Light Work Announces 2021 Recipients of Grants in Photography

With enormous pleasure and pride, Light Work announces the 47th annual Light Work Grants in Photography. The 2021 recipients are Carla Liesching (Ithaca, Tompkins County), Jessica Magallanes Martinez (Syracuse, Onondaga County), and Paul Pearce (Mattydale, Onondaga County). Nidaa Aboulhosn (Ithaca, Tompkins County) and  Zaire Knight (Syracuse, Onondaga County) each received Honorable Mention recognitions. The Light Work Grants in Photography provide support and encouragement to Central New York artists working in photography within a fifty-mile radius of Syracuse, New York. Each recipient receives a $3,000 stipend and appears in Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual.  A group exhibition of grant recipients’ work will be on view in the Hallway Gallery in Fall of 2021.

Established in 1975, the Grants program is one of the longest-running photography fellowships in the country. In its 48-year history, Light Work Grants have supported more than 130 artists, some more than once. With the help of this regional grant, many artists have been able to continue long-term projects, purchase equipment, frame photographs for exhibitions, promote their work, collaborate with others, and otherwise work toward their artistic goals.

This year’s judges were Ryan Arthurs (visual artist, co-founder of Rivalry Projects, a contemporary art gallery in Buffalo, NY), Ashlyn Davis (writer, editor, and the former executive director and curator of Houston Center for Photography, chief editor of spot magazine, and co-founder of Assembly), Courtney Reid-Eaton (creative director for the Documentary Diversity Project at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies). 

Light Work is pleased to announce this year’s grant recipients:

Carla Liesching (Ithaca, Tompkins County)

Carla Liesching’s ongoing project, Good Hope, is a fragmented visual and textual assemblage that orbits around the gardens and grounds at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa—an historic location, now an epicenter for anti-colonial resistance movements, and also the place of her birth. The Portuguese named the Cape during their “Age of Discovery” and viewed its position at the mid-point along the “Spice Route” with great optimism for its capacity to open up a valuable maritime passageway. Later they established the “refreshment station” there, which set into motion flows of capital from “east” to “west.” Today, the iconic central statue commemorating imperialist Cecil Rhodes is gone and gray plywood covers its pedestal, thanks to the #rhodesmustfall movement, whose representatives declared,  “The fall of Rhodes is symbolic for the inevitable fall of White supremacy.” 

Jessica Magallanes Martinez (Syracuse, Onondaga County)

In she is also for others, Jessica Martinez employs the visual language of documentary, performance, and still-life simultaneously to create an allegory of faith, queer identity, and feminine power. Exploring the intersections of her experience as a queer Catholic Chicana from South Central Los Angeles, she questions identities that are increasingly under attack—leaving behind dense voids where nuanced layers of personhood have been obscured and erased. Jessica Martinez’s photographs create a space for recovering identity and reclaiming power.

Paul Pearce (Syracuse, Onondaga County)

A retired 1st Lieutenant in the Army, Paul Pearce employs staged tableaus and vintage military figures to pose questions about our derived moral and ethical formation. Exploring the implications of moral injury through childhood gameplay, Pearce opines about his military service, stating, “As a forward artillery observer in combat, maps, and a compass guided our way and directed lethal fire at the enemy. Where was my moral compass? I look back to a time where an innocent boy made war with toy soldiers. Where did my moral compass point? What happens to us when we play war?” Pearce returns to toys and play as vehicles to unpack his existential question, but this time with his toys that get wounded and suffer. He inserts his childhood lens and asks where he would be if he saw the consequences of these playtime battles.

We are thrilled to support these inspiring artists in our community. Together they show a wide range of approaches to the medium, and highlight the exceptional talent here in Central New York. 

Six Light Work Artists-in-Residence and Urban Video Project Exhibiting Artists Among Guggenheim Fellows

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded two Light Work Artists-in-Residence and three former Urban Video Project (UVP) exhibiting artists 2021 Guggenheim Fellowships. The Guggenheim is one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for scholarly and artistic achievement, honoring individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. Congratulations to all this year’s awardees, including Light Work and UVP family members Sama Al Shaibi, Ephraim Asili, Crystal Z. Campbell, Jill Magid, Cauleen Smith, and Rodrigo Valenzuela. The recipients are among the 184 artists, writers, scholars, and scientists Fellows selected from a pool of more than 3,000 applicants. 

“I am thrilled to announce this new group of Guggenheim Fellows,” said Edward Hirsch, President of the Foundation, “especially since this has been a devastating year in so many ways. A Guggenheim Fellowship has always been meaningful, but this year we know it will be a lifeline for many of the new Fellows at a time of great hardship, a survival tool as well as a creative one. The work supported by the Fellowship will help us understand more deeply what we are enduring individually and collectively, and it is an honor for the Foundation to help the Fellows do what they were meant to do.”

