Fine Art Photography Daily

CENTER Development Grant: Brandon Kapelow – Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, 1. Hunter Gossett, 19 worked at J&Y Auto with his friend Thane Morgan, a high school student who died by suicide in November 2021. As a survivor of multiple attempts, Gossett is too familiar with the challenge of suicide., from Somewhere I Belong

We are honored to be the media partner of the CENTER AWARDS. Over the next ten days, we share the winning projects and juror’s statements. We are thrilled to shine a light on these significant photographic artists.

CENTERNewLogoCongratulations to Brandon Kapelow for being selected for CENTER’s Project Development Grant recognizing his project, Somewhere I Belong. The Project Development Grant provides financial support to fine art, documentary, or photojournalistic work-in-progress. Assisting one photographer to help complete their project, the grant provides platforms for professional development. The Grant includes a $5,000 cash award, Professional Development Seminars, Complimentary participation and presentation at Review Santa Fe,  Project Publication in Lenscratch, and inclusion in the CENTER Winners Gallery & Archive.

JUROR:  Gail Fletcher, Photo Editor, The Guardian US, shares her thoughts on this selection:

It was a rewarding and enlightening experience to review submissions to CENTER’s Project Development Grant. I admired the range of projects and the many forms of visual expression. Ultimately, I selected Brandon Kapelow’ as the recipient of the grant to continue his project Somewhere I Belong on the suicide epidemic in the American West, for his layered and sensitive representation of the topic.

The ongoing project is a much-needed interrogation of the harsh and devastating realities of a mental health crisis plaguing the region. I appreciate Kapelow’s efforts to create an outlet where survivors and loved ones can share their pain and grief and help one another heal from tragedy.

This year saw additional entries centered around mental health as well as entries focused on historical injustice, queer identity, family bonds, and our relationship with the natural world. I was most drawn to affecting and sensitive work that surprised me whether it was work that highlighted an underrepresented topic or works that presented a new way of visualizing a topic well known.

The project statement was equally as important as the work attached to it. It was necessary for statements to be clear and not too wide sweeping. I also found it essential for statements to note intentions to continue the project being that the proposals were for a development grant. Importantly, Kapelow mentions his project is ongoing, and I look forward to seeing his additional chapters of Somewhere I Belong and how other projects develop.


©Brandon Kapelow, 2. Ron, 68, is part of a four-generation ranching family and underwent several reconstructive surgeries following a suicide attempt. “It’s hard to look me in the eye, and it’s hard for folks to deal with that without a shudder going down their back,” he says. “That’s a real burden that I have from doing this. I can’t just sit down with a friend and have a drink like I used to because it makes them uncomfortable for me to be around.”, from Somewhere I Belong

Brandon Kapelow is a visual artist from Wyoming whose credits span work as a director, photographer, and cinematographer. His focus is on exploring stories centered on real people and the challenges they face through their unique histories and cultures. As a suicide loss survivor from an early age, Brandon has a passion for exploring topics related to mental health. Outside of his creative practice, Brandon is a peer-support facilitator for SOLACE and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Brandon’s films have screened at domestic and international festivals such as the Academy and BAFTA-qualifying Los Angeles Short Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, and Aesthetica Short Film Festival. He is currently in production on a feature documentary exploring the use of psychedelic-assisted therapies in treating workplace traumas among first responders.

As a photographer, Brandon’s ongoing body of work, Somewhere I Belong, focuses on the issue of suicide in the American West, which for decades has experienced the nation’s highest rates of suicide death. His writing and images from the series were published in Time Magazine. Brandon’s work has been featured in Adweek, Billboard, Booooooom, Complex, Engadget, The Fader, NPR, Pitchfork, and Vice.

Based between LA, Vancouver, and Wyoming, Brandon’s home is on the road – inspired by changing landscapes and the people that inhabit them.

Instagram: @bkapelow

Gail Fletcher is a Photo Editor at The Guardian US where she develops and produces visual stories. She was previously an Associate Photo Editor at National Geographic. Several of the projects she produced alongside editors and photographers received recognition from organizations including Pictures of the Year, ASME, and World Press Photo.

Brandon Kapelow portrait

Brandon Kapelow portrait

Somewhere I Belong

My first exposure to suicide came at age 8, when my father made the first of several attempts to end his life. His fatal attempt came five years later, and I’ve been invested in the issue ever since. Growing up in Wyoming, I learned that suicide was an inescapable part of life in the American West. A number of subsequent suicides and attempts among my closest friends and family forced me to question why these tragedies were so commonplace in my beloved corner of the world.

Suicide is an epidemic that is geographically-linked and at its deadliest in the West, with all of the most severely impacted states (Wyoming, Alaska, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico) lying across the 100th meridian. These are the same Western states in which I grew up – the places that my family still call home – and I want to produce work that examines the relationship between these acts of self-violence and the environments in which they occur. How does the land and its history influence the psychology of its occupants? How do cultural themes inspired by Manifest Destiny and Rugged Individualism continue to influence the mental health crisis ravaging the West?

