Sarah Blesener Wins $30,000 CatchLight Fellowship

Students from School #18 perform a show at the local theater in Sergiyev Posad, Russia, 15 Dec 2016. The show promotes the cadet school at School #18. Sarah Blesener/Alexia Foundation

Students from School #18 perform a show at the local theater in Sergiyev Posad, Russia, 15 Dec 2016. The show promotes the cadet school at School #18. Sarah Blesener/Alexia Foundation

Sarah Blesener is one of three recipients of the inaugural $30,000 CatchLight Fellowships for Toy Soldiers, the same project for which she was just awarded The Alexia 2017 grant. The work explores rising nationalism among youth in the U.S. and Russia.

“With the rise of alternate-right groups in the United States, an increase of hate-crimes and a growing rhetoric of xenophobia and fear, combined with the lack of research on youth and nationalistic sentiment, the current political climate has made this work a necessity for me,” explains Sarah in her proposal for the fellowship.

For the fellowship, CatchLight declared they were seeking “a creative genius: a photographer who works at the highest caliber of artistry, approaches visual and social storytelling with clarity, integrity and purpose, and understands the inherent value of employing other creative disciplines – marketing, technology, communications, etc. – to enhance the impact of their stories.” We agree that that describes Blesener perfectly, and we are thrilled her vital project will have this additional support.

CatchLight identifies innovative visual storytellers worldwide, bringing resources and community together to direct their work towards critical social issues. They drive engagement, awareness and impact. The Catchlight Fellowships are offered in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Marshall Project. The other fellowship recipients are Brian Frank and Tomas Van Houtryve.

Blesener was previously the recipient of The Alexia 2016 Award of Excellence student grant for Chavi, which explored boyhood, adolescence and belonging in the South Bronx. PDN recently published an update to this project, which can be seen here: http://edublog.pdnonline.com/2017/04/returning-to-the-south-bronx.html

See Blesener’s full Alexia professional proposal is available here: http://www.alexiafoundation.org/stories/sarah-blesener-toy-soldiers

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