We are excited to offer signed, limited edition Fine Prints and Contact Sheet volumes featuring works by this year’s Guggenheim recipients. Proceeds benefit and champion Light Work’s on-going support of emerging and under-represented artists working in photography through residencies, publications, exhibitions, educational programming, and a community-access digital lab facility. Search all our offerings at

Rodrigo Valenzuela 
American Type 15, 2019
Archival inkjet print, 14 x 11″ image on 15 x 12″ paper
Edition of 50, signed and numbered by the artist

Rodrigo Valenzuela’s work in photography, video, and installation boldly addresses themes of labor, power, and representation. In American Type, he uses and critiques the language and history of abstraction in art, while imbuing his photographs with social and political meaning. Valenzuela participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program in 2017.

Works from and essays about 2021 Guggenheim recipients appear in Contact Sheet Annuals 134, 190, 156, and 201. Light Work designs and prints Contact Sheet in the tradition of fine art photography monographs and is completely commercial-free. We invite you to see first-hand the innovative and creative work of artists who are making important contributions to the field of photography.

Over Light Work’s 48 year history, 42 of our Artists-in-Residence and exhibiting artists have received the Guggenheim Fellowship, including Dawoud Bey, Sandford Biggers, Eric Gottesman, John Gossage, Elijah Gowin, Leslie Hewitt, Sky Hopinka, Deana Lawson, Osamu James Nakagawa, Suzanne Opton, Christian Patterson, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Cindy Sherman, Mark Steinmetz, and Hank Willis Thomas. We are humbled to provide time, space, and resources for these artists early in and often throughout their careers. We extend our congratulations to all the 2021 award recipients on joining this illustrious Fellowship legacy. 

We’re Hiring: Light Work Director

Director (Full-time) Master’s degree or equivalent experience preferred

Priority Deadline: May 15, 2021— APPY HERE

This position will remain open until filled. However, we will give priority to applications received before May 15, 2021.

Housed in the Robert B. Menschel Media Center at Syracuse University, Light Work is one of the country’s most respected art institutions. Founded as an artist-run, non-profit organization in 1973, Light Work provides direct support through residencies, publications, exhibitions, a digital lab facility, and other related projects to emerging and under-represented artists working in photography and digital imaging.

We are seeking a dynamic, highly qualified, experienced individual for the Director’s position, and we strongly encourage applications from individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds. The Director reports to the Executive Director and is responsible for Light Work’s overall management, including physical facilities, financial management, human resources, and growth and development. In consultation with the other executive team members, the Director determines the professional practices, standards, and strategies involved in furthering the organization’s mission. The Director will manage all aspects of the organization including curatorial vision, programming, grant research/writing, fundraising, financial management, public relations/marketing, and staff development. Light Work is entering its 50th year of operation, and the successful candidate will expand on Light Work’s legacy in the photographic community and offer a strategic vision in line with evolving institutional and curatorial best practices. They will possess demonstrated managerial skills and experience in all key areas, including budget management.

A demonstrated knowledge of contemporary art, emphasizing photography and digital imaging, is vital to the position. Successful candidates will have a Masters in Fine Arts or equivalent experience with knowledge of photographic and digital imaging techniques. The position requires the ability to work as part of a team and the proven ability to take initiative.

Light Work is an equal opportunity employer. Upon request, both Light Work and Syracuse University will provide accommodation to applicants with disabilities throughout the recruitment, assessment, and selection process.

Job Description

  • The successful candidate will be an individual who understands and champions the organization’s commitment to supporting emerging and under-recognized artists.
  • Responsible for the successful operation of the Light Work Lab so that services are delivered to meet the needs of the members of the Lab and the University community.
  • Responsible for the fiscal success of Light Work Lab and Light Work Visual Studies, Inc., which includes managing budgets and raising funds through earned income and grants from individuals, foundations, and government agencies.
  • Maintaining diversity and artistic excellence in all programs including Artist-in-Residence, exhibitions, publications, and access to all public platforms, including website, social media, print, and marketing campaigns.
  • Successfully manage a staff of six full-time and two part-time staff, and several work study students.
  • Work successfully as a member unit of the Coalition of Museum and Art Centers (CMAC) in order to collaborate with other CMAC units and University Departments in order to make the arts an integral part of campus life.

Syracuse University is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action institution. The University prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, gender, national origin, citizenship, ethnicity, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law to the extent prohibited by law. This nondiscrimination policy covers admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in University programs, services, and activities. For a detailed position description and online application instructions, go to (Job #036896).  Cover letter and resume must be attached.  Review of applications begins immediately and the search will remain open until the position is filled.  Syracuse University is an AA/EOE.