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Application Details: Submissions open January 7th, 2020.
Application Open: January 7, 2020 – February 4, 2020, midnight PST
CatchLight Fellows Announced:  April 2020

The CatchLight Visual Leadership Fellowship serves as an incubator — a place for innovative leaders in the visual storytelling field to receive financial support, unlock individual potential, grow and leverage partnerships. The Fellowship cultivates a vibrant community of creative thought leaders whose work will be enhanced by collaboration, mentorship, and networking. 

CatchLight believes in the importance of images to foster a more empathetic understanding of the world. Our goal is to grow a thriving visual storytelling ecosystem. Our aim is to bring resources and support to all types of leaders in visual storytelling who are looking to have significant impact and care about the sustainability of the field. For example, they can be: 

Organizational leaders who are working to help further the visual storytelling ecosystem by defining the future of the field. 


Visual storytellers who use visuals to spark new conversations, engage communities and whose work is poised to both be significantly amplified by collaboration, mentorship, and networking and have significant impact on the community and/or issue it addresses.


Educators who want to support and raise the next generation of visual storytellers through innovative approaches.

We are looking for candidates who are pushing the boundaries in new and exciting ways. Proposals must represent excellence and present innovative amplification and engagement ideas. We invite and encourage a broad diversity in applicants, ideas, and creative mediums.

In addition to a $30,000 grant, the fellowship offers mentorship, personalized project development and networking opportunities from CatchLight staff and our extended network of partners. You will develop a personalized Fellowship roadmap to help you get the most out of the program and have exposure to opportunities within the CatchLight network such as mentorship roles, education activities, and speaking engagements. 

During the first year, Fellows will work on their proposed project with the networking support of CatchLight. CatchLight will offer continued amplification and engagement support for another year past the fellowship year. The nature of the awarded fellow’s work will determine the appropriate partnerships, model, and timeline for distribution.

Fellows will participate in person at two key CatchLight programs in San Francisco: a kickoff weekend in May and a Leadership Retreat in November. Fellows might be given the opportunity to present their work at the public CatchLight Storytelling Summit in the future. 

As part of CatchLight’s commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the visual storytelling field, CatchLight is looking to support innovative leaders who work to help grow and further the profession. CatchLight invests in impact — both on the visual storytelling field overall and the social issues our Fellows address. 

In 2019, CatchLight initiated  the “CatchLight Impact Fund” as a new streamlined process for current and past fellows to propose collaborations with CatchLight to produce impact-driven engagement activities such as workshops, exhibitions and community activations in connection to their work. 

See examples of our Fellows’ impact here. You can follow the arch of a fellowship by watching Brian L. Frank’s fellowship journey here or read Sarah Blesener’s take here.

A CatchLight Leadership Fellowship is awarded for life. Fellows will be encouraged to share expertise within the CatchLight community beyond the expiry of the grant period, and CatchLight hopes that Fellows will offer mentorship and seek mentorship within the community throughout their lives. CatchLight and CatchLight Fellows may refer to any past awardee as a current CatchLight Fellow. Fellows are required to reference their CatchLight Fellowship in bios and resumés listing achievements and current positions.

Eligibility: We are looking for exceptional talent, commitment to impact and sustainability of the field. The Fellowship is open to all people of all ages and all countries who work with visual communication, including videographers and photographers working with lens-led technology for the purposes of visual storytelling, and a specific commitment to effecting change. Applicants may work in a broad range of visual formats including photography, video, audio, motion, data visualization or VR.

Applicants must apply as individuals. Business entities and institutions will not be eligible. CatchLight will look favorably on applicants who demonstrate willingness to work collaboratively with distribution and impact partners, including media organizations and advocacy experts, to develop their projects and maximize the reach of the work.

Application: The application portal opens on January 7th and the deadline to apply is February 4th at midnight PST. The CatchLight Visual Leadership Fellowship pool will be formed by both nomination and open call. Application includes work samples, professional references, a written proposal with the scope of project, and potential ideas for partnerships and distribution avenues that best fit the proposal. Applicants should state how they plan to use the available support and resources to oversee a defined outcome. Applications will be reviewed and shortlisted by a geographically and professionally diverse jury. There is no fee to apply.

Rules and Guidelines
Applicants must submit one (1) application for themselves only.
Applicants may submit photographs or other visual formats such as audio, motion or VR.


