Just the Facts

Institution
Wesleyan

Year
2006

Project
Photographing sites holy to the Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian faiths in North India, and making audio recordings and conducting interviews to generate a complementary text

Samuel Allison

I am presently enrolled at the New England School of Photography, which is allowing me to refine technical skills, hone my vision and get a stronger sense of those fields of photography that I wish to pursue. It is a two-year program, and the next step for me will hopefully be earning a master's degree, receiving another Fellowship for a yearlong project, or going straight into a freelance career.

The Mortimer Hays-Brandeis Traveling Fellowship was the springboard to what I intend will be a lifetime of documentary photography. The process of refining the proposal, making all the necessary preparations, and then delving into the work for a year provided invaluable experience in bringing my dreams to fruition. If only such Fellowships were available to any artist who has a good idea!

While writing my Fellowship proposal, it occurred to me that a project to document the changing face of north Indian holy sites could never be complete, whether I had a month or a lifetime to pursue it. I feel that all the more acutely now, having returned with health and sanity intact from a year at the attempt. Instead of a sense of resolution, I’m left with more questions and an almost overwhelming urge to return, to go deeper, to witness with greater clarity. 

In retrospect, the only change I'd make to my project would be in matters of technique and equipment. Perhaps the Fellowship committee could put current recipients in touch with past recipients who did similar projects so that there could be an exchange of advice on what to bring, how to approach things, what obstacles to expect, etc.

As for advice to students considering applying for the Fellowship, I would certainly encourage them to do so if they have a solid proposal and are committed to their project. The sad reality is that there are so few Fellowships available, and that so few applicants can be chosen. However, regardless of whether or not an applicant receives the Fellowship, there is much to be learned simply by the process of writing a proposal.