04 Jun Announcing the winner of our inaugural Passion Projects grant
By unanimous vote, our panel of photography judges would like to award the inaugural Society of Professional Journalists “Passion Project,” a visual journalism grant of $1,000, to Matt Mills McKnight for his continued coverage on Big Oil in the American West. In addition, a second place grant of $500 will be awarded to David Ryder for his continued coverage of Muslim refugees from Myanmar living in Washington.
The first-prize award money was fundraised by the NW Photojournalism community over several print sales. The second-prize money was funded by a generous contribution from Kirk Mastin of Mastin Labs, who will be offering a second film-based grant for local photographers later this year.
Both winners will be honored at our SPJ Awards Gala on Saturday, June 13, at the Renaissance Hotel in Seattle, along with the winners of our Gala Awards and the Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. (Get your tickets today: the early bird price expires Monday).
Since 2013 Matt Mills McKnight has been working on a personal project covering communities affected by the proposed pipeline. “I noticed there was not much visual storytelling coming from the path of the proposed 1,179 mi. pipeline that would carry approximately 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast if approved,” said McKnight.
The judges saw the importance in the proposal along with its news value and timeliness. “Matt’s approach to small town life surrounding the path adds value as well as a visual dynamic that has not been fully reported on yet,” said judge Luanne Dietz, Director of All Things Good at Cause Beautiful. “With added time and resources I believe depth in the story can and will be achieved.”
McKnight’s previous work on the topic speaks to his photographic ability to capture the story and shed light on the people affected by the decision. “The existing photography already has a very distinct point of view that knows what it wants to say, how, why and when,” said judge Eustacio Humphrey, Director of Photography at OZY Media.
David Ryder has two self-proclaimed passions: underreported local issues and global social documentary work. The judges see that both of those sentiments are present in the work he’s creating while documenting refugees from Myanmar. In March, he traveled to Myanmar to document what he thought was a story on Islamophobia. He returned with a set of images that lead him to dig deeper into the community and represent the lives of the families who have found refuge in Washington. This grant will allow him the resources to continue the project as well as expand his documentation as family members arrive in the United States for the first time.
“It’s really nice to see photographer’s localizing big news stories and issue stories,” said judge Melissa Lyttle, a freelance visual journalist based Florida. “David’s commitment to continue the second chapter of the story about refugees is an incredibly worthy and topical endeavor — and one the judges would like to see helped along with some funds from the Passion Project.”
Thank you to judges Luanne Dietz, Melissa Lyttle and Eustacio Humphrey for their help with this inaugural grant!