“No vengo a quitarle el trabajo a nadie" 2019. Digital photograph: Thalia Juarez.

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The closing reception of the F[ull] Stop: 2023 Fellowship Exhibition at the En Foco Inc. gallery last week honored recipients of the gallery’s 2023 Photography Fellowship Awards. 

Now in its eighth year, the exhibition grants the 10 award-winning photographers $1,000 each, as well as printing and framing expenses, to exhibit their work at En Foco’s gallery, at 15 Canal Place in Port Morris.

The organization reaches out annually to New York city-based photographers of African, Asian, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander heritage, to help promote their work. 

This year’s exhibition, which ran between May 18 and June 30, featured the following photographers: Ángel Añazco, Tanya Bindra, Samantha Box, Ryan Frigillana, Pratya Jankong, Thalia Juárez, Ashley McLean, Eduardo L Rivera, Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez, and Ana Vallejo.

One photo, called Bed Check, documents the process Thai-born photographer went through to provide evidence of his marriage to the U.S. government so he could obtain immigration status. Pratya, who lives in Queens, juxtaposes the intimacy of marriage against the bureaucracy of the federal government’s immigration process. He recalled the anxiety of seeing flyers about marriage fraud. 

“If they say no, what should we do?” he said. “I would have to go back to my country.” 

The intimate photographs of his marriage are collaged with immigration documents and official, black and white copies of “the evidence.”

This year’s fellows will have their photos published in Nueva Luz journal, which has collected the work of photographers’ color photos since 1985. 

“It’s a notch in your belt to get published at Nueva Luz,” said Danny Peralta, a Bronx-born photographer who was hired as director of En Foco last year after a multi-year stint as program manager at The Point CDC in Hunts Point. Peralta said the organization’s no-frills approach helps photographers focus on their art without stressing over business decisions. 

“Everyone is part time and uses it to augment their practice,” said Peralta, who was hired to direct the gallery in 2022. “There is very little overhead, all the funds go back to supporting the artists.”

Although En Foco provides resources and funding for the show that features the fellows, its staff doesn’t choose the artists. This year, a panel of artists chose the 10 fellows from a pool of 93 applicants, all of them people of color. Then exhibit curator Wanda Raimundo Ortiz  visited the artists in their studios to help them prepare for the exhibition. Artists have six months to work on their projects with the funds provided.

“These photographers,” Ortiz says, “arrest moments in time, ensnaring their subjects in the viewfinder and holding it endlessly for the viewer to bear witness. From photo illustrations by Angel Anazco, who is pushing the boundary of what is considered a photography, to surreal color saturation of Samantha Box’s, still life compositions, the artists question the familiar and share their vision of a multicultural world.” 

All exhibited and published works since the fellowship began can be found at En Focos live archive online.

The Photography fellowship is funded by the National Foundation of the Arts and the New York Council on the Arts. Applicants, who can be professional or amateur photographers and must be New York State residents, must be older than 18 and cannot be enrolled in school. 

If they are not selected for the fellowship awards, En Foco’s staff work hard to find alternative exhibit spaces for their work, such as “The Apartment Series,” which En Foco organizes, and is currently on view at The Center, at 208 W 13th Street. 

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