From the Editor:
This issue of ZEKE is devoted to the exploration of post-truth. The abuse of truth is nothing new, and in itself would not lead to rebranding our era with this moniker. But combined with an internet filled with untruths that are swaying public opinion, mainstream media such as Fox News or RT (Russia Today) making up “facts,” and a new skepticism of science at a time when climate change is burning and flooding our planet, the bedrock belief in objectivity is on dangerously shaky ground.
No event in recent history illustrates this better, and more dangerously, than the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court following blistering and divisive testimony by Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Each is 100% certain about what happened or didn’t happen. How can this be? Either one of them is lying or one actually and erroneously believes their statement because of faulty memory. But they both cannot be right as much as 1+1 cannot equal 3. While I find Ford a credible witness, and Kavanaugh less so, facts were in short supply in this debate.
Today it is too common for two sides of a debate to have diametrically opposed understanding of facts with each side being 100% certain about being right.
I first experienced this slippery slope on truth when in 1995 I traveled to Bosnia during the end of a genocidal war and listened to testimony of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs, each of whom were convinced of the veracity of their narrative. In 1994, the Muslim residents of Sarajevo were 100% certain that it was the Serb nationalists who bombed the downtown marketplace killing 68 civilians and the Serbs were just as sure that it was the Bosnian government that did it in order to gain international support for their cause. Unlike the Kavanaugh hearings, facts were available and numerous international experts came to a unanimous conclusion that it was Serb nationalists perched on high ground above Sarajevo who did this heinous act. But it was an eye opener for me to hear first-hand Serb nationalists deny their involvement with “100%” certainty.
I would hate to conclude that all truth is relative because I strongly believe in the rule of law based on evidence, science based on research, and that objective truth is essential for justice to prevail in this world.
I am very grateful to the photographers in this issue of ZEKE for presenting truths about the themes they explore and also to Fred Ritchin for his essay on “Image in the Era of Post-Truth.”
Ten Years of Telling Truth
It was ten years ago this month that the Social Documentary Network (SDN) launched a website at the PhotoPlus Expo at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. A decade later, we have presented more than 3,000 documentary exhibits by more than 2,000 photographers from all parts of the world exploring hundreds of diverse themes. We have also have had gallery exhibitions in locations across the US and in Europe. We have hosted educational programs involving world renowned photographers. We continue to be a strong voice for documentary photography. And in 2015, we took a bold step to launch this magazine.
In the ten years since we launched SDN, digital photography has made the truthfulness of a photograph more suspect than ever. In fact a photograph today is of little more use as evidence than an illustration. But an important concept behind SDN is that a documentary project is never about just one image. Rather it is about an investigation involving many images from many angles, often over a period of months or years. Quality documentary investigation often involves a deep commitment by the photographer to research the historical backgrounds and current political climate of their themes. In other instances, it involves capturing the personal stories of the subjects.
In Fred Ritchin’s article in this issue, “Image in the Era of ‘Post-Truth’“ he makes the case that documentary photographers today are using a more conceptual approach because the obvious approach of just relying on photographic evidence is no longer credible. In recent years we have seen many of the photographers on SDN doing exactly this and we encourage more of this type of exploration.
SDN is proud to be celebrating our tenth anniversary and ten years of telling truth. We want to thank and celebrate the thousands of photographers who trust us to present their stories to the world and we look forward to another decade of collaboration.
Photograph by Aaron Vincent Elkaim from Where the River Runs Through: The Erosion of the Amazon Rainforest, featured in this issue of ZEKE. Elkaim is the winner of Social Documentary Network’s Call for Entries on Documentary in the Era of Post-Truth.
In the heart of Greenland, the world’s largest island, at the confluence of the bays of Melville and Baffin, are the last Inuit hunters. They still live to the rhythm of the seasons, the ice pack and the sea, the storms and the cold. They are looking for the presence of seals. Everything seems unresolved for these northern peoples living in the least populated land, where three quarters of the territory is covered by once permanent ice sheets and glaciers that are now beginning to melt due to climate change.
