Catchlight Fellowship Winners Aida Muluneh and Carlos Javier Ortiz Featured in the Washington Post

Photographers Andrea Bruce, Carlos Javier Ortiz and Aida Muluneh have won this year’s CatchLight Fellowships, which come with $30,000 to develop projects that use the power of visual storytelling to drive social change.


Ortiz won for his project “Between the Lines,” which looks at relations between the communities of Del Paso Heights and South Sacramento in California and the police. “The fellowship comes at an important time for me,” he said. “I have been working on this project for some time now and didn’t have sufficient funding to go out and just do the work, which means getting out into the community, taking photos and shooting film, making connections with people, and building trust.” The documentary photographer and filmmaker believes his project is especially relevant today, as “we’re not hearing as much in the national media about policing and the community [while] these problems have not gone away,” he said. “People are still deeply affected by police violence and violence, in general, as we’ve just seen in Sacramento with the killing of Stephon Clark. I want the work to continue to bring light to these issues, even when they fall out of the national media spotlight.”


Muluneh received her fellowship for “The Distant Gaze.” The project is inspired by a collection of images of Ethiopian women documented at the turn of the century by foreign photographers. “Many of these images, later commercial postcards in Europe, depicted foreign fantasies in relation to the black female body,” said Muluneh, a former Washington Post photographer and the founder of Desta for Africa Creative Consulting, a company that promotes development in Ethiopia through culture. “I found it impossible not to question the implications of each sitter’s returned gaze,” she added.


Using the fellowship’s funds, she will organize workshops and mentorship programs in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Italy for high school students, photojournalists and fine-art photographers. “As I attempt to interrogate the foreign gaze and also to raise the awareness of the impact of photography in shaping cultural perceptions, participating students will develop their own stories based on what they are confronted within their own countries, historically or through current depictions in the media,” she said. With “The Distant Gaze,” Muluneh’s ultimate goal is to develop “a richer, broader discussion of the question of representation,” she said.