Artist Talk: Justyna Mielnikiewicz

W. Eugene Smith Partnership
Artist Talk: Justyna Mielnikiewicz

Monday, October 16, 2017
6:30 p.m.

Aperture Foundation
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York


Aperture Foundation, in collaboration with the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, is pleased to present an artist talk with Justyna Mielnikiewicz. Based in Tbilisi, Georgia, Mielnikiewicz is the 2016 recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for her project A Diverging Frontier: Russia and Its Neighbors. Passionate about people and their stories, Mielnikiewicz creates photographs that are sensitive studies of life in the areas surrounding the Russian border more than two decades following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Mielnikiewicz’s concerns are complex, often discussing issues that relate to these regions such as the abstractness of borders, unity and disunity, and how personal beliefs can be exploited by leaders to incite conflict and destabilize. However, the photos themselves are grounded in the everyday, perhaps even the seemingly mundane—as Mielnikiewicz explains: “Even in the time of war, people still get up, brush their teeth, have to do their shopping. They go meet their friends, they marry and they die. In a peaceful time it’s easier, in wartime it’s harder. But war or revolution or unrest doesn’t stop real life.”

The W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography was established in 1978 following the death of W. Eugene Smith, the legendary American photo-essayist. Today, it is one of the most prestigious honors in documentary photography. Every year it recognizes a photographer whose past work and proposed project, as judged by a panel of experts, follow the tradition of Smith’s concerned photography and the dedicated compassion exhibited during his forty-five-year career. The application deadline is in early June. More information can be found at

The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is supported by generous contributions from The Incite Project, Herb Ritts Foundation, Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, and Canon USA. Additional support is provided by Photo District News, International Center of Photography (ICP), School of Visual Arts (SVA) BFA Photography, MFA Photography, Video and Related Media departments, MediaStorm, Brilliant Graphics, Synergy Communications, and Aperture Foundation.

The Smith Talks and other programs at Aperture are supported, in part, by the Grace Jones Richardson Trust and William Talbott Hillman Foundation, and by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State legislature and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council, and with additional support from generous individuals, including the Board of Trustees and Members of Aperture Foundation.

Justyna Mielnikiewicz (b. 1973) grew up in Poland and started her career as a photographer after graduating from Jagiellonian University. Since 2002 she has been based in the Republic of Georgia. In her work, she mainly focuses on the countries of the former Soviet Union. The most important part of her professional activity is devoted to personal, long-term projects. In 2014, she published her first book, Woman with a Monkey: Caucasus in Short Notes and Photographs. She is currently finishing her long-term project on Ukraine titled A Ukraine Runs Through It, exploring modern Ukraine in turmoil, with the Dnieper River as a metaphor of the present split in the country. With the 2016 grant she won from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, she is working on a new project that explores the role of ethnicity in identity formation for Russians residing in former Soviet states, twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Photojournalist Stanley Greene In Memoriam

Photojournalist Stanley Greene, whose coverage of war and social upheaval spanned the fall of the Berlin Wall, the war in Chechnya and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, died May 19 in Paris. He was 68. NOOR Images, the cooperative he co-founded, did not provide the cause of death, but Greene had been diagnosed with hepatitis C nearly a decade ago, and had been in declining health in recent weeks.

Greene, a dedicated film shooter, brought an artistic eye to stories he photographed over the course of several years. He described photography as “75 percent chance and 25 percent skill” and his own career as “an accident.” He happened to be in Berlin in 1989 when the border between east and west suddenly opened. “I heard the Berlin Wall was coming down so I drove to Checkpoint Charlie and started photographing demonstrators,” he told Jean-Francois Leroy, director of Visa Pour L’Image, in a 2012 interview before an audience at the LOOK3 photography festival. “The adrenaline got into me. I realized it was part of history.”

His photo of a young woman standing on the Berlin Wall in a tutu and passing a bottle of champagne, was published around the world. From there, Greene went on to cover conflict and suffering in Mali, Iraq, Somalia, Croatia, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and other countries. In a bio published on the website of NOOR Images, Greene said, “Sometimes I wonder if societies just lust for tragedies.”

In 1993, he was nearly killed while covering an attempted coup against Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Several months later, Greene began covering the war in Chechnya. He traveled to Chechnya about 20 times over the course of the next decade to document the gruesome brutality of the Russian invasions there. Greene sided unapologetically with the Chechens. In 2004, shortly after the publication of his book Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003, he told Newsweek magazine, “I have been accused of having lost my objectivity. But when you sit on a fence and watch genocide without doing anything about it, you are as guilty as those who are committing it.”

