Let’s Build Something Beautiful Together®
The VSCO Artist Initiative™ is a grant and movement of solidarity that provides artists the resources to pursue their creative vision, no matter what the medium. The Initiative honors art and artist by discovering, funding, advising, and promoting creatives from all corners of the globe.
Artists who are chosen to take part in the Initiative will document their ideation and creation process by posting images to their Grid, publishing updates to their Journal, and collaborating with the VSCO team on promotions and projects. Open to artists of all mediums, the Initiative seeks to continue growing a creative movement built on integrity and artistry.
Introducing the Recipients
Carson Davis Brown
Artist Carson Davis Brown has a history of disrupting commercial spaces — previously he created on-site installations (without permission) using the items sold at large retail stores. Once again, Brown turns his attention to retail giants for his Artist Initiative project, New American Quilts. At once playful and serious, his installations will rearrange the products on shelves into patterns that mimic those found on traditional quilts, creating a “mirror of our cultural, economic, and social state as a consumer nation.”
“A bothy,” Ruairidh McGlynn explains, “is best described as a basic shelter, typically left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge.” The photographer came across one of these lone, cottage-like structures unexpectedly while crossing over the Cairngorm mountain range in Scotland — a bright red object in the stark white snow. McGlynn charts a journey to these remote bothies to tell the stories of how they came to be, who takes care of them, and who temporarily calls them home, ultimately bringing life to these empty buildings.
When photographer Marianna Jamadi visited Cartagena’s Centro Cuidad Móvil, a cultural center using the power of dance to raise awareness about local societal ills, she sat in on a dance practice and was moved to tears by the “evocative and raw nature of the movements… I couldn’t help but feel that art was the greatest salve to such a deep wound [of societal struggle].” Jamadi returns to Colombia to document the dancers both in the studio and out of it, hoping to show that self expression and protest do not have to be violent or destructive. Instead, “art as a reaction breeds empathy, understanding, beauty, and conversation.”
Prairie Stuart-Wolff has been dividing her time between the United States and Japan, learning how to cook traditional Japanese cuisine from her mother-in-law. Fascinated by the traditions and ingredients, Stuart-Wolff seeks to bridge her cultural divide with her project, Cultivated Days. Using a combination of photography and lyrical non-fiction, she will “investigate, document, and celebrate washoku”, a traditional cuisine that has long been considered “one of the most aesthetically pleasing, palate engaging, and healthy food traditions in the world.”
Portugal based Colectivo Photo is comprised of four photographers — Tommaso Rada, Miguel Proença, Lara Jacinto, and Antonio Pedrosa. The group’s project, titled The Thin Line, seeks to capture “a dystopian portrait of the relationships between and across the border, showing the challenges of living in a unique space.” Ultimately, they hope to bring attention to what a united Europe entails, documenting “the past and present of Europe with the aim to stimulate in the viewer an idea of the future.”
With relations between the United States and Cuba amidst significant change, photographer Greg Kahn sets out to capture the story of a nation evolving. Self-described as someone whose work “concentrates on issues that shape personal and cultural identity”, the Washington, D.C. based artist will be traveling to Cuba to cover the evolution of the nation and its people.
Keith Weaver & Tim Lampe
Keith’s VSCO / Tim’s VSCO / Intro / Update
Keith Weaver and Tim Lampe of Atlanta, Georgia, noticed in recent years the lack of arts education for local youth. As photographers and established creatives, Weaver and Lampe set out to bring creative expression to the kids in their community by leading a photography class, and teaching the ins and outs of photography through the use of instant cameras.
Brooklyn based photographer Amy Lombard met with and documented people with shared, unique interests — particularly those who found and met others online. “My goal is to map out the interests and individuals that are both known and unknown to the masses”. The interests she documented were varied, ranging from the upbeat to the absurd, but her project sought to elevate and humanize each experience.
Photographer Scott Turner returns to the mountains of Central Asia to document the lives of the Kyrgyz. These nomadic horsemen have lived as shepherds for hundreds of years, and their traditional way of life remains mostly unchanged today. Turner captures this interesting cultural statement as he lives off the grid, alongside these shepherding families for the entirety of his project.
Born of a casual photo session and an honest conversation, Natalie McComas’s photo project ‘In This Skin’ will collect the stories and portraits of birthmarked subjects. McComas hopes to “offer insights into these people’s stories, their heartaches and desires, and encourage viewers to be more accepting and compassionate towards those who are seen as ‘different’ within their own community circles”.
Built in London in the 1960s, the historic Barbican Estate was designed as an urban village that would be separate from traffic and transportation. A well-known cultural hub, it is currently home to nearly 4,000 residents. Intrigued by the diverse mix of personalities, resident and photographer Anton Rodriguez documents the lives and stories of his neighbors in an intimate portrait series, showing that each unit is as unique as the personalities that live there.
