2014 — professional winner
Photojournalist Mary F. Calvert is committed to using photography to affect meaningful social change and is known for producing work on gender based, human rights issues. Calvert believes that journalists have a duty to shine a light into the deepest recesses of the human experience and provide a mirror for society to examine itself.
For the past three years Mary has been focusing her journalistic attention on the continually under-reported relegation and abuse of women in the US Armed Forces. Her work “Sexual Assault in America’s Military” was awarded 1st Prize, Long Term Projects in the 2016 World Press Photo Contest.
“The Battle Within: Sexual Assault in America’s Military” has been awarded the 2015 and 2014 National Press Photographers Association, Cliff Edom New America Award and the 2013 the Canon Female Photojournalist Award. The resulting work was featured in a solo exhibition at the 2014 Visa Pour L’Image, International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France. In 2014 Calvert was the recipient of the Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative Grant for her project “Missing in Action: Homeless Women Veterans,” and in 2015, she was awarded the 2015 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Fellowship.
She has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award twice and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Photography.
Paulina joined the US Air Force because she loved her country and soon held a coveted top-secret position in flight management. Just a few years later she left the military and before long, found herself jobless and living in her car.
Women veterans are the fasted growing segment of the homeless population in the United States and are four times more likely to become homeless than civilian women.
Although the Pentagon recently paved the way for women to serve in combat positions, the US Military has a long way to go. Women are under-represented in the upper ranks and many who signed up for a military career are getting out due to dashed hopes of career advancement and high levels of harassment and sexual assault. Women who courageously served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan have arrived home with healthcare issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, to scattered families, jobs that no longer exist, an impotent Department of Veteran’s Affairs and to a nation who favors their male counterparts.
The challenges for women veterans are unique and difficult to address, especially when programs for vets seldom meet the needs of mothers and many homeless women vets happen to be single parents.
Women have to leave their children in the care of family members or friends when they deploy and many face custody battles when the stress of deployment tears their families apart. Many of these women escaped a difficult situation by joining the military and when they get out find them unable to cope with the stresses of unemployment and a weak economy. In addition, a good deal of homeless shelters cannot accommodate children and those that can often won’t allow a male child over the age of 12.
In 2009, President Obama and then VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, announced the goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015 and just two weeks ago, during an event for the Homeless Veterans Initiative in the East Room at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “Even one homeless veteran is a shame,” The fact that we have 58,000 is a moral outrage. We should all do more about it.”
I am committed to using photography to affect meaningful social change and I am known for producing work on gender based, human rights issues. A photographer friend of mine recently critiqued my website and told me I ought to remove some of the depressing content. That people do not want to see stories about rape, obstetric fistula, and polio epidemics. I agree. Most people do not want to see such things, but they need to see them. In the old media world, these stories from Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are usually allocated 15 inches on page A-16 or shoehorned into 30-second slots midway through news broadcasts, if they are reported at all.
The new media world is already a buffet piled high with eye-candy that offers little food for thought or sustenance for the soul. As journalists, we must dedicate ourselves to keeping a place for the disadvantaged at the new media table. I believe that using visual media to document what ails our world is more important now than ever before.
The largest concentration of homeless veterans in America is in Los Angeles, California. My project, “Missing in Action: Homeless Women Veterans” would focus on this region, the painfully slow response by the beleaguered US Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the organizations attempting to help these women. Naomi House, run by the Salvation Army, not only provides emergency housing to homeless women veterans but also counseling, legal help and job training.
My job is to put a human face on this neglected crisis and make you care. I will accomplish by making compelling photographs of these women and letting them tell their own stories in their own voices. The mind cannot fathom the horror of a humanitarian crisis in 30 seconds. Only when one bears witness to a scene frozen in a photograph or hears the cries of a traumatized woman or child, can they begin to internalize such injustice and suffering; only when people internalize such suffering are they moved to act.
I endeavor to secure The Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative Grant because I share its core belief that journalists have a duty to shine a light into the deepest recesses of the human experience and provide a mirror for society to examine itself.