Upstate Girls
a layered documentary project started by Brenda Ann Kenneally
and The Team of Volunteer Producers
Where We've Been
Behind the Scenes: Silence at a Festival

nieman storyboard
January 21 2010
By Andrea Pitzner

"This week’s Notable Narrative, “Women of Troy” is an innovative multimedia collaboration between poet Susan B.A. Somers-Willett, photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally and radio producer Lu Olkowski. The project documents working-class women of Troy, N.Y., and narrates moments in the women’s lives, from a Flag Day parade to intimate domesticity. Delivering a more nuanced, and lively, picture of the working poor than we often get from journalists, the unusual combination of media helps us see with fresh eyes."

Behind the Scenes: Silence at a Festival
December 18 2009
By Wayne Trujillo

"What Kenneally captures aren't quaint stage shots sugarcoated for mass consumption. The cast is comprised of single upstate mothers living and working beneath the radar of the mainstream American dream and awareness. Most survive on minimum wage service positions. The portraits are sometimes jarring and brittle. All are refreshingly realistic. Rather than play for sympathy, Kenneally's subjects display a gritty determination and dignity, and no matter how grim the material support and circumstances, emotional assistance compensates."


Behind the Scenes: Silence at a Festival
November 2009
By Lu Olkowski, Ted Genoways, Brenda Ann Kenneally, and Susan B.A. Somers-Willett

"In Verse" is a multimedia reporting project combining poetry, photography and sound. The documentary poems will be broadcast on Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen the weekend of November 6, 2009.

The first installment of the project, "Women of Troy," documents the lives of working mothers in Troy, New York–once one of the richest cities in America, thanks to its role in the industrial revolution. Now roughly 19 percent of the population is living below the US poverty line.

Read the notes on the project from the collaborators; written comments from radio producer Lu Olkowski and editor Ted Genoways, combined with interview excerpts from poet Susan B.A. Somers-Willett and photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally in conversation with Transom’s Samantha Broun, and edited by Sydney Lewis.

Events - Inverse Poetry Presents Women of Troy
November 5-6 2009

This Fall, Upstate Girls took part in a new series called In Verse: an experiment to bring poets, photographers and radio producers together to document people living on the economic edge.

In Verse comes to you from Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, Incorporated. This project is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In Verse is also generously supported by Virginia Quarterly Review. Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen is the broadcast partner for In Verse.

Ecuador Foto Documental 2009
October 25 to 30, 2009

In this event, the participants find a space to see, to reflect, to analyze, to produce and to approach new elements of documentary photography.

We will present heterogenous points of views from those who reflect and/or make photography in different sociocultural contexts. Our goal is to establish a panorama of documentary photography in local and Latin American means.

En este evento los y las asistentes encuentran un espacio para ver, reflexionar, analizar, producir y acercarse a nuevos elementos de la fotografía documental.

Se plantea la necesidad de presentar puntos de vista heterogéneos de quienes reflexionan y/o hacen fotografía en diferentes contextos socioculturales. Posiblemente esto permitirá establecer un panorama de la Fotografía Documental en el medio local y Latinoamericano.

Al FOTODOCUMENTAL le interesa abordar los siguientes ejes que se definen con el contenido de cada edición:

  • Visualidad latinoamericana
  • Documentalismo clásico
  • Nuevas estéticas y narrativas documentales
  • Documentalismo social, participativo y comprometido
  • Documental de autor
22nd October until the 9th December, 2009
Sala Casa de Cultura Ignacio Aldecoa
Paseo de la Florida #9
Vitoria, Basque Country, Spain

Periscopio this year has 13 main exhibitons distributed all over the city. There are another 70 exhibitions for the amateur contest in shops, malls and social centers for which there are 7.300 euros in prizes.

Included in the main exhibitions are World Press Photo 2009, "Maras" of Isabel Muñoz, Violence against women in Pakistan by Emilio Morenatti, Ian Parry awards, Victor Drachev's exhibition, work from the young reporters of the blog "Nómadas" supported by Álvaro Ibarra, an exhibition from Getty about the Rolling Stones during their tour in america in 1975, "Our world today" by Reuters, a special production special from Reuters consisting of unusual pictures of politicians, another one from Matias Costa ( WPP and PhotoEspaña award) about inmigration.

There are also lectures and workshops.

Behind the Scenes: Silence at a Festival

The New York Times: Lens Blog
October 12 2009
By James Estrin

"The searing photographs in “Upstate Girls” have brought her prestigious awards, including a Canon Female Photojournalist Award, a Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography and first prize for stories about daily life, from World Press Photo. Not content simply to photograph her subjects’ tattered lives, Ms. Kenneally is trying to help girls who have run afoul of the legal system, as she did."
October 2009

Behind the Scenes: Silence at a Festival

The New York Times: Lens Blog
By James Estrin
September 9, 2009

"Among the highlights were Eugene Richards’s powerful photographs of the effect of the Iraq war on Americans, Brenda Ann Kenneally’s exceptional images of upstate girls in her hometown of Troy, N.Y., and revealing photographs of the Afghan people by Zalmaï Ahad, known professionally as Zalmaï."

