The Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography

In 2014, ChinaFile and the Magnum Foundation founded the Abigail Cohen Fellowship in Documentary Photography to support photographers working to address pressing social issues impacting China and its relations with the world that have not received the attention they deserve. Each year, two fellowships are given to photographers as support for their efforts to create new work.

This fellowship is supported by Betsy Z. and Edward E. Cohen and named in memory of their daughter.

2017 Fellows

Cheng Xinhao, a native of China’s Yunnan province, is at work on the second phase of an intensive 15-year study of the Mang—a tiny ethnic group who live along the China-Vietnam border—that draws on archeology, anthropology, and linguistics, as well as photography. While the majority of the community live in Vietnam, some 800 live in Yunnan. Cheng will explore how the border between the two countries affects Mang identity. Cheng earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Peking University and now works as an independent artist.

Born in Changsha, Hunan province, Peng Ke moved with her parents to Shenzhen as a young child. She is interested in how urbanization and migration affect the human psyche, particularly in young children. Through her photography, Peng seeks to understand how migrant children growing up in unfamiliar cities approach their surroundings, and how they come to know unfamiliar and chaotic worlds through play. Peng lives and works in Los Angeles and Shenzhen.

2016 Fellows

Yan Cong, a native of Beijing, is an independent photographer who focuses on women’s issues, rural China, and the country’s relations with its neighbors. For this project, she documents the transition underway in the town of Chongli, which will host some of the alpine events for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. One hundred fifty kilometers outside of Beijing, on the outskirts of the relatively sleepy city of Zhangjiakou, Chongli will need to undergo a major transformation to accommodate the international sporting event.

Mari Bastashevski combines investigative research, art, and journalism, deliberately blurring the boundaries between these practices. She makes installations that combine text, images, and documents to explore questions of secrecy and access to information, and their intersection with the systems of state and corporate power. Her Cohen Fellowship project, “10,000 Things Out of China,” will explore the often violent and politically ambiguous system of logistics through which most products made in China reach the rest of the world. Centering on the commercial maritime hubs that receive shiploads of products made in China, her reporting will map the route of key commodities exported to Europe and the U.S. and the culture that facilitates this movement.

2015 Fellows

Born in Ziyang, Sichuan province, Yuyang Liu is currently based in Guangzhou. His photography work focuses on urbanization and immigration issues in a rapidly changing China. He won the 2014 Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights Fellowship, through which he studied at an intensive five-week program at New York University. In 2015, he won the Ian Parry scholarship that recognizes young photographers at the beginning of their careers. His work has been exhibited in China and the United States. Liu’s still photography and multimedia work “Auspicious Things,” “Neither Here Nor There,” and “Home of Youth” were exhibited in China and the U.S. He holds a B.A. in History from East China Normal University.

Souvid Datta was born in Mumbai and moved to London at the age of 10. Since then, he has been raised between the two metropolises, developing an interest in the fields of multimedia journalism and social justice. Since winning his first dSLR in an iPhone travel photography competition in 2012, he has worked on photography projects on Sonagachi slums in Kolkata, India; gangs in London; pollution in Xingtai and Ningbo, China; and drug addicts in Kabul, Afghanistan. His work has been published in The Guardian, TIME LightBox, and the BBC. He was a recipient of the College Photographer of the Year Portfolio Silver Prize in 2014 and the Alexia Foundation Student Grant in 2013, among many other awards. He graduated from University College London in Political Science and Conflict Studies in 2014. In his eyes, photography is a powerful tool for self-expression, informing public debate and documenting history.

2014 Fellows

Ian Teh has been photographing China for more than 15 years. His photography expresses his concern for the social, environmental, and political. Amongst selected works, his series “The Vanishing: Altered Landscapes and Displaced Lives” (1999-2003), records the devastating impact of the Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River Valley. In later works, such as “Dark Clouds,” “Tainted Landscapes,” and “Traces,” Teh explores the darker consequences of China’s booming economy. His work is part of the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Hood Museum in the U.S. With his Cohen Fellowship grant, he traveled to the source of the Yellow River to photograph the pristine landscapes affected by climate change, industry, and government ecological restoration projects.

Tomoko Kikuchi is a Japanese-born photographer. Her work is held in permanent collection at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Kawasaki City Museum. Born in Tokyo, Kikuchi graduated from the Musashino Art University. Her work has been featured in a solo exhibit at the 38th Kimura Ihei Commemorative Photography Award Show. She used her Cohen Fellowship grant to document funeral customs in rural communities in Southern China.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I apply for the fellowship?

Applicants are selected from a list submitted by a diverse group of photography professionals. ChinaFile will then contact the nominees and invite each to submit a proposal.

Does my project have to be based in China?

No. While our main focus is on mainland China, part of telling its story is in reporting on how China engages with the rest of the world.

I wasn't nominated, can I still pitch you my project?

Yes, you may. Send in a pitch!



A Drag Queen for the Dearly Departed

Ian Johnson & Tomoko Kikuchi
In the good old days, about three thousand years ago, people really knew how to mourn the dead. That was back in the Zhou dynasty, when there was no laughing in the dead person’s house, no sighing while eating, and no singing while walking down a...

See also: “Valuing Culture As Much As Money in an Ancient Chinese City,” The New York Times, August 10, 2016.

See also: “Bad Earth: the Human Cost of Pollution in China—In Pictures,” The Guardian, April 21, 2016.

Photo Gallery



Ian Teh
One in five people in the world get their water from great Asian rivers linked to the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in northwestern China. Here, beneath a gently undulating landscape, spring the headwaters of the Yellow River, which sweep three thousands...

See also: “Ian Teh’s Changed Chinese Landscapes,” The New Yorker, September 27, 2014.