Skip to content

2020 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography Grant Guidelines

2020 Applications are closed.


Emerging and established photographers residing in the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are eligible to apply for the MPS Fund’s annual grants. The subject matter for the proposed project is not limited to the Gulf Coast geographic region but the photographers main residence must be within these 5 states.

Finalists must provide proof of residency (government issued ID and another form stating residency for 1 year prior (may be utility, phone bill, and another approved source).


$3,000 award • Featured EXHIBITION during PhotoNOLA 2020 • ONLINE permanently archived on the NOPA website. ILFORD has donated Gold Fibre Pearl paper toward the printing the exhibition. Please read instructions THOROUGHLY and gather your materials before applying.


  • February 1  – Open Call For Submissions
  • April 21 – Online submissions deadline @ 11:59 PM CST
  • June 12 : Winner announced


Visual Thinking Collective

In 2013 Sarah Leen became the first female Director of Photography at the National Geographic Partners leaving in 2019 to launch The Visual Thinking Collective for independent women photo editors, creative directors, teachers and curators.

For nearly 20 years she worked as a freelance photographer for the National Geographic magazine until 2004 when she joined the magazine staff as a Senior Photo Editor. As a photographer Leen published sixteen stories and produced six covers for the National Geographic magazine.

In 1979 Leen was the first woman to receive the College Photographer of the Year award while a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The award was an internship at the Nat Geo magazine where she produced her first NatGeo story, “Return to Uganda.”

She has juried numerous contests and portfolio reviews for Pictures of the Year International, Lens Culture, Critical Mass, Photo Lucida, The FotoEvidence Book Award, the Carmignac Award, the W. Eugene Smith Grants, the Getty Images Editorial Grants, the New York Times Portfolio Reviews and the World Press Joop Swarts Masterclass.

Leen believes in sharing her knowledge through mentoring and teaching photography and photo editing workshops at the Missouri Photo Workshops, the Maine Media Workshops, the Santa Fe Photo Workshops and the PhotoLux Festival in Lucca, Italy.

Click here for a list of past MPS winners


The main criteria for selection will be the strength of the applicant’s portfolio and a written project statement (maximum of 530 words). The portfolio and statement should demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to a cultural documentary project.


If more than 100 applications are submitted, a committee of independent curators and photographers will prescreen all submissions and select 100 portfolios to present to the juror. 


By applying for a grant from the Michael P. Smith Fund for Documentary Photography, you agree to accept the following rules:

The New Orleans Photo Alliance (NOPA) reserves the right to reject incomplete or improperly submitted applications.

Staff or Board Members of NOPA are not eligible to submit applications.

You acknowledge that you are the sole owner and author of the photographs submitted with your application.

You allow NOPA to feature your work without charge in print and on the web, in conjunction with promotion of the MPS Fund and its grant program. NOPA recognizes your copyright for each of the images that you submitted with your application and agrees to provide the proper copyright notice on the NOPA website and in all NOPA press releases and related print materials. Upon request, the grant recipient agrees to supply a high-resolution image suitable for publication by the media.

You permit NOPA to add your email and physical mailing addresses to the NOPA mailing list, which is private and will not be shared with any individuals or organizations.

The winner is asked to donate 2 prints to NOPA, selecting from work submitted for the award and/or work created after having received the award. NOPA will archive these prints in its permanent collection and may exhibit them in the future.

The 2020 MPS Fund Grant winner agrees to submit a final written report by August 31, 2021 detailing the work completed during the grant period.


Fees help make NOPA opportunities possible. In keeping with our mission, no applicant will be turned away. Please consider the following fees or contribute what you are able to.
$25 for members
$45 for non-members
$60 for application + membership


If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact Britney Penouih, Grants coordinator,

If you have any technical questions about entering, please email