2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship Recipients

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jen Thom, 415.733.8565, jthom@sff.org

The San Francisco Foundation Names Woods and Donovan Recipients of the 2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship

SAN FRANCISCO – January 20, 2016 – The San Francisco Foundation announced today that Suné Woods of Los Angeles and Dru Donovan of Brooklyn, NY are the recipients of the 2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship. The annual award is given to an emerging artist who exhibits professional accomplishment, serious artistic commitment, and financial need in the field of creative photography.

The prestigious award, established by the late photographer John Gutmann (1905-1998) and administered by The San Francisco Foundation, brings with it $5,000 each to support the development of Woods’ and Donovan’s creative work. Eminent photographers and curators Jim Goldberg, Reagan Louie and Leland Rice were this year’s jurors.

“This year’s nominees were all impressive and strong, making our choices difficult, as reflected in the decision to split the grant. I was impressed by the accomplishment and ambition of Suné Woods’ and Dru Donovan’s work. What ultimately persuaded me was both their work is at a tipping point. I am confident that the award will help them realize the full potential of their work,” said Reagan Louie, Gutmann Fellowship juror and photography professor at San Francisco Art Institute.

Suné Woods’ is interested in how language is emoted, guarded, and translated through the absence/presence of a physical body within cultural and social histories. Her work takes the form of multi-channel video installations, photographs, and collage. She also uses microsomal sites such as family to understand larger sociological phenomenon, imperialist mechanisms, and formations of knowledge. “Suné Woods’ deeply personal and transformative work is revelatory in its quietude,” said Jim Goldberg, photographer and member of Magnum Photos. “Her multimedia montages navigate presence and absence with touching directness and perceptive complexity, creating a new language that captivates through empathic synthesis.”

Woods received her BFA at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, 1997 and an MFA in photography from California College of the Arts in 2010. She has participated in residencies at Headlands Center of the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and The Center for Photography at Woodstock. Woods is a recipient of the Visions from the New California initiative and will be in residence at Light Work in 2016.

“I’m thrilled and honored to receive the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship. This award will assist me with research materials and equipment for my practice. I am extremely grateful for this timely support”, said Woods.


Dru Donovan uses the human body as a vehicle for portraying emotional desires. Her photographs investigate human experiences, both in real-time and reinvented through actors and props, where the body is the main source of narrative weight. Jim Goldberg observed, “Dru Donovan’s interactive restagings of real situations are palpably challenging and painfully relevant, offering a cinematic entrance into human struggle. Using smart visual language, her photographs captivate our attention through imaginations of the all too real.”

Donovan received her MFA at Yale in 2009 and a BFA in photography from California College of the Arts in 2004. Her work has been included in reGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in the 2010 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art.  In 2011 TBW Books published her first book, Lifting Water. Most recently, Donovan’s project Positions Taken appeared on the cover of VICE Magazine’s photography issue. In August of 2015 Donovan’s solo show Carving the Lung opened at Hap Gallery in Portland, Oregon.

Donovan shared that she, “is very honored and grateful to be one of the recipients of the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship Award for 2015. The support comes at a crucial time in my new work and the fellowship will be energizing to the project.”


The San Francisco Foundation is an incubator for community investment, original ideas, and passionate leadership. Since 1948, TSFF has been bringing together networks of philanthropists and civic leaders to support and build on the strengths of the community and make the Bay Area the best place it can be. TSFF is a leading agent of Bay Area philanthropy, and ranks among the nation’s largest community foundations in grant making and assets. TSFF is cultivating a family of donors sharing a commitment to the Bay Area. Together, we give millions of dollars a year to foster strong communities, respond to local needs, and elevate public awareness.