The CatchLight Fellowship

The CatchLight Fellowship serves as an incubator for innovative leaders. It is a space to receive financial support, unlock individual potential, leverage partnerships and amplify your impact.

CatchLight believes in the importance of visual storytelling to foster a more empathetic understanding of the world. Our goal is to grow a thriving visual ecosystem by supporting innovators in the field of visual storytelling through the CatchLight Fellowship program.

What are we looking for in Fellowship Applicants?

Our aim is to support the growth of the visual ecosystem by bringing resources and support to all types of innovators in the field. They can be:

Visual storytellers who use visual art to spark new conversations, engage communities and whose work is poised to be significantly amplified by collaboration, mentorship, and networking.


Organizational leaders who are working to help further the visual ecosystem by discovering and amplifying storytellers’ voices and defining the future of the field.

All Candidates are encouraged to push 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.

What can you expect as a CatchLight Fellow?

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.

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 model for distribution and partnerships.

Fellows will be expected to participate in person to two key CatchLight programs in San Francisco: a kickoff workshop in April and a Leadership Summit in November.

Read what 2017 CatchLight Fellow Sarah Blesener learned during her year as a CatchLight Fellow here.


Eligibility: We are looking for exceptional talent, commitment to effective distribution and a drive to define impact on a key issue of the photographer’s choosing. 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 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 22nd and the deadline to apply is February 18th at midnight PST. The CatchLight 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.

The application window for the 2019 Fellowships is now closed. The 2020 Fellowship applications will open in early 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the Fellowship partners change every year?

Committed to finding the best collaboration for amplification of the project, CatchLight will explore and consider new partnerships every year. We will always seek to maintain working relationships with existing partners as best fits the needs of the Fellowship and continue to expand our partnership network.

Can more than one person or an organization apply?

No, our fellowship is designed to support individuals so while we recognize a lot of people are collaborating on projects, only one individual person can apply to the fellowship.

Do you offer the application in any languages other than English?

We currently only offer our application in English but plan to expand to other languages in the future.

Do you offer translation services if an application needs to be translated to English?

We are not able to outsource an application for languages other than English. We recommend using Google Translate and will offer a place in the Fellowship application process to declare if an application has been translated from another language so our judges are aware.

When does the CatchLight Fellowship begin for selected fellows?

Fellowship Timelines can be thought of in two ways:

  • In building the Fellowship community, we will select a new cohort of Fellows each year, with agreed upon timelines for various projects, understanding that some work may not adhere to the boundaries of 12 months and may be shorter or longer.

  • A CatchLight 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.

Is there a fee to apply to the CatchLight Fellowship?

No, it is free to apply.

Will Fellows be responsible for the costs of a trip to San Francisco for the annual November event, or will CatchLight cover those costs?

CatchLight will cover all costs of attending the annual CatchLight events including the Spring Symposium and kickoff workshop and the November Leadership Weekend, including travel and hotel for the event activities.

Regarding application deliverables (museum quality photographic prints, digital imagery, other relevant work upon completion of the project for archival storage, etc.) can you give an indication of how much material CL wants—how many prints, how many digital images, etc?

Because each of our Fellows may be working in different mediums, these deliverables will be decided upon in collaboration between each Fellow and CatchLight.

Does CatchLight offer a sponsorship letter for B1/B2 visa needs for potential fellows?

CatchLight will be happy to write a letter of invitation to a Fellow’s particular embassy in order to help secure a tourist B1/B2 visa so that they may attend events in San Francisco, California, for that Fellow’s year. If a visa letter is needed to do 90 days of work in the USA towards the beginning of the fellowship, CatchLight would discuss that with with the Fellow towards the final rounds of the fellowship process.

Can PhotoPhilanthropy entrants, finalists or winners apply for the CatchLight Fellowship?


Can an applicant also seek other funding if awarded a CatchLight Fellowship? How does that work in terms of ownership/branding?

Yes, if an applicant happens to have other funding he/she can still be named a CatchLight Fellow. Each grant/fellowship determines the manner in which a grantee attributes work. As long as CatchLight Fellows are able to carry through with their proposal and agreement made between the Fellow, partner organizations, and CatchLight, having other funding should not impede this process. Catchlight appreciates full transparency on other grants in our application process.

Can I get an extension on my application?

No, the posted deadline is the final day/time to submit your Fellowship application.

Banner image: © 2019 CatchLight Fellow Tasneem Alsultan