2020 Light Work Grants: Ben Cleeton, Christine Elfman, Hans Gindlesberger

October 26 – December 10, 2020
Jeffrey J. Hoone Gallery

Light Work’s galleries are currently closed to the general public as part of our ongoing effiort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Syracuse University students, faculty, and staff who are cleared to be on campus may visit the exhibitions during gallery hours. We encourage patrons to visit our exhibitions and events online and to check out our catalog of artist videos.

Light Work is pleased to announce the 46th annual Light Work Grants in Photography. The 2020 recipients are Ben Cleeton, Christine Elfman, and Hans Gindlesberger. Courtney Asztalos and Rachel Guardiola received Honorable Mention recognition.

The Light Work Grants in Photography are part of Light Work’s ongoing effort to provide support and encouragement to Central New York artists working in photography within a fifty-mile radius of Syracuse. Established in 1975, Light Work Grants is one of the longest-running photography fellowship programs in the country. Each recipient receives a $3,000 award, exhibits their work at Light Work, and appears in Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual.

This year’s judges were Russell Lord (photo historian and Freeman Family Curator of Photographs at the New Orleans Museum of Art), Jacqui Palumbo (freelance editor, contributor to Artsy and writer and producer for CNN Style), and Aaron Turner (photographer, educator, Light Work AIR in 2018, and coordinator for the Center for Photographers of Color at the University of Arkansas).

Ben Cleeton

Ben Cleeton is a photographer based in Syracuse. Cleeton graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2015 with a degree in Photojournalism. His photographs have appeared in The New York Times in such stories as Here’s Life Among the Ghosts and Getting Hockey Referees Ready for the Big Leagues, and online in Black artist series: Joshua Rashaad McFadden in The Undefeated. His solo exhibition in 2015 at the Community Folks Art Center in Syracuse was titled Green eyes: el Viejo. Cleeton’s Hesperus is Rising won Best Music Video at the Central New York Film Festival in 2018.


When my college classmate, India, vouched for me in her Syracuse neighborhood, she introduced me to a community’s beauty. What manifested is a photo essay of a variety of neighborhoods and communities built on friendship and trust. The Town, arguably, represents the invisible Syracuse that outsiders like myself don’t see. As a privileged white man working in a community of color, I am indebted to people who have invited a stranger into their lives. These vibrant pockets constitute The Town. My art is nothing without them.

Christine Elfman

Christine Elfman is a visual artist who lives and works in Ithaca. She received her BFA from Cornell University and her MFA from California College of the Arts. She has exhibited her work at Gallery Wendi Norris (San Francisco), Handwerker Gallery (Ithaca College), Photofairs San Francisco, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, University of the Arts (Philadelphia), and Zona Maco in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in Der Greif, Humble Arts Foundation, Photograph Magazine, The Photo Review, SF Weekly, and The San Francisco Chronicle. She is represented by Euqinom Gallery in San Francisco, California.


Photographs embody the tension between fixing and fading especially well. While we tend to assume that they freeze time, photographs actually show us how impossible it is to ever fully capture something. My photographic work explores the temporal wane of objects, images, and memory. Color slips from the surface of paper, subjects become shadows, recognition fades into lore. Using the anthotype process, my images develop slowly: sitting outside for a month, the sun bleaches paper saturated with light-sensitive plant dyes. Once complete, these unfixable photographs slowly disappear, as they continue to fade in the light that we need to see them. When paired with fixed silver gelatin and inkjet prints, the images emphasize a tension between the archival impulse, ephemerality of photography, and the subjects themselves.

Hans Gindlesberger

Hans Gindlesberger is an artist whose work spans photography, video, installation, and new media. He lives and teaches in Binghamton. He earned his BFA from Bowling Green State University in 2004 and his MFA in Photography from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2006. His solo exhibitions include CEPA (Buffalo), Foundry Art Centre (St. Louis), Galleri Image (Denmark), and Gallery 44 (Toronto). His participation in group shows includes 516 ARTS (Albuquerque), Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (Buffalo), Humble Arts Foundation (New York City), IHC Platform (University of California Santa Barbara), Jen Bekman Projects (New York), Kunstvlaai 6 (Amsterdam), and Richmond Art Center (Western Michigan University).


Blank______Photographs is a constellation of projects that look imaginatively at the radical shifts in photography’s materiality. In these projects, I seek to invert the hierarchy of visual and tactile that we expect from a photographic image. In subverting expectations and offering an alternative presentation of photographs, this work suggests new possibilities for what is “photographic.” Though 1.5 trillion photographs come into being annually, most exist immaterially as pixels on screens. Re-focusing attention on the physicality of photographs is both elegiac and celebrates photography’s ability to reconfigure and reinvent itself continually.

For more information about the Light Work Grants in Photography, including past recipients and how to apply, please visit www.lightwork.org/grants