Name Your Dream Assignment Award

On Friday, April 24 photographers and storycatchers Jen Lemen and Stephanie Calabrese (Roberts), on behalf of the Shutter Sisters community, were named the grand prize winners of the Name Your Dream Assignment photography competition sponsored by Lenovo and Microsoft for their Picture Hope submission.

How did the "Name Your Dream Assignment" contest work? 

More than 2,500 photographers throughout the United States submitted their photography assignment ideas online to the Name Your Dream Assignment website from March 3 - April 3, 2009. During this time, the ideas were open to a public vote. Individuals had an opportunity to register on the Name Your Dream Assignment website and cast one vote for an idea. On Friday, April 3 at midnight ET, the online voting period closed with Jen Lemen and Stephanie Roberts' Picture Hope idea finishing in first place with 1315 votes (130 votes more than the second, third and fourth place finalists). The top 23 dream ideas were then submitted for review by a panel of expert judges. Judges reviewed the ideas based on creativity and originality and evaluated the quality of photographer portfolios. And on April 24, Shutter Sisters Jen Lemen and Stephanie Calabrese (Roberts) were awarded the Grand Prize to execute their dream assignment, Picture Hope, with $50,000 and a Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds.

Who were the judges?

Judges included: documentary photographer Colin Finlay, Pulitzer Prize winning freelance photojournalistDeanne Fitzmaurice, owner of MCP Actions and photographer Jodi Friedman, photographer and owner of PhotographyBLOG Mark Goldstein, founder and director of education for Blue Pixel and newspaper photographerReed Hoffman, founder of Photocritic blog and author of Macro Photography Haje Jan Kamps, photographer and founder of b5media, ProBlogger.com and Digital Photography School blogs Darren Rowse, and author and photographer Shreve Stockton.

What was the "Picture Hope" assignment submission?

Two shutter sisters travel to five continents to create a visual catalog of hope from surprising sources while an entire community of women photographers do the same right here at home.

We are Shutter Sisters Jen Lemen and Stephanie Roberts, and our dream is to tell stories that change you and me forever.

Our photo assignment takes a community of dreamers on a journey around the world where we consider the essence of hope--that elusive quality that makes it possible to believe this is not the end of your story no matter how simple your stress or profound your tragedy.

On this worldwide adventure, we'll use our lens like a window to see beyond circumstances and context into the heart of what it means to truly be human. We'll search for hope in the lives of the very people who have had every reason to abandon hope as nothing more than wishful thinking, and we'll travel to the places where they first learned hope is a viable way of life.

The inspiration for our travel destinations will be women who are dear friends to us here in the United States--former modern day slaves, genocide survivors, young activists, old visionaries and new immigrants. We'll begin in northeastern Rwanda in a quiet village where two young girls wait to be reunited with a mother they've been missing for over three years. Our journey ends in the hills of Nepal where an American teenager became the mother of twenty orphans when she decided to follow her heart.

At each new destination, we will introduce you to a person who has become for us a living icon of hope. We'll then invite you to respond with geo-tagged finds from your own lens as together we excavate hope wherever we live, wherever we go. This body of images and video will become a visual catalog for our hopeful world. This online gallery will be our collective resource for the creation of literacy tools and print resources to make a real world difference in the lives of the hopeful people we've met on our dream assignment.

Our journey begins April 1st as we join the Shutter Sisters community in gathering images of hope right here at home. These images will be printed on tiny cards called "hope notes" and we'll carry them with us wherever we travel to tell the world you're listening.

What happens next is up to you. Pick hope.

What happened with the assignment?

The first Picture Hope trip took Stephanie and Jen to Kigali, Rwanda in Africa from July 29 - August 10, 2009 where the two Shutter Sisters embedded themselves with families who graciously agreed to host them. Jen and Stephanie documented the experience and stories from numerous individuals in the form of photographs, essays, video and audio interviews from courageous and hopeful Rwandans who were previously refugees, genocide survivors and orphans.

The second Picture Hope trip took the Shutter Sisters to Arusha, Tanzania in Africa from October 17 - 26, 2009 to visit icon of Hope Mama Lucy Kamptoni and the school she founded in 2003, Shepherds Junior School, using chicken and egg money. The Sisters visited remote villages beyond Arusha with local non-profit organization BEST to share hopeful stories of their clients, "the poorest of the poor."

The third Picture Hope trip took Stephanie and Jen to Kathmandu, Nepal in July 2010 to spend time with Renu Bagaria, founder of Koseli School, her staff and students. More than 700,000 children are out of school in Nepal. Roughly 55,000 of these children are working as domestic help and 15,000 are working in adult establishments. Renu Bagaria started Koseli School to offer a free education, care, and medical support to children who might otherwise be working in the streets of Kathmandu.