  • All applications must be completed in English.
  • Applicants will submit 20-25 still images or visuals, or 15 minutes or less of audio/motion or VR from a previous or a related piece of work. Images will be 72DPI, 1200 longest edge.
  • One (1) project statement of 100 words or less summarizing the project.
  • One (1) proposal of no more than 500 words outlining:
    • The work to be pursued in the course of a 12-month Fellowship, how it builds on past work, and the relevance of this Fellowship in furthering the production and reach of the work. CatchLight may grant exceptions to the timeline where warranted.
    • Why this work exemplifies innovative distribution to engage audiences in new and different ways or why this work exemplifies impact on the visual storytelling field. 
    • How this work demonstrates measurable social awareness and engagement.
  • One (1) proposal of 300 words or less outlining distribution, engagement and/or education plan.
  • Additional questions relevant to entrepreneurship or visual project applicants.
  • Please answer the following questions:
    • What would you hope to learn from the CatchLight Fellowship and/or network? (100 words)
    • What would you contribute to the CatchLight network and visual storytelling field overall? (100 words)
  • Three (3) professional references with contact information (letters of recommendations not required).
  • Personal contact information, portfolio links, CV.
  • Optional: Submit a 60-90 second video describing your fellowship proposal and why it is important to you. We are not expecting great production values; webcam or mobile phone videos are encouraged.
  • Adherence to the ethical standards as described below.
  • If the applicant finds these conditions inappropriate for the nature of the work please contact CatchLight directly for advice on making a successful application.

Winners Announced
A list of finalists will be produced in March and those included will be contacted personally. The final stage of the judging will include in-depth interviews with selected applicants. 2020 Fellows will be expected to be present in San Francisco May 15-18, 2020 for a series of events including a kickoff workshop and CatchLight’s Visual Storytelling Summit.

Expectations & Deliverables

Participation: Fellows will be in attendance at the annual series of San Francisco-based events in May and November, including an kickoff workshop, a celebration and speaking engagement designed to promote the Fellowship project, provide live community engagement and raise awareness for the relevant social issues.

Visual Assets & Media: Fellows will be expected to deliver the following visually driven assets: 

  • One visually driven presentation including fellowship year outcomes, learnings, & approaches to impact that can be readily presented at fundraising and/or public event 
  • Two visually driven blog posts — one at the onset of the fellowship and one at the conclusion of the fellowship year — introducing yourself and outlining what you’ll be exploring and summarizing your outcomes. Presentations, visual materials and blog posts will ultimately contribute to a Catchlight Case Study published following the conclusion of the fellowship project. 
  • Two takeovers on CatchLight social media — one at the onset of the fellowship and one at the conclusion of the project (i.e. Instagram, Facebook Live — platform determined by content)

When applicable, the Fellow will deliver museum quality photographic prints, digital imagery, and other relevant work upon completion of the project for archival storage and CatchLight programming. CatchLight may request permission for the sale of images under mutually agreed upon conditions for the purpose of benefiting the future reach of the CatchLight mission and enhancing the cohort.

Impact: Fellows will have worked with CatchLight to identify appropriate metrics to define measurable impact and to create/submit a detailed engagement strategy for their fellowship project. Fellows will be eligible to propose additional impact-driven activities around their work. 

Evaluation: Fellows will complete two evaluation surveys (pre & post fellowship) 

Ethical Standards: Fellows are required to adhere to the highest ethical standards in the preparation and presentation of any work produced under CatchLight auspices. Violence, harassment and discrimination against any person based on gender, race, sexual orientation or disability will not be tolerated under any circumstances. CatchLight reserves the right to revoke the Fellowship and reclaim all funds if a project is found to deliberately present misleading information or if anyone associated with the work has been coerced into participation or if financial inducements have been offered above reasonable expenses. 

We also strongly recommend reviewing the Pulitzer Center’s Freelance Journalist Safety Principles, which includes best practices for freelance journalists and news organizations working in hostile environments. We endorse these standards in our own work, and we encourage all Fellows and media partners to do the same.

Code of Conduct: Conduct yourself—on and off the job—in ways that enhance CatchLight’s credibility and character. Show respect for individual human dignity, with an aim to minimizing the harm that can result from visual storytelling. Avoid financial arrangements and other activities that will create a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict for CatchLight. Let the audience know any information about yourself or your sources that might affect its understanding of your work. Raise and discuss potential problems of any kind in advance whenever possible, including questions about ethics, sources and coverage. 

Media and Distribution: CatchLight will collaborate with each Fellow around social media responsibilities, distribution intentions, partnership development, communications, publicity and general support.

Rights: The Fellows will retain copyright in all work submitted to CatchLight and produced in the course of the awarded fellowship. CatchLight and designated partners will have non-exclusive rights to publish materials from the awarded project, including for the purpose of promoting CatchLight and the Fellowship, with appropriate credit always given to the owner.

Amount of Fellowship: A grant of $30,000 in funding during the 12-month period. CatchLight will also work to include other resources including media exposure and partnerships to assist in the production and impact of a well-rounded body of work over the course of the fellowship year. The cash grant will be issued 70% on approval, 15% on approval of mid-project review in November 2019, and 15% upon completion.

Any questions can be addressed to Abby Connolly at abby@catchlight.io 

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