Mission & Vision

The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation For Documentary Photography & Film

Mission & Vision

The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography and Film aspires to encourage a new generation of photographers and filmmakers, armed with only a camera and a vision of a better world, to take to the streets every day and document humanity on the move. By rewarding the dedication and determination of emerging photographers and film makers, the foundation’s mission is to support photo and film reportage as a catalyst for change and social justice in communities where needs are most pressing.

The foundation, its founder and the Board of Trustees have a vision of continuous positive change in the lives of forgotten people ravaged by war, famine, poverty, exploitation and global distress. Our emphasis is to bring attention to these communities after the 24-hour news cycle is over; after the ‘breaking news’ media has moved on and world attention shifts elsewhere.

By empowering emerging photographers, we hope their efforts will take us all on a humanitarian journey that provides a voice to the voiceless, and an opportunity for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us — in every community in the world — to be seen and heard.

Overview & History

The foundation is a 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit Organization organized under the laws of the State of New York is committed to positive social discourse in underrepresented communities throughout the world by encouraging emerging and established photographers working in developing nations to keep their lenses fixed on the plight of the poor and disenfranchised.

The foundation is a charitable trust serving the international photographic community through exhibitions, publishing opportunities, grants, educational programming, and various other curatorial projects.

Established in 2010 by Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, with the generous support of Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd, Zurich, Switzerland, the foundation is headquartered in New York, with a presence in Paris, and Zurich.


The foundation issues grants and works in specific program areas including publication, exhibition and the publicity of the work of all of our photographers.

From famine to disease, human injustice to politics, our grant programs give photographers and film makers the opportunity to share pivotal and impacting stories of human interest that resonate globally.

Inspiration & Philosophy
MRO Foundation Philosophy

Can the impact of images fuel the discourse needed to engender a better life for countless millions living around the world?

Offering rare private views of poverty colored by his own personal experiences growing up poor in the corrugated-tin shantytowns of southern Puerto Rico, Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’ photographic stories of hardship and hope in some of the world’s poorest nations serve as the inspiration for the foundation.

With the conviction that images, still and moving, can indeed shine a light on ignored, forgotten communities and offer a beacon of hope, the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography and Film was established with a set of guiding values that enjoin photographers and their own personal experiences with the plight of the populations and environments on which they focus their lenses.

Real Life Stories
MRO Foundation Real Life Stories

Photojournalism emanating from a photographers’ own life experience is amazing to see. This ideal extends to photographers still living in the situations they photograph, or whose life story encompasses firsthand experiences that fuel their photographs. Filtered through such life-lenses, this personal approach can be heart wrenching, shocking and yet monumental.

The foundation was inspired by this personal approach to photography and launched to encourage important work by photographers and film makers around the globe whose strong conviction and personal narrative bring to us images of emotion and human compassion.

A Level Playing Field
MRO Foundation Level Playing Field

Humanity has benefited greatly from the steady breakthroughs made in the fields of medicine and science. But even with these in-roads, vast populations of poor remain living in sub-standard housing, lack any medical treatment and suffer famine, death from preventable or manageable illnesses, war and genocide. Global economic catastrophes such as the most recent erased decade-long achievements made against world poverty.

The foundation aims to support the work done throughout the world by emerging and underrepresented photographers whose compassion and determination against all odds is targeted toward the betterment of humanity. From HIV/AIDS, to the story of refugees, of street children, and of life celebrated despite adversity; these are the stories we seek.

A Catalyst for Change
MRO Foundation Catalyst for Change

Humanitarian photography and film making holds the power to make a difference, taking the message of hope and human suffering beyond momentary, intellectual curiosity or fleeting headlines.

When publicized in the media, these images can act as a catalyst for greater international involvement and positive governmental change.

With these core values, we call upon photographers and film makers to follow their passion and share their work so that together we ensure that these human stories are seen far and wide.