Somewhere I Belong is an ongoing survey of the American West that seeks to explore these questions through the images and stories of the individuals most impacted by the suicide epidemic – loss survivors, attempt survivors, and their immediate families. The project’s first chapter was published in TIME and focused on Catron County, New Mexico, which had the highest suicide rate of any county in the contiguous U.S. during the decade between 2010-2020.

When I was young, a mentor taught me to harness the emotions surrounding my loss by reaching out and opening myself to others. Social connection and its absence lie at the heart of this issue. By creating space for survivors to tell their stories, this project seeks to foster opportunities for hope and connection through shared experiences. – Brandon Kapelow


©Brandon Kapelow, 3. Cresta, 69, holds a photo of herself with her friend Dave Moller, who died by suicide in 2012. Cresta herself has also battled with periods of suicidal ideation. “Out here, we don’t have mental-health doctors. Personally, I need someone that can monitor me closely because of previous negative side effects from depression medications, such as feeling suicidal. We just don’t have those services in a rural area. The most you have is somebody who’s gone through something and helps you. That’s about it.” , from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, 4. Hayden Littleton, 18, was 8 years old when she lost her father James to suicide. James Littleton was 40 years old when he died in 2012. According to his daughter, James loved working with horses and running cattle, and was never seen without his signature hat, blue jeans, and a long-sleeved shirt. She is reminded of him whenever she sees images of cowboys., from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, 5. Jack Diamond, 84, stands at the cemetery in Gabriella, a western replica town built to stage historic-gunfight reenactments and serve as a set for movie productions. Diamond lives and works in the remote settlement with his friend Larry Iams, a Vietnam veteran who was hospitalized by the VA in November 2021 following a suicide attempt., from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, Hilda Kellar, 73, is the mayor of Reserve and owner of K&B Timberworks, one of the region’s few remaining industrial employers. She has lost two family members to suicide, including her father, who struggled with chronic pain after an incident with falling timber. Her own struggles with physical pain gave her empathy. “My dad was ready to go, and I don’t judge him for it because I know how I have felt with that pain,” she says. “A few years back, I got back surgery … I was hurting so bad that I used to pray for God to take me. I also understand that you can survive it. So I know not to give up.”, from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, 7. The road to Sunflower Mesa, where a local teen attempted suicide in 2002. Some attempt survivors, like Amy Whetham, supervisor of the Glenwood Senior Center, experience a change in perspective. “I started being more open about being bipolar, which seemed to help a lot,” she says. “Growing up, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. But it’s part of who I am. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. I know that I do want to live. I’m not ready to go anywhere yet.”, from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, 9. Craig Lang, 43, is a pastor, EMT, and head organizer for the Apache Creek Deaf & Youth Ranch, a Baptist summer camp for deaf and disabled young people. In each of his roles, Lang has had extensive exposure to the traumas of suicide. A lack of emergency medical services in Catron County means that local volunteers like Craig must respond to emergencies involving neighbors or even family members., from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, from Somewhere I Belong


©Brandon Kapelow, 10. After student Thane Morgan’s suicide in November 2021, administrators at Quemado High School brought in mental-health professionals to help counsel students. Years earlier, the neighboring Reserve school district had implemented a peer-support system in response to a string of teen suicides. Local officials point to the success of that program in giving students the tools and training to support one another and be alert to warning signs among peers., from Somewhere I Belong


Founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1994, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization CENTER supports socially and environmentally engaged lens-based projects through education, public platforms, funding, and partnerships.

Image-making holds a unique power to confront audiences with uncomfortable truths, advance cultural understandings, and promote social justice. Through our advancement of artists and their work, CENTER serves to deepen public understanding of lens-based media’s complex history and ongoing cultural significance. By establishing trans-disciplinary partnerships between artists and justice-driven communities, historians, cultural critics, students, and the art world, they honor our unique role in advancing projects that respect all people, open minds, and engage our shared humanity.

Characterized by a community of gifted and committed photographers, CENTER has proven for the last 29 years that it can help photographers and lens-based artists grow into their full potential. CENTER programs foster insights and actualizations that ripple and impact all involved by providing platforms where the creative impulse can be engaged and challenged.

ANNUAL PROGRAMS | Includes the Project Launch Grant, Project Development Grant, Me&Eve Grant, the three CENTER Awards: Personal, Social and Environmental, the Excellence in Multimedia Storytelling Award, Santa Fe Fellowship, Callanan Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Review Santa Fe Photo Symposium. Public exhibitions, educational presentations, and expositions of the work are held in conjunction with the awards, grants, and Review Santa Fe. These programs are open for submission to international and national photographers and lens-based artists during our annual Calls for Entry.

Follow CENTER on Instagram: @centersantafe

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