Mary Frances Calvert, Kirsten Luce, Katie Orlinsky, Sergey Ponomarev and Jonathan Torgovnik have won this year’s Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography.
The winners will each receive a $10,000 grant, which are awarded each year at the Visa pour l’Image festival in Perpignan, France. First established in 2004, the grants aim to enable photographers to “bring attention to significant social and cultural issues, as well as to take new and inspiring strides in creative work.”
It’s their life’s work, each photographer says. It might be the way they pay some of their bills, but it’s not why they do it. While struggling to go beyond the clichés of a place or people, each is compelled to shed light on a situation removed from the public eye—to show the face behind the statistic. They know they can’t do it alone, but hope that their images create or add to a conversation that leads to change for the better.
Moscow-based photographer Sergey Ponomarev was one of the first to document the devastation of the European refugee crisis, arriving just weeks before refugees started landing on Greece’s shores. The series, entitled Exodus, documents the most significant influx of migrants and refugees in recent history.
“‘We must go,’ they cried,” Ponomarev tells TIME. “It was their repeated mantra, their solitary explanation. It was a part of their common hysteria.”
For Ponomarev, documenting such issues is calling. “That’s a part of our history,” he says. “My personal aim is to document what’s happening in our world for public awareness. Judgement can be made by other persons eligible to judge or for our followers, our kids, our grandkids. All I can do right now is document that. That’s what I can do for this world.”
The grant will allow Ponomarev to pursue the second stage of the story, which he hopes to turn into a book. “The story isn’t over,” he says. “We’re now seeing a stage of settlement. That’s quite hard for both of those sides, as migrants try to adapt to new rules, a new country and new society.”
Photographer Kirsten Luce, whose inside look at the busiest corridor for human and drug trafficking in the U.S. was featured in TIME in 2014, received the David Laidler Memorial Award.
In 2014, an unprecedented number of women and children crossed into Texas along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border, asking law enforcement for asylum. The situation was deemed a humanitarian crisis. As a staff photographer at The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, Luce spent a few hours at night in a park on the banks of the Rio Grande. She moved on to New York, but continued to return and document the border.
Luce hopes that her images, which illustrate the difficulties faced by desperate migrants, reinforce the idea that this region has a rich bicultural history. “I hope my local knowledge and experience translates into more thoughtful coverage and a deeper understanding for readers,” she says.
The grant will afford Luce the time to continue this work without the pressure to constantly find publishing partners. “I would like to use some of this time for dynamic collaborations with other journalists,” she says. “Something that can be hard to justify as a freelancer funding their own projects.”
Mary Frances Calvert began Prisoners of War: Male-on-male Rape in America’s Military nearly four years ago. “Rape is a kind of murder of somebody’s spirit, self-respect and peace of mind,” she says. “It’s a life sentence for the victim and it’s something that they’ll never get over.”
Calvert hopes she is part of a groundswell to hold the military accountable for the physical and emotional injuries of these veterans. “It’s one thing to read an article and talk about the statistics and maybe even get a quote or some little vignette of a person,” she says. “But until you see that person, it doesn’t bring it home.”
The grant will give her greater freedom to spend more time with her subjects.
Jonathan Torgovnik was awarded for The ‘Hijacked Life’ of African Migrants in Johannesburg, which documents the struggle of a group of lesser known migrants: those looking to go south upon arrival in South Africa.
“I wanted to show this underreported group of Africans coming to Johannesburg in search of a better life and how that dream is shattered,” Torgovnik tells TIME.
Torgovnik, whose work ran on LightBox in January, reveals the squalid conditions of those living in two ‘hijacked’ buildings in the inner city. “In most cases, you can’t quantify the impact of your photography,” he says. “It’s a subjective field and we choose to shoot the way we shoot, but it’s also evidence. When people see how a migrant is living in horrible conditions in Johannesburg—maybe it’s published in TIME magazine or in a report or dissertation, maybe a politician sees it or a professor or a policy maker—there is so much potential for that image to make an impact.”
Based in South Africa, he hopes to further expand his work with this grant.
Katie Orlinsky won a grant for her jarring look at the effect of climate change on villages across the Alaskan Arctic which scientists have dubbed as the “ground zero” in this environmental crisis. As animals are dying off or migrating in new patterns, Alaska’s indigenous people who rely on them for nutrition, income, and spiritual practices are being challenged in countless ways.
Orlinsky’s desire to raise awareness on social issues sparked an interest in this story. “It’s an incredible, historic time in these places,” she tells TIME. “Everything is changing, and I feel really lucky to document and share such an important part of both human and our earth’s history.”
With the help of the grant, Orlinsky hopes to continue this project, focusing on the communities where climate change is not only affecting their way of life, but also their physical existence.