SUNY New Paltz Photography Professor Francois Deschamps was named a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellow for the 2013 award cycle upon entering work from his “Photo-Rapide” photo project.
For the past 28 years, NYFA has provided over $27 million in unrestricted cash grants to artists in 15 disciplines at critical stages in their creative development, according to the foundation’s website. Artists’ Fellowship provides unrestricted grants of $7,000 to New York-based artists and is intended to fund an artist’s vision or voice, regardless of the level of his or her artistic career point.
“I’m very honored to have won. I’ve looked at the other winning photographers and their work is at a really high level and I’m amazed that I got it,” Deschamps said. “I look at it like wow, I’m in that same category.”
Of the 27 fellows in the photography category, Deschamps represented Ulster County, as one of only two photographers who did not reside in New York City. A three-time winner of the competitive NYFA Artists’ Fellowship, Deschamps said he had applied many times but had not won.
“It’s important to keep applying. Never assume you don’t get it because you’re not good,” Deschamps said.
For the NYFA fellowship application, Deschamps chose eight photos from “Photo-Rapide” along with a statement. “Photo-Rapide” was the brainchild of Deschamps’ 2010 Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship, during which he lived in Mali for a year. Deschamps said he loves teaching, but having been able to completely focus on his photography during the Fullbright was reflected in the quality and success of his work. He most recently displayed photos taken during his time in Mali at a solo exhibit titled “Taxi-Bamako” at O.K. Harris Gallery in SoHo.
“I’m very grateful to the college, in particular to President Donald Christian who was very generous in supporting the Fullbright,” Deschamps said. “It was also great to work with The Dorsky. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen without support from people like the president, the dean at the time, exhibit visitors.”
Photography Professor Ann Lovett, who served as a NYFA Artists’ Fellowship selection jury member in 1993, said it’s terrific to hear about Deschamps’ award.
“This is an extremely competitive and prestigious award,” Lovett said. “Francois is definitely one of those accomplished faculty members who has received acknowledgement of his quality of work in the field.”
Deschamps said he’s used the award to cover the cost of a new camera, equipment and materials and will save some for future travels. He also said money isn’t the only reward from receiving the fellowship.
“It opens many doors. Many people read the list and make a note of the winners,” Deschamps said. “It also helps when approaching curators with a body of work that has received such recognition.”
Next, Deschamps said he plans to put an American take on his “Photo-Rapide” project, where he will travel around the country and take photos — capturing people being patiently waiting, even when confronted with ordinarily stimulating surroundings.
He has already been to Florida and plans to visit more states.