Philippe Geslin is an ethnologist, anthropologist and photographer. “Each of my travels is a new beginning, an almost stubbornness. I am taking time, as a sensitive, curious and demanding vagabond to unfold the territories of beings and things, to reveal the backstage, to follow the meanders, to restore the sensible, the harmless. In these distant lands, it is in the imperceptible and the tenuous that we seize the universe.” Philippe uses photography as a mode of literary expression as he tries to give an accurate account of everyday life of small communities from the last hunter-gatherers of East Africa and the Maasai breeders in Tanzania to the last Inuit hunters in Greenland.
“The Inuit here have so much to teach us—we who keep nature at a distance and pay the heavy price for it.”
On the ice-covered island of Greenland, in remote regions inhospitable to agriculture, Inuit communities of the past endured and thrived by relying on every part of the seal. The meat provided protein and nutrients; the skins, warm clothing and boots; the blubber, oil for lamps. Bones and sinew became tools and thread.
Historically, subsistence hunters provided for their families while sharing the rewards of seal hunting with their communities. They partici-pated in the global economy as early as the 18th century, bringing sealskins to colonial trading posts.
Today, as always, “seals are very important for Inuit,” says Hans Rosing, an Inuit hunter. But since the mid-20th century, Inuit communities across the Arctic have experienced rapid, dramatic changes to their way of life. Health and social problems have ensued, including increased rates of poverty, alcoholism, alcohol-related violence, and suicide.
Though seal hunting is still widely practiced and remains central to Inuit identity and culture, it is no longer a means of survival—or, even, a viable profession.
“Maybe there are still a few full-time seal hunters with wives who work in schools or hotels, where she makes the money,” says University of Versailles anthropologist Jean-Michel Huctin. But in Greenland, he says, most have moved on to fishing.
Rosing is one of them. Though he sells seal meat to nursing homes and municipal institutions, he also relies on income from fishing, Green-land’s main industry.
Across the Arctic, subsistence seal hunting has been declining for decades, facing the triple threat of modernization, politicization, and climate change.
Life changed significantly for Greenlanders after Danish colonial rule ended and the island became part of Denmark in 1953. Policies promoting cultural assimilation forced the Inuit, the majority population, from their seasonal settlements (which were formed according to migratory paths of the animals they hunted) into permanent ones—and, as a consequence, into town-based jobs. Modernization continued at a faster pace after Denmark granted Greenland self-governance in 1979 and the island took control of its internal affairs.
Today, about a quarter of Greenland’s 56,000 residents call the capital city, Nuuk, home. The rest live in coastal towns and small settlements, some with populations under 100 people. Most settlements are shrinking, as people leave for educational institutions or to be near hospitals. Nuuk, whose population almost doubled from 1979 to 2014, now has gourmet restaurants, hotels, a university, museums, and an international airport.
Knud Geisler Larsen, a teacher in the town of Upernavik, says that many residents “lived mainly by hunting and fishing when they lived in the villages” but now work wage-based jobs.
“It’s hard to be a hunter today without having access to some kind of salary or income,” says Søren Thue Thuesen, associate professor of Eskimology and Arctic studies at the University of Copenhagen.
That’s partly because hunting requires capital investment. Inuit hunters have incorporated modern technologies into their practice ever since they procured rifles at colonial trading posts. Today snowmobiles and boats with outboard motors are common in most regions, and hunters across the Arctic use satellite phones and GPS units to improve safety.
This equipment is expensive, and many can only continue hunting by working day jobs. They hunt now on weekends or holidays or whenever they have spare time, says Thuesen, so they can “fill their freezers for the winters.”
Younger generations, especially city dwellers, do that less often. Hunting territories near cities can get crowded. “Think also smart phones and the digital revolution,” says Huctin, pointing out that, like people everywhere, many are now drawn to activities that keep them indoors.
For Larsen—who hasn’t hunted in 15 years and eats mostly store-bought items—traditional foods, such as seal, whale skin, or reindeer, are considered a treat.
“We still crave for Greenlandic food when we have not had, for example, seal for a period,” he says. “Then it is always good to know someone who hunts.”
