February 1, 2012 4:00 AM EST

The Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund has made an exclusive announcement to LightBox disclosing the winners of its 2012 grants. The fund, which began in 2009, awards the annual prize to photographers from around the world who use their cameras to shed light on underserved issues and communities.

The eight grantees were selected from a field of nearly 100 photographers nominated by ten professionals (including, in the past, TIME’s own director of photography, Kira Pollack). The winners will receive, along with funding, editorial guidance and research support to continue their work, which explores such diverse topics as peasant works in China and violence in the Pennsylvania projects.

The Emergency Fund, which was founded to counteract the shrinking of opportunities for long-form, socially-conscious photographic storytellers, is now in its third year of granting prizes. The program continues to grow, says Emma Raynes, the Emergency Fund’s program director. “We’ve been able to put more energy into helping photographers put depth into their work,” she says. Increased integration of social media has also made a difference; the Emergency Fund had already used Kickstarter to add to its power to help photographers, but the organization has expanded its presence on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

Raynes says that this year’s winners tended to step away from traditional documentary and photojournalism styles and put a new emphasis on creative visual language. Benjamin Lowy, for example, made use of the Hipstamatic iPhone app in his photographs of Libya. “We wanted to invest in projects that were incredibly ambitious,” says Raynes.

In addition to funding the work of established photojournalists, the Magnum Emergency Fund awards scholarships to emerging photographers from nonwestern countries, for them to attend a 5-week summer program about documenting human-rights issues.

And for all its support of photographers, the Emergency Fund aims to do more than help them do their work. The Foundation wants “to reach beyond the photography community into communities that are concerned about the issues,” says Raynes. “The main goal of our program is to get the work seen.”

Read more about the Emergency Fund on LightBox here.

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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