In the 2012 interview at LOOK3, Greene offered a more tempered reflection on his work in Chechnya: “When you watch someone on your left and right being killed, you become angry, and have this naive idea that pictures are going to stop it. You go back more and more to show proof, and you hope pictures that get published will make people stop it. But it’s not the case.” (See “LOOK3: Stanley Greene on Film, Luck and Helping Young Photographers.”)

Greene won numerous awards during his career, including five World Press Photo awards, the 2004 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, and the 2013 Aftermath Project Grant. Both grants were for his ongoing work in the Caucasus. Among his other notable projects were his five-year documentary of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and his project documenting the trail of electronic waste and its impacts in Nigeria, india, China and Pakistan. In 2010, he published Black Passport, a memoir and scrapbook which combined images from throughout his career with meditative reflections.

Greene was known for his generosity, particularly toward young photographers. “I believe in the community of photography. I believe we have to give each other a helping hand,” he said during the 2012 interview. He added, “It’s important for all of us when we discover talent to try to help them.”

Born in 1949 and raised in Harlem by parents who instilled in him a commitment to social justice, Greene protested the war in Vietnam as a teenager, and joined the Black Panther Party. “I was stupid,” he said of his Black Panther membership in the 2012 interview. “I was a big fan of Che Guevara. I was attracted to the Panthers by the berets and leather jackets.”

He began his artistic career as a painter, and used photography to catalogue his work until W. Eugene Smith–whose assistant Greene happened to be dating at the time–began to mentor him and encourage him to pursue the medium seriously.

Greene studied at the School of Visual Arts, shot some freelance assignments for Newsday, then moved to San Francisco, where he photographed punk bands. In the mid 1980s he moved to Paris to shoot fashion. He told Newsweek, “I was a dilettante, sitting in cafes, taking pictures of girls and doing heroin.” Around the same time Greene had his first success with his Berlin Wall pictures, a close friend of died of AIDS, and Greene resolved to kick his drug habit and get serious about his photography career.

He was represented for years by Agence Vu, but he left in 2007 to co-found NOORwith Kadir van Lohuizen.

Despite health issues, on April 17, Greene gave a lecture at the World Press Photo Foundation festival in Amsterdam, where he had been honored numerous times.

View Stanley Greene’s images that earned him the 2004 W. Eugene Smith Grant

LOOK3: Stanley Greene on Luck, Film and Supporting Young Photographers

tanley Greene Wins 2013 Aftermath Grant

By David Walker
Posted courtesy of

A Call For Entries 2017

W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Announces Call for Entries Now Open for its 2017 Grant Celebrating Humanistic Photography

38th annual memorial fund increases grant to $35,000 for photographers who display poignant, humanistic approach to storytelling

New York, NY – March 1, 2017 – The W. Eugene Smith Fund announced it is now accepting applications for its 38th annual Grant in Humanistic Photography. Since presenting its first grant in 1980, the Fund has awarded more than one million dollars to exemplary photographers whose works, created in the tradition of Eugene Smith, have brought light to contemporary issues that call for compassion and attention. The Smith Fund also announced it will increase its annual grant to $35,000, beginning this year. Photographers interested in learning more about the grant and fellowship, and submitting an application should visit The extended deadline for submitting applications is June 10, 2017.

About The Smith Fund Grant
The Grant is presented annually by The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund to photographers whose work is judged by a panel of experts to be in the best tradition of highlighting untold stories, as exhibited by W. Eugene Smith during his 45-year career in photojournalism. The grant, which honors the legendary photo-essayist, enables recipients to undertake and complete their proposed photojournalistic and documentary projects. Past recipients have included Sebastião Salgado, Maya Goded and Eli Reed.

“We continue to be overwhelmed and inspired by the quality of work submitted by photographers all over the world in the name of humanistic photography,” said Lauren Wendle, president of the Fund’s Board of Trustees. “Last year’s recipient, Justyna Mielnikiewicz, is a great example of the quality of work being submitted and the significance the Smith Fund has established internationally.” In A Diverging Frontier, Justnya looks at Russians living in the former soviet states, 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the role ethnicity plays in the political development of these countries and the formation of social identity.

The recipient of the 2017 Smith Award will receive a $35,000 grant to complete a current or future documentary project. In addition, one or more Fellowships totaling $5,000 will be given to photographers to fund worthy projects.

