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  • Tim Greyhavens

Funding for Photographic History Research

If you’re a student, instructor, professor, or independent researcher of the history of photography, finding funding to support your work can be a challenging task. Those who are associated with a university or college may have access to dedicated research grants and fellowships provided by the institution, but often these are available only during one’s time at the institution.

For graduate students there are limited, but sometimes highly valuable, opportunities, especially for Ph.D. candidates and post-graduates. Independent researchers have the least opportunities available, but there is some funding available for those with the right credentials.

Here’s my list of the best photographic history research opportunities offered by North American institutions at this time. For more information about who has received research funding in recent years, please consult my Photo Funds Database. Once there, simply filter the results for “Recipient contains ‘scholar’”.

The Center for Creative Photography (Tucson, Arizona) offers several fellowships for the general study of photographic history, including the Ansel Adams Research Fellowship, the Photographic Arts Council/Los Angeles Research Fellowship, Gary Metz Fellowship, and the Harold Jones and Frances Murray Research Fellowship. Awards range from $2,500 to $5,000.

Separate fellowships are also available for the study of three specific photographers: Kenneth J. Botto, Josef Breitenbach, and Todd Walker. These awards range from $3,500 to $5,000.

Recent recipients include Mark Rowlandson and Nadiah Rivera Fellah for the Ansel Adams Research Fellowship; Nadya Bair and Anton Lee for the Kenneth J. Botto Research Fellowship; and Emilia Mickevicius and Jacinda Russell for the Photographic Arts Council/Los Angeles Research Fellowship.

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas) offers the Tyson Scholars Program to support “scholarship that seeks to expand boundaries or traditional categories of investigation into American art.” The program is open to scholars holding a Ph.D. (or equivalent), as well as Ph.D. candidates. Applicants may be affiliated with a university, museum, or may be independent.

This is a residential program, and recipients are expected to be based from six weeks to nine months at the museum. Stipends range from $15,000 to $30,000 per semester. The amount varies according to the duration of the residency and the seniority of the scholar. In addition to the stipends, housing is provided for the scholars.

Recent recipients for photographic research are Audrey Sands for “Lisette Model and the Inward Turn of Photographic Modernism”, and Emily Voelker for “From Both Sides of the Lens: Anthropology, Native Experience & Photographs of American Indians in French Exhibitions, 1870–1890.”

The Getty Foundation (Los Angeles, California) offers four types of grants for scholars:

  • Pre- and Postdoctoral Fellowships

  • Getty Scholars

  • Library Research

  • Conservations Guest Scholars

All grants are for study in residence at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Grant amounts range from $2,500 to $3,500 monthly, plus use of an apartment at their scholar housing complex.

Recent recipients include Elle Handy for “Histories of Photography: An Introduction”; Isabella Seniuta for “The Photography Market Between Paris and New York from the 1970s to the 1990s”; and John Falconer for ”A Glorious Galaxy of Monuments: Photography and Archaeology in India”.

Application deadlines vary. See their website for specific information.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas (Austin, Texas) awards 10 dissertation fellowships and up to 50 postdoctoral fellowships for research that involve items in their collection. All academic applicants must be studying for a Ph.D. or must already have a Ph.D. Independent scholars must have “a substantial record of achievement.” Note that the Center funds studies in a broad range of subjects, and those who are interested in photographic history will complete with the entire pool of applicants.

Fellowships are awarded for one to three months, with monthly stipends of $3,500 to $4,000.

Recent fellowships for photographic history include Inês Vieira Gomes for “Photography Between Portuguese and British Colonial African Frontiers”; Margaret Innes for “Signs of Labor in the American Photographic Press, 1926–1951”; Kim Bell for “How To: Photography Handbooks and Vernacular Style”; Monica Bravo for “Picturing Greater America: U.S. Modernist Photography and the Mexican Cultural Renaissance, 1920–1945”; and Ellen Handy for “Histories of Photography: An Introduction”.

The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (New York, New York), in addition to their revered fellowships in photography practice, offers a limited number of fellowships in Photography Studies. Only three of these fellowships have been awarded in the past five years.

Recent recipients for photographic studies include Maria Gough, Michael Lesy, and Peter Galassi.

The Humboldt Area Foundation (Bayside, California) offers the Peter E. Palmquist Memorial Fund for Photography Research. This funding supports individuals or nonprofit institutions researching Western American photography before 1900 or women in photography from any period. The award range is $500 to $1,500, and funds are primarily intended to cover travel expenses. They will not pay for salaries, hardware, or equipment.

Applications are open to anyone, regardless of an academic degree or affiliation, and are accepted once each year, usually from September 1 through November 1.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York) offers several funding options, including Art History Fellowships, Fellowships in Modern Art, Curatorial Research Fellowships, and the Research Scholar in Photograph Conservation. Funding amounts range from $40,000 to $55,000 and may include additional funding for travel.

Most fellowships begin on September 1 and last from one to two years.

Recent photography-related Fellows include Anjuli Lebowtiz for “Faith in the Field: Auguste Salzmann, Archaeology, and Photography in the Holy Land, 1840–1875”; Shana Lopes for an examination of the intersection of German and American photography circles in the nineteenth century; and Laetitia Barrere for continued cataloguing of the Gilman Paper Company Collection of photographs.

Application deadlines vary. See their website for specific information.

Princeton University’s Department of Art and Archaeology (Princeton, New Jersey) offers a single 12-month postdoctoral fellowship in the history of photography. Research may be on any aspect of the history of photography, and all works must be done while in residence at Princeton.

This is a new fellowship for the 2018–2019 academic year. The application deadline is December 1, 2017.

The Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto, Ontario) offers four academic fellowships for graduate-level and post-doctoral research:

  • The Nadir Mohamed Postdoctoral Fellowship includes a $10,000 (CAD) stipend for travel, research, and other expenses. Candidates must hold a Ph.D. degree.

  • The RIC Research Fellowship includes a $5,000 (CAD) stipend for travel, research, and other expenses. Candidates must hold or be working toward a PhD degree.

  • The Howard Tanenbaum Fellowship includes a $2,000 (CAD) stipend for travel, research, and other expenses. Candidates must hold or be working toward an MA degree.

  • The Elaine Ling Fellowship includes a $2,000 (CAD) stipend for travel, research, and other expenses. Candidates must hold or be working toward an MA degree.

The 2017 recipients (respectively) are Christian Joschke, Joey Brooke Jakob, Victoria Gao; and Zoë Lepiano.

Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago, Illinois), offers grant and fellowship opportunities in a dozen different categories, including travel grants and residencies at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Award amounts vary according to the program and needs.

Recent recipients include Cordie Levey for “Petite histoire de l’autoportrait photographique in Amérique (1839–1939)”, and Mark Rowlandson for “Late Twentieth Century American Photography — Against the Puritanical Strain in American Thought”.

Application timelines vary. See their website for specific information.

Tim Greyhavens



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