Animal protection and conservation groups launched wildly effective anti-sealing campaigns in the 1970s and 80s. Global governments responded to the campaigns. The US banned seal products in 1972. Europe followed suit a few years later, banning products made from seal pups. Global demand for sealskin plummeted, and the commercial market—which enabled Inuit hunters to be economically self-sufficient in the modern era—collapsed.
Although the activists had meant to target Canadian commercial sealers, Inuit communities—who hunt sustainably (and don’t hunt pups)—suffered grave cultural and economic injury.
From 1983 to 1985, the average income of a seal hunter in Resolute Bay, an Inuit hamlet in the Canadian Arctic, dropped from $54,000 to $1,000.
“Greenpeace apologized, but it was too late,” says Huctin.
Other activist groups took up the mantle when new markets opened in the 2000s in countries such as Russia and China. The market’s revival was short-lived. Russia outlawed the baby harp seal hunt, and the EU extended its ban to all seal products, with an Inuit exemption. Reeling from historical damage, Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit sued the EU, to no avail.
The EU ban—and vocal Inuit opposition to it—persists. Even if it were to be overturned, it is doubtful that subsistence hunting could ever make a comeback.
Arctic seals need thick ice. They find food near it, and they use it as a platform on which to rest, give birth, and nurse their young.
Hunters also need the ice to be thick—to support the weight of their dogs or snowmobiles. Nowadays they regularly encounter ice that’s broken, too thin, or watery for hunting safely.
Last year was the second warmest on record in the Arctic. According to a 2017 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ocean temperature continues to rise, and sea ice gets thinner every year.
Seasonal ice coverage is also an issue. Rosing says the sea used to freeze in October where he hunts. Now that happens in December or January. In some regions, the ice disappears by April, when it used to stay solid until June or July.
As the habitat and behavior of marine animals change as a result of climate change, so does hunters’ access to them. Hunters must travel farther offshore by boat in summer, spending more money on gas and more time on the hunt.
The Inuit are well-acquainted with climatic variations. Some speak of a time in the 1920s or 30s when the sea didn’t freeze at all. But disruptions to their routines come rapidly now, and more often. This presents challenges, but also opportunities for a culture that’s survived by being adaptive.
In southern parts of Greenland, where the climate supports agriculture, the growing season has lengthened. New crops, such as potatoes, are now grown locally. Some small-scale mining is taking place, and the prospect of a growing industry makes some hopeful that it will provide good jobs for younger generations.
In 2007, Brazil’s President Lula da Silva announced the construction of over 60 major hydroelectric projects in the Amazon rainforest, with Belo Monte Dam at the forefront. The energy generated would fuel mining initiatives and power cities thousands of miles away. Nearing completion, Belo Monte will be the fourth largest dam in the world. It has displaced over 20,000 people. Indigenous groups such as the Xilkrin are strongly resisting the building of these dams. In January 2018, the Brazilian government announced a major shift away from its policy of building mega-dams in the Brazilian Amazon, a result of the staggering environmental and social costs.
Hydroelectric dams are touted as clean and renewable sources of energy, but large dams are often anything but, with hundreds of square miles of land flooded and complex river ecosystems permanently transformed. In the Amazon, they release huge amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, while new infrastructure opens the forest to increased logging, mining, and agriculture. The result is the erosion of the Amazon rainforest and the sacrifice of communities that depend on the river and forest ecosystems for their way of life. The emergency plans created devastating impacts on the customs and way of life of these self-sustaining cultures. The Bacaja River, a tributary of the Xingu River that the people depend upon for fish and transportation, has severely dried since the completion of the Belo Monte Dam, impacting the water quality and affecting the health of the community.
Aaron Vincent Elkaim is a documentary photographer currently based in Toronto, Canada. He studied cultural anthropology at the University of Manitoba and later pursued photojournalism. His clients include The New Yorker, The New York Times, TIME Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, HUCK, Macleans, The Canadian Press and The Globe and Mail.
Since 2011, he has committed himself to exploring narratives where people still connected to the natural world are being impacted by industrial development. He co-founded the Boreal Collective, a team of 12 internationally-based photojournalists. While highlighting important human and environmental issues, Aaron addresses the need to protect the natural world by revealing our profound connection to it
Dams are touted as a cheap source of power and a much-needed form of renewable energy for developing nations. Often left out of this equation are indigenous groups, who have the least to gain and the most to lose, when a watershed is flooded due to dam construction.
