. The attributes they shared were courage, creativity and an all consuming drive to get to, find and tell powerful stories that would not have been told without their passionate commitment.

This year’s shortlist of 11 CatchLight Fellows represents a diverse and extraordinarily talented group. Not only are they skilled photographers and videographers, they are network builders who through the power of visual storytelling want to drive social change.

Daniella Zalcman, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

On April 2, three of them will be honored with selection as a CatchLight Fellow. But all of the proposed projects are striking in their originality, and potential power.

As one of the finalists wrote so eloquently in their application, the goal of the project was to “illuminate the daily lives of people who too often recede into the shadows.”

Left: Ryan Christopher Jones, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist | Right: Monique Jaques, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

Those words reflect a shared vision of the finalists. At a time when disinformation, fake news, or fact based journalism is under assault the work of visual journalists has never been more important. News organizations have also shrunk and coverage in all areas has been hurt, as local and international coverage has been eviscerated. The cuts in international coverage has nearly eliminated the work of freelancers.

In the face of that reality is another reality, as reflected in the work of these finalists. They reflect a mix of unique international storytelling as well as work that goes deep into communities and stories that are rarely told.

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

There were 317 applications for the Catchlight Fellowship this year from 52 different countries; half were women. That’s an astonishing number and burst of new perspective from around the world. Being chosen as one of the 11 shortlisted is a remarkable accomplishment.

What each of those entries reflect is a powerful reminder that photographers are visionary story tellers. They can’t sit back and tell a story researching on the web or using a phone, or by reading documents or talking with sources. They have to go to the story. They have to take risks, and they have to win the trust of people who might not have any reason to trust them. And they have to be able to show you the story in a way that makes you hungry to know more.

Left: Andrea Bruce, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist | Right: Carlos Javier Ortiz, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

The 2018 entries also show the commitment of time and patience to a story, essential elements that in the age of the internet and instant news is not as valued as it should be.

The best photography takes the viewer to places, worlds and people they often know little about or don’t even know exist. Images can shock, can teach, create empathy and at their strongest, lead to social change.

Left: Andrea Reed, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist | Right: Nina Robinson, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

Three of these 11 shortlisted will be awarded a CatchLight Fellowship. Their work, and the work of all the honorees, have the goal of forcing people to look beyond their own stereotypes and comfort zones. Each of those shortlisted has a powerful story and vision of how to tell their story that needs to be told.

The cynic might say “why bother?”. The best of these photographers would simply say they have to; they are driven to tell the story and bear witness. They frequently take risks and make great sacrifices to bring stories to the world. The CatchLight Fellowship will honor them, and help them and on that journey.

Top Left: Adia Muluneh, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist | Top Right: Alison Cornyn, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist | Bottom: Tanya Habjouqa, 2018 CatchLight Fellowship Shortlist

See the full shortlist and learn more about these projects here.

We’re teaming up with FlakPhoto creator Andy Adams to feature our shortlisted photographers on Instagram starting March 19. Learn more about these image makers by following @FlakPhoto over the next two weeks. We’ll be collecting those posts at IG hashtag #FlakPhotoCatchlight.

If you are media or an issue advocate, and want to connect with the artists
themselves contact hi@catchlight.io.