While spending time in the United Arab Emirates, photographer Yumna Al-Arashi was struck by the prominent socio-economic divide between residents and migrant workers. Determined to promote social justice and human rights awareness, Al-Arashi documents the harsh working conditions of a largely marginalized population.
Animation & Photography
Los Angeles-based artist Sean Pecknold creates an animated stop-motion short. Blending photography with animation, the film highlights an adventurer on a journey into the unknown, a quest that, through Pecknold’s unique aesthetic, embodies both beauty and surrealism.
Photographer Benjamin Heath documents the farming families affected by the severe drought in California’s Central Valley. More than just a surface level reporting of the crisis, Heath spends significant time with the families, capturing the ins-and-outs their daily lives, and how they are affected as a whole.
Scotland based photographer James Robertson documents Afghan skiers as they travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland to train. He captures their triumphs and hardships as they prepare and dream for the opportunity to compete in future competitions, such as the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Brothers Don and Ryan Clark are the founders of Invisible Creature, a design and illustration company based in Seattle. The duo collaborates with a unique group of artists to film their creative interactions and ventures across diverse mediums across the United States.
Seasoned photojournalist Mustafah Abdulaziz has been chronicling the topic of water since 2011, and plans to continue to do so until World Water Day 2020. He travels the Yangtze River in China, to “use photography as a conduit to seeing water not only as a resource, but as a measurement of how we exist, where we go and how we get there”.
Welsh animator and illustrator Gemma Green-Hope has a knack for storytelling. Her animations, created with a blend of drawn and stop motion elements, photographs, and voice over narrations, are full of subtle nuances and rich context. Green-Hope creates three distinct animation pieces inspired by Mabinogion, a set of medieval fairy tales well-known to Welsh children.
Written & Spoken Word
Joekenneth Museau is a writer and spoken word poet, who delves into the emotional journey that follows the death of a loved one. Museau visits the meaningful places of his mother’s childhood in Haiti, exploring his memories of her, and “the turmoils and triumphs” that come from living without her. As part of his final collaboration with VSCO Artist Initiative, Museau pens and creates a book about the journey and his experience.
Using tintype photography, Josh Wool documents enclaves of craftsmen in the Hudson Valley region, hoping to call to attention the artists’ simple way of life. “There’s more to life than just material wealth… These folks exemplify that happiness is what you make, not what you have”.
Honolulu-based sculptor Chris Ritson creates mesmerizing crystal work that blends the organic with the man-made. Using a crystal called bismuth, Ritson experiments with the temperature and humidity that affect the crystal’s growth process, in hopes that viewers will “rethink the authenticity of the art object and the role of the artist or individual as creator”.
Video & Photography
Bay Area-based photographer Nirav Patel was born in Gujarat, India, but moved away when he was two. In an effort to reconnect with his birthplace and his few childhood memories of it, Patel documents the Uttarayan kite festival, an international celebration that originated in his hometown, where the kites are manufactured.
Chris & Jon Schoonover
Chris’s VSCO / Jon’s VSCO / Intro / Update
As childhood fans of pro wrestling, brothers Jon and Chris Schoonover document the pageantry of the sport through underground wrestling organizations. Their work is highly stylized, and perfectly showcases the very candid imagery of this unique subculture.
In Texas, football is everything. Photographer and Texas native Lauren Marek captures the passion for the sport in her small but spirited hometown of Bellville, documenting nearly every game, practice, and rally. She faces the challenge of being an unobtrusive observer, while simultaneously getting more intimate, candid portraits of the players.
Athen B. Gallery
Urban or street art is not always afforded the same prestige as fine art, typically living in “the shadows of the art world, not properly recognized or celebrated”. Athen B. Gallery, located in Oakland, CA, changes that by highlighting some the city’s finest contemporary artists. The gallery curates and executes the production of three large public murals, working with and featuring local artists such as Ernest Doty, Ryan Montoya, Cannon Dill, and Brett Flanigan.
An award-winning typographer and visual artist, Michael Cina has been creating stunning album art for Ghostly International since 2007. With his Artist Initiative grant, Cina produces a limited edition book featuring the first 100 album covers he created for the acclaimed record label.
Photographer Sierra Odessa travels to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to document the ways the joyful neighborhood of her childhood has transitioned into its current metropolis. Using street photography, she captures intimate portraits and desolate streets — the lost innocence of a city changed.
Nour El Refai
Architectural photographer by trade, Cairo based Nour El Refai possesses a great respect and admiration for different cultures. Years prior, he visited Aswan, Egypt, and was captivated by the history of the region and the Nubian people. Typically a very private community, the Nubians struck up a friendship with El Refai, and ten years later, he returns to document the distinct culture, language, and experiences of their daily lives.
