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Announcing the 2020-2021 National Geographic Storytelling Fellows

The National Geographic Society’s nine new Storytelling Fellows will embark upon a year-long project to explore timely issues the world needs to hear using a variety of storytelling mediums.

Today, the National Geographic Society is pleased to announce the selection of the 2020-2021 National Geographic Storytelling Fellows. 

Nominated for their dedication and commitment to shining a light on our shared human experience as well as demonstrating the power of science and exploration to change the world, these nine storytellers represent the fields of photography, journalism, technology, film, and art. 

Each of the fellows will receive monetary support from the Society to focus on nine unique projects over one year using different storytelling mediums.

New this year, the National Geographic Society will be working with C. Daniel Dawson, adjunct professor at Columbia University and curator, to support and curate the work of fellows whose projects elevate stories of resilience, power, and injustice among Black Americans. By partnering with Daniel, the Society can elevate these important — and necessary — stories so that we can advance meaningful change within our organization and among the communities we support. 

“Now more than ever we are witnessing the power of storytelling to illuminate the critical issues of our time and to inspire action to make our planet a better place,” said Kaitlin Yarnall, senior vice president and chief storytelling officer at the National Geographic Society. “I am beyond thrilled to witness the stories, themes, and voices these nine storytellers shed light on in the next year — and that we will remember for generations to come.”

Meet our fellows and learn about their unique projects:

Ian Urbina

Ian Urbina is an investigative reporter who covers topics from domestic and foreign policy to commentary on everyday life. He has received a Pulitzer Prize, a Polk Award, and various other journalism awards for his work over the past two decades.

Ian’s project builds on his book, “The Outlaw Ocean,” and will present the stories, behind the scenes accounts, and music inspired by the sounds and stories of six years of reporting on illegal and destructive maritime activities. His investigation includes  unsustainable and/or illegal fishing practices, ocean dumping and pollution, marine protected areas, and human trafficking and labor abuses.

LaToya Ruby Frazier

LaToya Ruby Frazier is a visual artist working in photography, video, and performance to build visual archives that address industrialism, communal history, and healthcare inequality. In 2015 her first book The Notion of Family received the International Center for Photography Infinity Award.

LaToya’s project, “Living with Lupus Under COVID-19 in America,” will use photography, video, and audio storytelling artwork to tell the story of the intersection between racial injustice, environmental racism, and unequal access to medical care. The story will be told through LaToya’s experience as a person living with Lupus while the world faces an unprecedented global pandemic.

Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario is an American photojournalist whose work often focuses on conflicts and human rights issues, especially the role of women in traditional societies. Lynsey has been the recipient of numerous international awards throughout her career, and in 2015, American Photo Magazine named her one of the five most influential photographers of the past 25 years.

Lynsey’s project, “Mother Nature: Women and Climate,” will explore issues that result in women being disproportionately impacted by climate change events. When completed, her project will show how climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of women around the world.

Maya Goded

Maya Goded is a photographer and documentary filmmaker from Mexico. Her work addresses the topics of female sexuality, gender violence, female healers, and defenders.

Maya’s project, “Sanación, Cuerpo y Territorio,” will document Indigenous women’s resistance against the exploitation of biodiversity and natural resources, and socio-environmental conflict in Latin America through the practice of their healing rituals, spiritual experiences, and traditional medicine.

Michele Norris

Michele Norris is an Emmy Award and Peabody Award–winning journalist who is currently a contributing columnist and consultant with the Washington Post. Through her work, Michele informs, engages, and enlightens readers with thoughtful interviews and in-depth reporting.

Michele’s project, “The Race Card,” builds on more than a decade of work capturing people’s thoughts on the word race in only six words, which includes more than 500,000 individual submissions from all 50 states and 96 countries. Her fellowship will focus on bringing the project’s archive to life through a combination of audio, video, animation, cartography, photography, art, and technology. 

Nirupa Rao

Nirupa Rao is an artist and botanical illustrator from Bangalore, India. Her work is inspired by regular field visits into the wild and informed by close collaboration with natural scientists to achieve accuracy. She has been named an INK Fellow and listed in Harper Bazaar’s list of “Indian Women to Be Proud Of.

Nirupa’s project, “Myristica Swamps: Living Museums,” will create a comprehensive visual history of the Myristica Swamps, a relict tropical ecosystem thought to be millions of years old and spread across the Western Ghats in Kerala, India. Her work will include maps of their historic and current ranges, illustrations of their highly unique plant and animal species, and visualizations of cultural practices.

Ronan Donovan

Ronan Donovan is an award winning American photojournalist who tells stories about how large social mammals — chimpanzees, gorillas, and wolves — interact with humans. A field biologist turned photographer, Ronan Donovan uses visual storytelling to reach audiences with stories that inspire passion for conserving wild animals and wild places. 

Ronan’s project, “Human-Predator Coexistence,” will explore the complex relationships between humans and animal predators across the Northern hemisphere in the hope of finding solutions toward a future of coexistence with these animals. He seeks to build off the historical and current work of National Geographic Explorers and writers David Quammen, Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, Dr. Krithi Karanth, Doug Chadwick, and Barry Lopez.

Ruddy Roye

Radcliffe (Ruddy) Roye is a documentary photographer specializing in editorial and environmental portraits and photojournalism. He is particularly inspired by and interested in the people from his homeland of Jamaica. Ruddy is a frequent photographer for National Geographic.

Ruddy’s project, “When Living is a Protest,” will document the intentional and purposeful way in which families who have lost a family member to gun violence — whether by the police or white supremacists — cope with these deaths. After the cameras have gone and the rioters have left, Ruddy aims to discover what preachers have referred to as “the loneliest day in a grieving family’s life” — the day after the funeral.

Tara Roberts

Tara Roberts is a storyteller whose current goal is to reimagine and reframe the origin story of Africans in the Americas and to tell stories that humanize and bring empathy, nuance, and complexity to their human journey. She is currently a Fellow in MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

Tara’s project, “Stories from the Depths,” will create a fresh narrative podcast that brings a sense of adventure, humor, and connection to cultural stories that have been marginalized or lost. The show’s first season will dive more deeply into the powerful global narrative of the search for slave shipwrecks. It will also push boundaries in the way audio narratives are told by employing the communities with which we are telling stories as on-the-ground collaborators. 

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