Once a symbol of human ingenuity, recent events show that dams built for the ages are often shortsighted in their execution. For example, a technological marvel like the massive Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, built during the mid-20th century, now sits half empty due to prolonged droughts linked to global warming.
In the United States alone, there are more than 87,000 dams recorded in the federal government’s inventory. Across the country, many of these dams no longer serve any useful purpose and thousands have been deemed unsafe by dam safety experts. No comprehensive database on the number of obsolete dams worldwide exists, but the number is likely to be much higher.
At present there are an estimated 800,000 dams of various sizes around the world. New dams continue to be built with relatively few being decommissioned due to obsolescence.
Recent studies indicate there are additional reasons for concern. Dam projects have unintended consequences for wildlife and for the people living downstream. Among them, dams disconnect rivers from floodplains and turn rapids into still waters, resulting in a loss of biodiversity. According to the World Wildlife Fund, freshwater populations of fish and other species have declined by 80 percent since 1970 worldwide, causing fish stocks to plummet in once vibrant locations like the Columbia River in Oregon and the Danube River flowing through central and eastern Europe.
Why do stakeholders persist despite evidence of harm? Dams allow cities to thrive and are a boon to energy-starved regions of the world. In short, hydropower and irrigation bring the promise of progress to developing countries, while boosting the prestige of elites who can deliver large-scale projects. “Politicians like to have monuments named after them and a dam is a testament to their power,” says James Dalton, director of the water program with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Such a rationale has had serious consequences for indigenous people whose territories straddle dam sites. An estimated 40 to 80 million people have been directly displaced worldwide and an additional 470 million people have been impacted further downstream, according to a joint report titled Lost in Development’s Shadow:The Downstream Human Consequences of Dams, published by Brian D. Richter, Director of the Global Freshwater Program of The Nature Conservancy and other freshwater experts.
Those affected include indigenous people, along with farmers, pastoralists, and fishermen who have had their livelihoods affected, if not destroyed by dams, jeopardizing their physical, cultural and spiritual wellbeing in the process.
Dams also continue to be built without the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous groups. There have also been instances of violence directed against protesters of dam projects.
For instance, the murder of the renowned indigenous leader of the Lenca people in Honduras, Berta Caceres, made global headlines. Caceres and two members of the Civic Council of Popular Indigenous Organizations (Copinh) were killed. Others reported assassination attempts in the weeks and months following her murder in 2016.
On a global scale, 1,400 dams are planned or are under construction, in locations once deemed too remote or impractical to be feasible. In Asia, Africa and Latin America, numerous proposed dam projects are on rivers that flow through indigenous territories and across national boundaries, raising potential water-based conflicts between nations and among tribal groups competing for scarce resources.
The Nile River, for example, is one of the more contentious areas of the globe. Ethiopia has built and plans to build several more dams on tributaries of the Nile in its uplands. This will divert water from countries downstream, including Egypt. Contributing to the tension is drought and a growing population more dependent on a water source that may be on the wane.
According to published accounts, the Gilgel Gibe II and III Dams on the Omo River in Ethiopia have upended the lives of 200,000 farmers, fishermen and herders who depended on the natural flow of the river for their livelihoods. The people of lower Omo River now face food shortages and government-sponsored modernization schemes that encroach upon their ancestral lands.
According to observers, Ethiopia’s headlong rush into the Renaissance Dam will have serious implications for Egypt. Water shortages will continue to plague the region in the decades to come and the dam will exacerbate shortages in Egypt by an additional 25 percent, the Geological Society of America estimates.
In the Middle East, issues surrounding water, oil and politics are equally volatile. Mona Salavi believes an ecological disaster is unfolding inside Iran. As a member of the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran and project officer for the Underrepresented Nations and People Organization, an NGO based in Brussels, she speaks from past experience.
In a part of the world fractured along religious and ethnic lines, the ability to control the flow of freshwater takes on a political dimension. “Water and politics are linked,” she says.