100 Eyes

100 Eyes
By Andy Levin
June 9th, 2009

"I set out to do an interview with Brenda Ann Kenneally in connection with America Behind Bars last week, and after a few back and forth emails, it became apparent to both of us that we might be better served by my looking at some segments that Brenda had already written and pulling them together into one piece that provides context for her work."

Times Union

Special to the Times Union
By Tim Kane
Friday, April 24, 2009

"Aftab is one of a dozen Sixth Avenue women chronicled by Kenneally in the photography exhibit "Upstate Girls." On display until May 23 at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, the unframed and untitled color pictures document lives of abject poverty: domestic abuse, addiction, unemployment, teen pregnancy and jail."

Media Metroland: Sisters in the Hood

By Meisha Rosenberg
April 2009

"With her Upstate Girls project, photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally treats the lives of her working-class subjects with respect — a respect often missing in our class- and image-conscious society"

Ghetty Images Grants for Editorial Photography

Getty Grants for Editorial Photography are for photojournalists telling compelling social, political and cultural stories. They are awarded on the recognition that creating and managing world-class photography requires time, freedom, support and considerable resources.

Since 2005, they have awarded five Grants for Editorial Photography annually to professional photojournalists.

Events - Perpignan

International Festival of Photojournalism
Couvent des Minimes
Rue François Rabelais

The private lives of working class families fighting unemployment and poverty in the city of Troy.

World Press Photo - Daily Life

The annual World Press Photo contest offers an overview of how press photographers tackle their work worldwide and how the press gives us the news, bringing together pictures from all parts of the globe to reflect trends and developments in photojournalism.

Alternet - The America We Never Seem to Talk About

By Nina Berman and Brenda Ann Kenneally
November 4, 2008

Nina Berman talks to Brenda about her hometown of Troy, the mothers and daughters she photographs, the culture of incarceration in Troy and whether the presidential race has any resonance.

Daily Gazette

Daily Gazette
Schenectady, NY
By Sara Foss
Sunday, February 08, 2009

Taken in its entirety, “Upstate Girls” is a portrait of working-class poverty told from a woman’s perspective. Most of the women depicted in the photos work low-wage jobs, did not complete high school and first became parents as teenagers. Last week, Kenneally and a small crew of helpers spent hours papering the walls with these photographs, many of which were shot in the Sanctuary’s North Troy neighborhood.

Canon Femal Photojournalist Award

The 2008 Canon Female Photojournalist Award was won by the US photojournalist Brenda Ann Kenneally to pursue her report project 'Upstate Girls: What Became of Collar City' which will document the harsh realities of families living down and out in the US.

The award is sponsored by Canon France and is presented by the French Association of Female Journalists (AFJ) and also supported by Le Figaro magazine.

Commenting on her award 2008 Canon AFJ jury member Marc Simon said: "The jury choice rewards the perseverance of a photographer on a delicate subject, that asks for long hours of waiting and of listening. It’s a report that can appear less prestigious than certain reports on hot places of the planet, but is not any less essential. Photographers rarely go unharmed by this type of report. This is a personal engagement that asks a lot."

The prize was presented on 6 September 2008 at the 20th Visa pour l'Image international festival of photojournalism in Perpignan, France.

Alicia Patterson Fellowship Program

The Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship program for journalists was established in 1965 in memory of Alicia Patterson, who was editor and publisher of Newsday for nearly twenty-three years before her death in 1963.

One-year and six-month grants are awarded to working print journalists and photographers.

Fellows pursue independent projects of significant interest and write/illustrate articles based on their investigations for the APF Reporter, a quarterly magazine of the foundation, available at

Picture of the Year International Award

Previously known as the "Annual Fifty-Print Exhibition" and "News Pictures of the Year Competition and Exhibition", POY was founded in 1944 at the University of Missouri by photojournalism professor Clifton C. Edom and his wife Vi, with a published compilation and traveling exhibit of winning photographs. The following year, the Edoms also established the College Photographer of the Year, which eventually became its own contest.

In 1957, the competition merged with one hosted by the National Press Photographers Association. Succeeding directors, such as Angus McDougall and Bill Kuykendall, have guided the contest; and in 2001, the Pictures of the Year became international and known as POYi.

NPPA/Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Awards

The NPPA/Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant enables a working photojournalist to take a three month leave of absence to pursue a documentary project illuminating "The Changing Face of America".

Applicants are encouraged to propose a project that, for example, will record the new trends in this country or document vanishing Americana. Applicants are not limited to these two suggestions.

A committee formed and administered by the National Press Photographers Association will select the proposal that best illuminates the theme.

Upstate Girls is supported through the award of competitive grants and the journalist's personal funds. You can help by purchasing fine prints (e-mail Brenda), or through tax deductible donations through our 501(c)(3) partner, the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

Past supporters have included Christina Cahill, Alberto Guzman, Gillian Laub, Diane and David Kent, Daniel Portnoy, Amanda Silverman and Leanne Ridel.
Upstate Girls; what Became of Collar City by Brenda Ann Kenneally, Laura LoForti, Murray Cox and Steven Zeswitz is copryright Brenda Ann Kenneally.
No unauthorized copies or use is allowed. Please contact for licensing.