This Huge Photo Grant Offers $30,000 and is Accepting Entries

a group of men sitting in front of a shop.

Photo prizes are always a welcome opportunity for both amateur and professional photographers, but so many of them only offer small awards.

The W. Eugene Smith Fund is a different story. It’s accepting applications and really laying on the prize money. For its 44th annual Grant in Humanistic Photography, the top award is a hefty $30,000.

This grand prize makes this particular grant one of the biggest of its kind in the world and even the prizes for second and third place are large at $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.

The organization is also mounting its 6th annual Eugene Smith Student Grant competition, whose top prize is $3,000. This grant is open to all collegiate-level students in a full or part-time program.

Even this latter grant is more than what many photo prize contests award to first-place winners regardless of applicant age.

According to the Smith Fund’s organizers,

“The W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography is presented annually to a photographer whose past work and proposed project, as judged by a panel of experts, follows the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s dedicated compassion and humanistic approach to his subjects throughout his career as a photographic essayist,”

The fund’s organizers also mention several notable past recipients of the huge main award they give out, “Past recipients have included Maxim Dondyuk (2022), Nicolò Filippo Rosso (2021), Sabiha Çimen (2020), Mark Peterson (2018), Krisanne Johnson (2011), Stanley Greene (2004), Graciela Iturbide (1987), Donna Ferrato (1985), and Eugene Richards (1981).”

The 2022 winner of the $30,000 prize was photographer Maxim Dondyuk, who made an extensive documentary photo essay titled, “Ukraine 2014/22”, chronicling the country’s fight against Russian domination and later invasion.

a group of people standing in front of a building.

One of previous winner, Maxim Dondyuk’s photos, © Maxim Dondyuk

This series by Dondyuk and other finalist entries from the 2022 awards can all be viewed on the Smith Grant website.

In fact, the fund has awarded more than $1.2 million dollars since 1979 to photographers who’ve proposed interesting project ideas or submitted outstanding past work.

The Smith Fund doesn’t take funds from government endowments either. Instead, its donations are all corporate, individual, and sourced from other private foundations.

a photo of a woman walking down the street.

With the current economic downturn, the Smith Fund saw reduced funding before launching the 2023 awards.

According to its organizers, this has forced it into a tough choice, stating, “The annual Howard Chapnick Grant, which is presented to an individual or entity for their support of photojournalists, will not be presented this year.”

Instead, the Smith Fund is devoting more attention to its Smith Grant and Fellowships for 2023 while it builds up funds for reestablishing the Chapnick Grant and future projects.

If you’re a photographer who’s interested in submitting to this prestigious and very large grant, you can submit your work on the Fund’s website, or its Student Grant site.

For the Smith Grant, applications are open for new and ongoing work and applicants can also submit samples of supplementary past work on related subjects as “a way of demonstrating the photographer’s ability to execute a new proposed project.”

All applications should include a written description and a proposal for their planned projects.

Other requirements include a photographer biography of up to 1500 characters and a 2000-character CV. There is also a $50 entry fee. You can read about further details and a detailed FAQ on the submission page.

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Shotkit Journalist, Writer & Reviewer

Stephan Jukic is a technology and photography journalist and experimental photographer who spends his time living in both Canada and Mexico. He loves cross-cultural street photo exploration and creating fine art photo compositions.

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