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2019 SPJ Western Washington Passion Projects now open for submission, with a new grant supporting visual storytellers of color

Documentary photographers – we’ve got some opportunities for you!

The annual SPJ Western Washington Passion Projects award is now open. Washington state photojournalists with a strong story idea and top-notch portfolio are encouraged to compete for awards of $2,000 and $1,000. This year we’re also offering a new award to a photojournalist of color for $2,000.

Grant proposals need to be based in visual storytelling and focus on issues of social, environmental, economic or political concern. Projects must follow the Newspaper Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) Code of Ethics.

The grants are partially funded by SPJ Western Washington and from an annual photo auction at the SPJ Holiday Scoop. Members of the NW Photojournalism community generously donate dozens of prints to support these awards.

This year SPJ Western Washington is partnering with Northwest Journalists of Color to also offer a $2,000 visual storytelling grant for journalists of color in Washington state. For years, there have been a lot of conversations about the need for more diverse newsrooms and a more inclusive journalism community, including the photojournalism industry. An important perspective from the Authority Collective, co-founded by previous Passion Project winner Jovelle Tamayo, was published on The New York Times Lens blog.

SPJ Western Washington and Northwest Journalists of Color will arrange for out-of-state judging for grant applications by industry professionals.

TO APPLY please submit one PDF or MS Word doc and include:

• CONTACT info
• SYNOPSIS: In fewer than 30 words, write a summary of the project.
• PROPOSAL: Please submit a description of your project, up to 750 words, including what it is, why it’s important, why you’re the very best photographer to do it and how you hope it will be presented to the public when all is said and done. Photographers may propose projects that are already in progress or in the early stages. The projects must be self-initiated and self-funded (rights owned by the photographer). The project can be photographed anywhere around the world but the photographer must currently be a working photojournalist in WA state. Please include relevant research, contacts and a URL to any photographs associated with the project.
• BIO: up to 250 words.
• WEBSITE: Please include the photojournalist’s web page.
• PLEASE INDICATE: Would you like to be considered for the new SPJ Western Washington/ Northwest Journalists of Color Passion Projects grant for journalists of color.

Submit your application to with the subject line “Passion Projects” by 11:59pm on Sunday, April 21st.

Winners will be announced at the SPJ Washington Awards Dinner in Seattle in June.

To help with your application, read about how the judge’s chose previous winners.

2018 Gemina Garland-Lewis and Grant Hindsley

2017 Jovelle Tamayo, Ramon Dompor and Sofia Jaramillo

2016 Meryl Schenker

2015 Matt Mills McKnight and David Ryder


The Pew Research Center reported photographers and visual journalists have been the newsroom staffers hit hardest by layoffs throughout the United States. Their jobs have been trimmed by about half during the last 10 years. More than ever, photographers and videographers are self-funding important documentary projects within our communities.

SPJ Western Washington is here to help. Here are a few words from our current winners, Gemina Garland-Lewis and Grant Hindsley.

Gemina Garland-Lewis

Everything to Me | examining the human-animal bond of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle.

© Gemina Garland-Lewis

“After shooting my project, Everything to Me, for several years with no financial support, it truly has made a difference in offsetting some of those costs and in moving forward with getting the work out there. In the past year I have opened an exhibit of some of my images from the project at a local arts space, published a story with Crosscut as part of Seattle’s city-wide #SeaHomeless media collaboration, and am currently running a participatory photography project in conjunction with the Center for One Health Research at the University of Washington to help people experiencing homelessness with their pets tell their own stories though imagery.

In addition, I’ve also been able to start shooting a new “One Health” clinic, where youth experiencing homelessness with an animal can receive medical care for themselves and veterinary care for their pet at the same place. I have been so humbled by the response to this project – it has been truly amazing to hear people reflect on how seeing these images and learning people’s stories has made them confront their biases and have a deeper understanding and concern for the issues that people in our community without housing are facing. So another huge thank you to everyone who helped make this happen and for making sure these kinds of important stories are able to be told!”

Currently Gemina works at One Health Research part time and her exhibit can be seen at a Community Arts Space, at 18th & Union.




Grant Hindsley

documenting America’s wild west identity through Hawaii and the Hawaiian Cowboys, the Paniolo, whose lifestyle is threatened.

© Grant Hindsley

“While I’m still in the beginning stages of this project, the passion projects really let me open the door to working on something that fills me with joy and intrigue. When you’re a new freelancer, or at many of today’s news organizations, it’s hard to make something extracurricular happen when you’re in a defensive mindset. This grant gave me the permission I needed to invest in a story I’m interested in and get moving, and I’ll always be thankful for that.

The project is still in its very early stages as I spent my whole first trip largely researching and making contacts. Excited to get on a second trip later this spring.”

All photos copyright the photographers. Cannot be used without their permission


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