This year, the board of trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation gave the green light to award Guggenheim Fellowships to a remarkable group of individuals, including Northampton Community College (NCC) art faculty member, Sasha Phyars-Burgess. These fellowships are highly sought after, with over 2,500 talented artists applying for them. The Guggenheim Fellowship program aims to provide these exceptional individuals with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible. The foundation has been supporting talented artists in the performing arts since 1925, and they take great pride in doing so. 

Phyars-Burgess, a photographer raised in Bethlehem PA, had her first photography class at Freedom High School, followed by a class at NCC a few years after. She is a highly educated individual with a bachelor’s in photography from Bard College and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Cornell University. Her passion for capturing moments in time was originally discovered through her curiosity towards new experiences, as she was seeking an escape from the routines of everyday life.  

As a first-generation artist, Phyars-Burgess was determined to build a successful career on an artistic path. Burgess explained that her drive for success stemmed from her own self-accountability, allowing her to push harder and dive deeper into her creative journey when in moments of doubt. 

Phyars-Burgess focuses her photography on exploring the African diaspora and the experiences of African Americans across the globe. She skillfully captures moments that aim to resonate with those who share her perspective, while also striving to spark conversations among those who have never or will never be able to explore life through the same lens. 

“Photography gives me another way to speak that isn’t written or verbal. Some things are hard to describe through words, and photography has the ability to evoke emotion in different ways than words do. It’s an excuse to learn about something that can speak in different languages, usually more emotional.”    

Phyars-Burgess explained how she is looking forward to teaching digital photography this fall at NCC. “I’m looking forward to giving back to the community that sparked my interest in art, along with the exciting possibility of sparking that same interest in photography for my students.”