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Photography Rankin Scholar

February 13, 2012

PHILADELPHIA – Award-winning photojournalist Kristen Ashburn and world-renowned photography agent and curator Robert Pledge will share their experiences exploring some of the most emotional, complex and challenging issues of our global society during a four-day residency at Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. 

Ashburn’s photographs tell poignant stories of people in desperate hardship, most notably her documentation of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in southern Africa. This work has won numerous awards including NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism award, a World Press Photo prize as well as several prestigious grants.  In addition to her work in southern Africa, she has produced stories on the spread of tuberculosis in the Russian penal system, suicide bombers in Israel’s occupied territories and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. 

Pledge is the cofounder and editorial director of Contact Press Images.  He came into journalism and photography through West African linguistics and anthropology.  Pledge has edited numerous highly acclaimed photography books and has curated exhibitions worldwide. In addition to his work as a curator and editor, Pledge is a major presence in the photographic community.  He received the Overseas Press Club of America’s ‘Olivier Rebbot Award’ twice and has sat on numerous juries including the W. Eugene Smith Fund, the CNA Mosaique in Luxembourg, and the World Press Photo Foundation in Amsterdam repeated times. 

At Drexel, Ashburn and Pledge will each conduct a public presentation and provide instruction and workshops for Westphal college students and faculty, specifically from the Media Arts department.  Ashburn’s talk, “Through the Photographic Eye, a Guided Tour from Global Health to Conflict” is Monday, February 27 and Pledge’s talk, “1961-2001: from the Berlin Wall to the Twin Towers, History and Photojournalism – Parallel Developments” will take place on Wednesday, February 29.  Both talks start at 7:00 p.m. in the Bossone Research Center (3140 Market St.) and are free and open to the public.

A key component of the residency program is a workshop that will allow students to directly work with Pledge and Ashburn.  Sophomore and Junior photography students, specifically from photojournalism courses, will participate in individual and group critiques with Ashburn and Pledge.  Students participating in the workshops will gain an understanding of the creative and editorial process, and how it unfolds in professional settings. Senior Thesis students will also have individual and group critiques with Pledge and Ashburn, although these will not be limited to photojournalism work.

Pledge and Ashburn come to Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design as Rankin Scholars-in-Residence.  For more information regarding the residencies please call 215-895-1029 or visit