April 9, 2015 6:06 PM EDT

Magnum photojournalist Moises Saman was about to step out to dinner in Barcelona last night when he heard some very pleasant news: he had just been awarded the prestigious 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Awarded annually since 1925 “to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions” the Guggenheim is one of the most prestigious awards of its kind.

Saman says he had long known of the Fellowship, but assumed it was geared towards topics such as “poetry and science,” he tells TIME. “I knew there’s a photography element but it tends to be fine art.”

Nevertheless, Moises submitted a photojournalism project on the Arab Spring—part of which is shown in this gallery. Shot from 2011 to the present day across Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Kurdistan, Saman says he “felt really strongly about this body of work and felt it was very relevant to the times.”

Saman plans to use the funds to continue the Arab Spring project. Next step? He’s going to Kurdistan in May.

Moises Saman is a Spanish-American member of Magnum Photos and winner of awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year and the Overseas Press Club.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

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