New York-based lifestyle blog and creative agency Street Etiquette created Slumflower, an editorial piece detailing the fictional tale of a 10-year-old boy growing up in NYC public housing. As part of their final collaboration with VSCO Artist Initiative, Street Etiquette showcased photos from the project in a gallery in New York.
Nomadic photographer Kevin Russ traversed the Pacific Coast, capturing rural landscapes and the quiet, nostalgic moments of life on the road. Shooting only on his iPhone and editing on VSCO®, he collaborated with VSCO Artist Initiative to create a beautiful photo book called The Western States. In May 2015, Russ toured his book through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, meeting with local creatives and photographers, and discussing highlights from his travels.
Young photographer Leo Martinez set out to capture the essence of Chihuahua, Mexico. Shot in black and white, Martinez’s work is a study in contrast, and he uses the juxtaposition of shadows and lights to underscore the duality of his city — a place that is at once modern and steeped in tradition. In February 2015, Martinez partnered with his alma mater, Chihuahua Institute of Technology, and VSCO Artist Initiative in a final collaboration to showcase his photography in a solo exhibition called “Auras Centrales”.
After a six month stint traveling and creating, artist Erik Otto returned to San Francisco with a specific goal in mind: to “create one unforgettable evening that brings different walks of life together to collectively celebrate the creative spirit… and take people to a place that inspires their own imagination”. ‘Rising Tides’, a multidisciplinary exhibition Otto put on as part of his final collaboration with VSCO Artist Initiative, showcased sculptures, paintings, lights, and live music.
We are looking for active members of the VSCO creative community. Before you apply, download the VSCO mobile app and create your VSCO profile.
Thank you for your submission. We review all applications; however, due to the sheer volume we cannot personally respond to all of them. If your project seems like a potential fit, we will contact you directly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why am I required to have a VSCO to apply?
Artist Initiative recipients should be active members of the VSCO creative community, and maintaining a VSCO is an ideal demonstration of this. Additionally, we believe the creative process is as important as the final result. Recipients are required to document their creative process on their VSCO profiles to provide insight into their artistic journey.
Who is eligible?
Artists of all levels, mediums, and locations are encouraged to apply.
To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years of age and reside in a jurisdiction in which offering or accepting the grant would be lawful. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
Can I edit my entry after I submit it?
No, you may not edit an entry after it has already been submitted, but you can save your entry as a draft to review before submission.
What is the selection process?
VSCO Artist Initiative reviews submissions based on the following criteria:
- The project has the potential for positive social and artistic impact.
- The project is unique and interesting.
- The budget is reasonable.
- The applicant displays passion, initiative, and creativity.
What are the expectations of the artist?
Selected artists who choose to take part in the Initiative will be required to post images of the project on their VSCO, supply content to be featured on the Artist Initiative VSCO, and collaborate with the team on promotions and projects.
When will I hear if my project has been selected for the Initiative?
Due to the sheer volume of applications, we are unable to personally respond to every submission. If your project seems like a potential fit, we will contact you directly, though there is no firm timetable for a response time.
Do all projects have to be photography based?
To reveal the creative process, all projects must be documented photographically on your VSCO profile. However, a project does not need to be photography based. Beauty can be found in all forms and mediums, and the Initiative grant is intended for a variety of artistic expressions: illustration, film, music, painting, photography, craft, design, mixed media, performance art, sculpture, new media, installation, etc.
How many projects will be selected?
There is no specific number of projects that will be selected.
Are group submissions allowed?
Yes, group submissions are allowed.
What will VSCO provide to the selected artist(s)?
VSCO will supply mentorship, as well as financial, creative, and promotional resources.
Does the artist retain rights to the work created for the VSCO Artist Initiative?
Yes. The artist retains ownership of their work. VSCO will have certain customary rights, such as the rights to display the work in various forms and locations, including but not limited to the VSCO website and apps, promotional materials, social media, books, and exhibitions.
How much money is allocated towards each project?
The grant amount varies for every project, based on factors such as scope, location and timeline.
Can I use the grant to fund travel?
Carefully consider whether or not your project truly requires travel. Is it imperative to the narrative of your project? Travel should be related to a personal story, a continuation of a narrative, an intriguing point of view, or other component that is integral to your project.
Does my project include a guaranteed end collaboration with the VSCO team?
The Artist Initiative team will work with recipients to determine their final product based on specific parameters. We fund project ideas, and that may or may not include a final book or event — not every project is guaranteed a final collaborative product or event.
What if I allocated for book creation/event in my budget?
Do not include the costs of exhibitions/events/book creation in your budget. Budgets are based on the expenses you require in project creation, not final product. The Artist Initiative team will work with recipients as the artist’s project progresses to see whether or not a final collaborative effort is appropriate.
What is considered a strong application?
Applications need to be clear and concise, and explain the project ideation and creation process. Spend time on it — the more love you show your proposal, the more likely we are to love it as well.