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Congratulations to the 2019 Passion Projects grant winners

The Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington board is pleased to announce photographers Jovelle Tamayo and  Amanda Cowan are the 2019 winners of the Passion Projects grants. Northwest Journalists of Color is proud to announce that Sharon H. Chang is the winner of their inaugural Passion Projects grant partnered with SPJ Western Washington.

The first place SPJ Western Washington grant goes to Jovelle Tamayo, an independent visual journalist and teaching artist who lives in Seattle, Washington. Tamayo is a founding member of the Authority Collective, a group of women and non-binary imagemakers of color creating a culture of accountability and challenging power structures within visual media industries. Recently, she was an adjunct journalism lecturer at the University of Washington. Her project will reflect on “how the legacy of U.S. militarism and imperialism has impacted Pinay identity, specifically through the ‘correspondence bride’ experience.” Tamayo plans to explore the complexities of the practice by documenting the lives of Filipina women who met their spouses through international matchmaking or brokerage services, and the communities the women form with each other.

The second place SPJ Western Washington grant will be awarded to Amanda Cowan, a photographer and photo editor at The Columbian in Vancouver, Washington. Her work is moment-driven and she hopes to make a positive difference in the community through her visual storytelling. Cowan’s project will document the journey of Lindsay Grenz, 36, of Salem, Ore., whose future was in jeopardy due to her weight. She has been creating a new life for herself through gastric sleeve surgery. Cowan started working on the personal project Thanksgiving 2017 and has been using personal and vacation time to work on the story. She plans to continue documenting Grenz’s life until January 2020, which is when the two-year “weight loss phase” is completed. “We hope by sharing her story we can raise an awareness about people battling obesity, who are too often ridiculed, ostracized and misunderstood,” writes Cowan. “We would like to inspire others to change their lives for the better.”

The SPJ Western Washington judges Dania Maxwell, Thomas Patterson and Beth Nakamura shared their thoughts on the two proposals.

On Jovelle Tamayo’s Proposal: “Jovelle Tamayo is the clear winner. Her piece is researched and visually super engaging. (We) can see a clear path to how this funding will help her project along. It’s a topic that’s obviously very important to her.” 

On Amanda Cowan’s Proposal: “It’s impressive how much work she has done with the project and demonstrates clarity in her vision and timeline. She shows strong images on a topic that is important to our world. I am inspired by her deconstructed look at the main subject’s journey.” 

From judge Beth Nakamura: “I hesitate to reject anyone here…. I hope these documentarians — all the applicants, really — will continue to press on with the crucial work of telling these stories. Their voices, and those they are helping to amplify, are more important than ever.” 

This year’s first place Northwest Journalists of Color/SPJ Western Washington visual storytelling grant for journalists of color is awarded to Sharon H. Chang. Chang is a Seattle-based author, artist, activist, creative documentarian, photojournalist, social justice and community photographer. Her photography has been published in the South Seattle Emerald, The Seattle Globalist, and International Examiner. Her documentary project will focus on Women of Color farmers in Washington State. The series will feature urban and rural farmers, and center Women of Color who run their own farms. “The focus of the series will be on how Women of Color farm, what they uniquely contribute to agriculture, and how farming empowers them as both women and People of Color,” writes Chang. “Each profile in the series will be strongly rooted in accurate his(her)story, using an environmental, racial and gender justice lens, with a goal to raise awareness about Women of Color’s important and much-needed presence in modern day farming.”

Northwest Journalists of Color judges Cara Owsley, Elaine Cromie and Hannah Yoon shared their thoughts on the proposal:

“Sharon H. Chang’s Women of Color farmers in Washington State proposal caught my attention for being straight forward, well researched and with a plan of action for publishing and education. Chang’s research touched on the farmland before colonization and highlighted important farmers of color throughout history. Their vision for profiles and photo essay type work along with the importance of the education of young people is a unique way to focus on a group of people who are being left out of conversations.”

The Passion Project grants support photojournalists working on documentary projects during a time when publications are cutting photography staff positions and funding for visual journalism. The grants are funded by the SPJ Western Washington Chapter and by the NW Photojournalism community who generously donate prints for an annual auction.

We are grateful to this years’ judges who generously devoted their time and expertise.

The SPJ Western Washington Passion Projects grants are open to Washington state photojournalists. This year, SPJ Western Washington awarded grants for $2,000 and $1,000. For the first time, SPJ Western Washington partnered with Northwest Journalists of Color to also offer a $2,000 visual storytelling grant for journalists of color in Washington state.

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 Photographers Association (NPPA) Code of Ethics.

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