Street Lab, 2018

The Design Trust for Public Space, in partnership with the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS), is now accepting submissions from photographers for the Neighborhood Commons Photo Urbanism Fellowship to focus on capturing the stories and culture of commercial corridors and small businesses. The application deadline is February 28, 2021.

We believe that photography is vital to understanding our shared environment and is a powerful tool for illuminating the city’s complex public realm. The Photo Urbanism program was founded in 2001 to support the creation of new work that explores the natural and built environment of New York City, and surpasses strictly editorial and documentary imagery. To check out past Photo Urbanism projects, visit

Design Trust for Public Space and the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) have partnered to launch Neighborhood Commons: Plazas, Sidewalks & Beyond, a project that will explore opportunities to improve the current model of public space governance and programming. Working with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), and local businesses, Design Trust and SBS will leverage public space initiatives surrounding commercial corridors to support local economies, develop representative place-based governance models for NYC streets as public space, and produce a guide of better practices for both the City’s and community partners’ stewardship of public spaces, grounded in dignity, inclusion, and neighborhood context, and responsive to the surrounding community’s aspirations, preferences, and needs. 

The Photo Urbanism Fellow’s work will inform and capture the essence of how small businesses are leveraging and using public spaces in new and innovative ways, in and outside of case study areas. The PU fellow will create a self-driven plan to photograph and document the core focus of case study neighborhoods from Neighborhood Commons. While the project will look at policy and design changes required to give small businesses easier access to public space, the role of the PU Fellow is to tell a human, personal narrative of being a small business in this challenging period in history. The Fellow will use a range of artistic and journalistic photography and videography to capture this important story.

The fellowship award includes a $15,000 stipend, a virtual group exhibit to be displayed in the summer of 2021 as well as an in-person (TBD) solo exhibit in January 2022 (dates subject to change). 

This year, Design Trust has added a new component to the Photo Urbanism fellowship in the form of a youth fellowship titled, Neighborhood Narratives which will take place from April - June 2021. In collaboration with the NeON Photography Network, four youth fellows will be chosen to capture and tell the stories of their neighborhoods through their own independent photography projects. These projects will be virtually exhibited in the summer of 2021 in tandem with the Photo Urbanism Fellow. 

The Photo Urbanism Fellow will dedicate 30% of their fellowship to guiding and mentoring the creative direction of the youth fellows’ respective projects. The mentorship role includes hosting workshops, bi-weekly check ins, and guidance and feedback on fellows independent projects from April - June, ending with a virtual exhibit.

The Fellow must be based in New York City and be available to participate in meetings with the Design Trust and the Neighborhood Commons partners and project team. The Design Trust will act as a resource and sounding board throughout the fellowship, providing access and assistance to sites when possible. The fellowship requires a minimum 1-year commitment, based on a mutually agreed-upon work plan.

The selection jury will include Karen Marshall, International Center for Photography; Laura Roumanos, Photoville; Marco Shalma, Round Seven Media; Chelsea Davis, NEoN Photography Network; Karyn Williams, Design Trust; Gareth Smit, Future Culture Photo Urbanism Fellow



February 28, 2021 at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight Time 


The decision of the jury will be final, private and without appeal. All applicants will be notified in March 2021.


Applicants must be at least 21 years of age and eligible to work legally in the United States. Full-time students are not eligible due to possible time restraints, but part-time students may submit. Applicants must be based in New York City in order to concentrate on the local content of the fellowship. Knowledge of or significant interest in small business and youth engagement is preferred.


All application materials must be submitted to by 11:59 pm on February 28, 2021. Materials that do not meet the following criteria will not be presented to the jury. 

Work samples:  A portfolio of three (3) jpg images showing representative work made within the last three years.Applicants are encouraged to include some images that demonstrate their approach to the urban environment. 

Written materials:Save the following as one PDF named "lastname_firstname.pdf." 

  1. Project proposaland brief description explaining your approach to the topic of capturing the essence and stories of small businesses within Neighborhood Commons. Explain (a) why you are interested in this topic; (b) what you propose to do; (c) how this topic relates to your work; and (c) Explain what experience you have had working with youth or teaching photography. Maximum 300 words.

  2. Artist statementdescribing your approach to photography and the type of camera(s) you use. Maximum 150 words.

  3. Artist resumeincluding your education, exhibition history, mailing address and email contact. Maximum one page.

  4. Image list with corresponding image #, title, date, and location 

Letter of recommendation: One letter of recommendation must be submitted directly from the recommender’s email account. The recommender should know the applicant personally and be familiar with their work. The letter should specifically address the applicant's professional capacity to carry out a self-directed project. 

The 2021 Photo Urbanism fellowship is supported in part by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.