Magnum Foundation

Magnum Foundation

Announcing the 2017 Photography and Social Justice Fellows


Josué Rivas. Last Stand at Oceti. Oceti Sakowin Camp, 2017.

Magnum Foundation is pleased to announce the 2017 Photography and Social Justice Fellows, nine emerging and early career photographers, artists, journalists, and activists selected from over 600 applicants. The Photography and Social Justice program offers specialized training and mentorship, and a space for experimentation with new approaches to socially engaged documentary practice. The fellowship covers the cost of travel, tuition, and room and board for two laboratories at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism and offers a production stipend for fellows to work on a long-term project in their home country with mentorship from Eric Gottesman, Danielle Jackson, and Amy Pereira. This year’s fellows are:

  • Nariman El-Mofty, Egypt
  • Esther Mbabazi, Uganda
  • Zhou Na, China
  • Josué Rivas, USA
  • Tako Robakidze, Georgia
  • Soumya Sankar Bose, India
  • Lindokuhle Sobekwa, South Africa
  • Yu Yu Myint Than, Burma
  • Elias Williams, USA

The Photography and Social Justice program evolved from what was formerly known as the Photography and Human Rights program, established in 2010 to build capacity and community among a diverse network of practitioners who have not had access to comprehensive photographic training. In her application, Yu Yu Myint Than noted, “There is no school or proper photography training centre in Burma. As a self-taught photographer, the only way to broaden my photographic horizon has been working for experienced international photographers as a fixer and attending workshops offered in the region.”

From what began as a summer intensive, the Photography and Social Justice Fellowship has grown into an extended training and mentorship program. Over the course of nine months, each Fellow will work on a long-term project in their home country, while receiving ongoing project development feedback and production support. Just as important as the coursework they complete is the network of mutual support and shared learning the participants offer one another. This year’s fellows will join a community of our 28 former fellows from nineteen different countries. For the first time, the program will include two US-based fellows among the international group of participating photographers.

The program supports each participant in their creative growth and distinct approach to activating issues in their community. Josué Rivas says, “My goal is to honor the people [in my photographs] by engaging in their lives and struggles. As a young photographer, I need to both expand the process and experiment with the way I approach the work of bringing indigenous issues to mainstream consciousness.”

In addition to creativity and experimentation, the laboratories will emphasize preparedness. With visiting experts such as Bruce Shapiro of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Susan McGregor of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Rachel Falcone of Storyline, and Barbara Gray of CUNY’s Research Center, the fellows will participate in trainings on digital security and dealing with trauma in the field.

Extensive training in purposeful and ethical practice is at the core of the program. Fellows will participate in a session in which they are led through an exercise to create their own ethical guidelines that take into consideration factors such as the cultural context in which they are working, different modes of practice, and where the work will be seen. These guidelines will draw on an analysis of existing codes and literature on ethical practice, as well as discussion of sample projects that highlight the complexities and critiques of photographing vulnerable subjects.

Advisor and instructor Fred Ritchin will guide fellows in a series of readings and critical dialogues about creative uses of documentary imagery and invite visiting practitioners to share their work and processes. Bob Sacha will lead a course called Learning Multimedia for fellows to gain a greater understanding of how sound relates to modern visual journalism and experience in the tools and strategies for using audio. Other advisors to the program will be members of the Magnum Foundation team, photographer and Magnum Foundation board president Susan Meiselas, and Andrew L. Mendelson, Associate Dean and Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

The fellows will have the opportunity to meet with international editors, organizations, and galleries, such as TIME, Human Rights Watch, and Steven Kasher Gallery. The program makes active use of the city as a resource for short assignments and shooting exercises as well as network-building.

Fellows will arrive this week and upon returning to their home countries, will work for six months on their projects with ongoing group check-ins and video conferencing with their mentors before returning in January to finalize and present their projects.


Tako Robakidze. Folk ensemble “Daimokhkan Aaznash” (Chechnyan for “Native Tunes”), established by 76-year-old Makvala (Badi) Margoshvili. Women chanting – Nazmi for peace in Georgia and the world. Duisi Village. Pankisi Gorge. Georgia. 2015


Elias Williams. St. Albans Lady Trojans before practice at St. Albans memorial park.