In 1974 the founders of Light Work began a grant program for photographic artists living within a 150-mile radius of Light Work’s home base in Syracuse, New York. Nearly forty years later, the Light Work Grants in Photography competition and exhibition remain annual events that energize the community, celebrate contemporary photography, and support and encourage artists living in the area. Photographers at every level of skill, and utilizing diverse photographic approaches, apply each year. Past winners have included accomplished photojournalists, art photographers, faculty members from area colleges, art historians, critics, amateurs, and self-taught artists. Local artists submit a short application and ten images, and jurors from outside the grant region review the applications and images and make selections. The fellowship is given to three artists and includes a $2,000 award, an exhibition at Light Work, and publication in Contact Sheet: The Light Work Annual. Supporting emerging and underrecognized talent is an ongoing commitment at Light Work, and the grants program exemplifies this core mission, which over the years has become a gift to the artists as well as the community.
Recipients of the 2012 Light Work Grants in Photography were Dennis Krukowski, Tice Lerner, and Sayler/Morris. The judges for 2012 were Jamie Allen (assistant curator of photographs, George Eastman House), Bleu Cease (executive director, Rochester Contemporary Art Center), and Sean Donaher (executive director, CEPA Gallery).
Dennis Krukowski has been working since the late 1980s on a photographic essay documenting Christmas trees. The images began as a collaboration with a writer and culminated in the publication of his book, O Christmas Tree. Krukowski has continued creating these images over the past twenty-six years and explains, “When photographing Christmas trees in the middle of the winter, I am literally and perhaps figuratively finding the light in the darkness which symbolically mirrors my personal journey.” He has documented the iconic symbol throughout the United States, Canada, China, Europe, and Scandinavia. His photographs expand our understanding of this highly recognizable and emotional symbol as he captures its spirit in the public and private sector.
Krukowski lives in Cicero, NY, and has exhibited his work widely, including Daniel Wolf Gallery, Nikon House Gallery, and Leica Gallery in New York, NY, and Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, NY. His photographs of interiors have been published in four additional books and various magazines.
Tice Lerner received the Light Work Grant for his series Ever Onward, which chronicles his personal encounters with the inhabitants of Binghamton, NY, a once a prosperous manufacturing town for defense, and the founding city of IBM. The area has long been economically depressed, but the artist recalls a time when Binghamton IBM was in its heyday, and employees showed their pride by singing corporate anthems daily—one of which was called Ever Onward. Lerner holds IBM, and the many other large corporations that have left Binghamton, directly responsible for the economic inequality he photographs. About his process of working he explains, “Street photography is not watching the crowd, it’s becoming part of the crowd. I don’t think there is a better way to truly appreciate the people I photograph until I have walked on the same pavement that they have. Each photograph is a glimpse of my personal experience with my subjects—up close and candid, for better or worse.”
Tice Lerner lives in Binghamton, NY, and is represented by Anthony Brunelli Fine Art. He has participated in international art fairs, including Seafair Yacht in Greenwich, CT, and Sculpture Fields of Nova’s Ark in Bridgehampton, NY.
Sayler/Morris is the moniker of the collaborative team Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris. Since 2005, Sayler and Morris have produced a body of work titled A History of the Future, an ongoing photographic investigation of landscapes throughout the world where scientists are studying the impacts of climate change. For the Light Work Grant exhibition the artists presented images from their new series, Their World Is Not Our World, a photographic and video essay investigating the geographically low-lying country of the Netherlands. The artists are interested in examining the dichotomy of wildness and control and wrote, “If there is a place in the world where such confidence in our ability to control nature is justified, it is in the Netherlands. Centuries of carving habitable land out of swamps and estuaries has resulted in a massive water management infrastructure and near-total cultivation of the land. Yet the Netherlands is potentially one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change due to increases in sea level or increased frequency of extreme storms.”
Sayler/Morris live and work in Syracuse, NY. Their projects have been exhibited widely in group and solo shows at Exit Art and Wave Hill in New York, NY; Denver Museum of Contemporary Art-Creative Acts that Matter Program, Denver, CO; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; ARTECH, Madrid, Spain; Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA; and Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, OH, among others. Sayler/Morris are co-founders of The Canary Project, which has produced projects involving more than 100 artists, designers, writers and educators – all efforts to deepen public understanding of climate change.
Mary Lee Hodgens