Each year, the Board of Trustees appoints a three-member international jury that meets twice during the adjudication process. Finalists are selected based on the substantive, photographic, and intellectual merits of their project. They are then asked to submit a comprehensive electronic portfolio, and write, if necessary, a more detailed and focused proposal to answer questions by the jury regarding their project.


The 21st Annual Howard Chapnick Grant

Applications for the annual Howard Chapnick Grant are also open through May 31, 2017. The grant is presented to an individual for his or her leadership in any field ancillary to photojournalism, such as picture editing, research, education and management. This grant is not intended for photographers, but for champions of photography. It was established in 1996 to honor the memory of Howard Chapnick who led the Black Star photo agency, and to acknowledge his enormous contribution to photography. The annual $5,000 grant may be used by the recipient to finance a range of qualified undertakings, which might include a program of further education, special research, a long-term sabbatical project, or an internship to work with a noteworthy group or individual. This grant is not for the creation or production of photographs.


The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is supported by generous contributions from The Incite Project, and Canon USA. Additional support is provided by Photo District News, International Center of Photography (ICP), School of Visual Arts (SVA) BFA Photography, MFA Photography, Video and Related Media departments,MediaStorm, Brilliant Graphics, Synergy Communicationsand Aperture.


“Awarding these grants each year is made possible through industry-wide support and by private donors,” Lauren Wendle explains. “As it is important that we continue the funding which allows these photographers to share their stories with the world, we invite any who are philanthropically minded and share our interest in this special form of photography, to contact us. The W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund is a not-for-profit corporation qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to the Smith Fund are tax-deductible.”

Photographers interested in learning more or applying for either grant should visit

Lou Desiderio
Synergy Communications, Inc.
Tel: 917-627-0912

Artist Talk: Joseph Sywenkyj

Masha, 6 years old, was infected with HIV through mother to child transmission at birth. Odesa, Ukraine, 2007

Masha, 6 years old, was infected with HIV through mother to child transmission at birth. Odesa, Ukraine, 2007

Event at Aperture, Tuesday, September 27, 2016 6:30 p.m.

Aperture Foundation, in collaboration with the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, is pleased to present an artist talk with Joseph Sywenkyj. Sywenkyj, an American photographer based in Kiev, is the recipient of the 2014 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography. He will present his completed Smith Fund project along with some of his past work, which explores the Ukrainian revolution over the course of sixteen years.

Sywenkyj’s photographs concentrate on how the media is more concerned with geopolitics and European leaders than with the families that are affected by war and terrorism. Sywenkyj states, “It is through stories of families who have been seriously impacted physically, mentally, and economically by the crisis that we will gain insight into how events in the country are influencing society as a whole.”


Aperture Foundation
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 6:30 p.m.

$5 donation
FREE for Aperture Foundation Members and students with valid ID

More information

This program is supported, in part, by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Charina Endowment Fund, William Talbott Hillman Foundation, Inc., and the Board of Trustees and Members of Aperture Foundation. Additional public funds are from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

The Howard Chapnick Legacy

“The Howard Chapnick Legacy” was a special program in the “Smith Talks”, an ongoing collaboration between Aperture and W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund. The event took place on Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 at Aperture.

Howard Chapnick (1922-1996) is a legend of photography, the long time head of the Black Star Agency and author of the classic “The Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism”.

In 1979 with colleagues, John Morris and Jim Hughes, Chapnick founded the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, which awards grants for projects in humanistic photography. Shortly after his death in 1996, the Smith Fund announced a new and additional fellowship in Chapnick’s name, a $5.000 grant to encourage and support leadership in fields ancillary to photojournalism.

The evening celebrated his career and the grant’s recipients. Chapnick was a seminal influence on a roster of today’s leading photo-journalists like Pete Turnley, Donna Ferrato, Tony Suau, Chris Morris, Joseph Rodriquez, James Balog, and James Nachtwey to name a few, all of whom were invited to contribute to the evening’s proceedings.

The evening was hosted by Mickael Itkoff of Daylight Publishing. who received the Chapnick grant in 2006 which made it possible for Daylight to go to press. The Chapnick grant has been able to give smaller organizations an immediate boost like this. Other past Chapnick grantees Marie Arago, Ryan Libre, Liza Faktor, and Richard Steven Street talked about their projects and grant. There are also video commentaries from co-founders and Smith Board Members John Morris and Rich Clarkson and in person remarks from Trustees Aaron Schindler and Phil Block.

For more information about the Howard Chapnick Fund, go to