PDN - Project X - Generosity, Mentoring and Support
Generosity, Mentoring and Support
Tierney Family Foundation Assists Young Photographers with a Global Reach
Over dinner one night in early 2003, Matthew Tierney, a phi- lanthropist and photographer enthusiast, and Jerry Vezzuso, his professor at the International Center of Photography (ICP) got into a discussion about the lack of support for photo program gradu- ates. They agreed there were limited opportunities for graduates to continue the level of community and feedback offered to them in school. From this conversation arose an idea and a purpose—to create a program to support emerging photographic artists. The Tierney Fellowship’s primary goal is to “ nd tomorrow’s distin- guished artists and leaders in the world of photography and assist them in overcoming the challenges that a photographer faces at the beginning of his or her career.”
From its of cial beginning in 2004, when two New York City– based students were awarded grants, the Tierney Fellowship has grown to provide nancial and mentoring support to graduating or graduated students from 14 institutions: six in the New York City area (ICP, Parsons/The New School for Design, the School of Visual Arts, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Bard and Yale) and eight international programs in China, India, Mexico and South Africa. Each school has its own application requirements.
The Fellowship Committee looks for photographers who they feel will be in uential in the next 20 years, in hopes the award will help them get there faster. Pairs of photo professionals comprising noted professors, gallery owners and photo editors judge each school’s ap- plicants. Grant recipients cover a cross-section of genres including abstract, conceptual, documentary and narrative photography.
Fellowships consist of a cash grant, which can be used to buy
equipment, take classes, travel and so on, while each fellow must commit to mak- ing a new body of work within a year. Each May, select images are featured
in a group show at the New York Photo Festival in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neigh- borhood. In addition to the nancial award, each new fellow is paired with a former recipient who acts as a mentor and friend. Fellows may also connect via the Internet and sometimes arrange to meet with a visiting photographer who conducts group critiques at the partner institutions.
“During my project, I was in contact with Stephen Shore and others such as noted South African photographer Da- vid Goldblatt, whom I met through the critique sessions,” says 2010 recipient
Vincent Bezuidenhout from the University of Cape Town, Mi- chaelis School of Fine Art. “I think mentorship across borders is much needed in areas outside the United States.”
After the initial fellowship, Tierney recipients continue to be supported and bolstered by the program. Eight years after the rst two grants, there are now 72 photographers in the circle, and plans to increase the program’s international scope as well as to create a printed publication of all fellows’ work are currently in the works.
Ray Klimek, a 2004 fellowship recipient, credits the Tierney Foundation for giving him a boost that led to further professional success. An ICP graduate and now an Ohio University assistant professor, Klimek notes, “I can’t stress enough how big a role the Tierney Fellowship has played in my career and my life in general. It was a con rmation of my decision to pursue art and photogra- phy full-time. My Tierney grant provided the nancial and intel- lectual support that artists’ need at the early stage of their careers. It also helped me develop a sense of con dence about my work.”
It’s clear that Tierney fellows are an elite and grateful group, whose lives and careers have been altered and enlarged by the recognition awarded them. As Matt Tierney puts it, “This sup- port group continues for life.”