2017 CatchLight Fellow: Tomas van Houtryve

Tomas van Houtryve is an artist, photographer and author based in Paris, France. He will be working with The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to document developments along the U.S.-Mexico border using surveillance imaging technologies and further exploring the “weaponization” of photography. 

Tomas writes that "this weaponization of photography is a theme that surfaced in my seminal project, Blue Sky Days. With my camera attached to a small drone, I traveled across America to photograph the same kind of gatherings that have become habitual targets of the US drone war abroad. I continued to explore the nexus of surveillance and photography with a subsequent project titled Packing Heat. After reading that the New York police force was using thermal imaging to scan suspects, I decided to see how a camera using the same technology would render the human form. 

Through these projects, I was able to master surveillance imaging technologies and apply them to newsworthy topics. I will use these same tools to photograph the present-day US-Mexico border. I will document key developments along the border in 2017, while simultaneously revealing how Hispanics are perceived through the gaze of the “virtual fence.” 

 
© Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days

© Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days

© Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days

© Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days

© Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days

© Tomas van Houtryve, Blue Sky Days

 "Over the past four years, I’ve visited dozens of classrooms in five states with the Pulitzer Center, and I’ve grown accustomed to sharing my work with young people and listening to their concerns. In the aftermath of the election, many of the students I met were gripped with fear and anxiety. Latino, Hispanic and immigrant students were especially worried about discrimination and deportation. Their voices echoed in my mind as I’ve thought deeply about this project and the audiences that I want to reach."
Tomas_Blue_Sky_Days_drone_Catchlight_006.jpg
Tomas_Blue_Sky_Days_drone_Catchlight_007.jpg

Tomas van Houtryve: Biography

After studying philosophy, Tomas developed a passion for photography while enrolled in an overseas university program in Nepal. After graduation in 1999, he moved to Latin America. In 2002, he was the first photographer to document the US military prison in Guantánamo Bay. Tomas returned to Nepal in 2004 to photograph the Maoist rebellion. The resulting photos earned the Visa pour l’Image-Perpignan Young Photographer Award and the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents. In 2010, Tomas was named the POY Photographer of the Year.

Images from Blue Sky Days were first published in Harper's in the largest photo portfolio in the magazine's 164-year history. The series was awarded the 2015 ICP Infinity Award, World Press Photo and other honors.

Tomas has been a member of the VII Photo collective since 2010.