First year student William Chan was chosen by the Beth Block Foundation as the winner for this year's Beth Block Travel Grant. Beth received her MFA in Photography and Related Media in 2001, and the grant was established as a travel stipend to support and encourage young artists in this department at SVA to investigate “real world” issues. The award supports students in their first year of the program, the summer before their thesis year.
From William Chan's winning statement:
As Americans, we know very little about the people of Iraq, even though we knew enough to invade them in 2003. It has been 12 years since the invasion and it is clear the country is more chaotic and violent than before the invasion. In the news, we only see the extremes. We see the beheadings, car bombs, and drone strikes. These images, while needed, serve little to explain the totality of the situation. It certainly doesn’t make us care about them in a meaningful way besides stoking our desire for further military interventions.
I went to Iraq in March 2015 in part to make images that were more truthful and useful. There’s beauty in their everyday lives that weren’t presented enough in the media. The type of images that can make us relate to them in a meaningful way. Maybe even care for them as people and not caricatures. We need to see more instances where a boy is learning to paint for the first time or when girls gather to take selfies in a museum. The everyday moments which reminds us to be prudent whenever we decide to use our military advantage. With over 150,000 civilian casualties since the invasion, maybe we need to do more in preserving the life of a child than ending the ones of a terrorist.
With the Beth Block Travel Grant, I would continue to show the everyday lives of the people in Iraq. The beauty and preciousness of being alive, hopefully leading us to care and relate to them in a meaningful way.