Salavi fled Iran due, in part, to the battle over water in the Al-Ahwaz province of southwest Iran. One of the few historically verdant places inside the country, the region is in the process of being turned into a wasteland because of dam construction, she contends.
The province now has more than 14 dams which diverted free-flowing rivers away from the arable region, subjecting the Ahwazi minority to the imminent risk of water shortages.
At the same time, the Iranian government has promoted the production of sugar, a water-intensive cash crop, displacing 200,000 to 250,000 Arabs in the Ahwazi region.
Despite their differences, the roughly 370 million indigenous people scattered around the globe share many of the same problems. In many instances, they have few allies at the national and international levels and are up against powerful forces working against them.
“Environmental activists often support indigenous causes, working alongside them in claiming rights and environmental justice. As such, both environmental activists and indigenous organizers frequently fall victim to state-led repression of demonstrations and peaceful protests, as well as of corporate interests,“ Mona Salavi says.
Touted as guardians of forests and protectors of rivers, indigenous leaders are often placed in the crosshairs. The watchdog group Global Witness warns that violence against activists is likely to continue because land grabs and the infrastructure needed to operate dams place indigenous groups at odds with the demands of the 21st century.
A 2017 report published by Global Witness concluded indigenous leaders, along with environmental activists and wildlife rangers, are being killed at almost a rate of four per week worldwide. In 2016, the tally came to 200 victims—more than double the rate from five years ago.
For More Information
Reza Deghati (Reza) is a French-Iranian photographer. Over almost 40 years, he has worked as a foreign and war correspondent for Newsweek, TIME Magazine, LIFE, Paris Match and Stern, among many others. He teaches photography to children in refugee camps and disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities in dozens of countries through the numerous NGOs he has founded.
Caterina Clerici: Why did you want to become a photographer and how did you get started?
Reza: Since a very young age, I’ve always been disturbed to see homeless people, barefoot kids and poor families in my hometown of Tabriz, in Iran. I was always asking “Why do people not react, why don’t they help?” At age nine, I witnessed a mob of kids that were pushing out from the school a barefoot kid that was the same age as I was. He was crying and saying “Please, I just want to see what a school looks like.” I tried to interfere but both of us were beaten by the kids and pushed out. It shocked me a lot. Later, I was trying to explain to the director of the school and the teachers what had happened, and nobody cared. So I thought maybe I wasn’t able to explain it with my language and I should show them a painting or a drawing of it.
For two years I tried to learn how to paint and draw just to show the social injustices that I was seeing around me. At age 13, my father, who had one of the first big box Kodak cameras, let me try it. When I looked through the viewfinder, I asked him “Everything you see here will be in the picture?” and he said “Of course!” and this was the reason I got a camera and started taking pictures. I was teaching myself, there was nobody around to explain to me how it worked, so it took a lot of years to learn. When I started at 14, I always looked for two things: beauty, but also social injustice. My thought was: “If I show it to people, maybe they’ll be able to change it.”
CC: What was the focus of your photography in the early years?
Reza: I liked beauty and family, but also looking around in the streets for things I thought people would react to if they saw them. When I was 16, I thought I could have a role in the high school paper. This was during the Shah’s regime in Iran and I had no idea what “secret police” meant. I made my first magazine, which was called Butterfly, and two days later I was arrested and all the magazine issues confiscated. My mum was beating me very badly and telling me “You shouldn’t touch newspapers and magazines anymore.” I was 16, that was 50 years ago, and from that moment I’ve done exactly the opposite.
I photographed again social injustice and poverty in Tehran — the homeless, the drug addicts — and learned how to print the photographs. At night I would go out and put the black and white pictures with the little captions on the walls of the university, to show how people were living in poverty. That was from when I was 19 to 22, when I was also a student in architecture and fine arts. I was arrested again and spent three years, from 22 to 25, in prison, where I was tortured for five months for photographing and showing this [reality.] Then I came out of the prison just one year before the revolution and decided to quit architecture and become a photographer.
CC: What would you describe as your mission as a photographer?
Reza: I really didn’t come to photography trying to make an art of it. For me, photography is a tool to connect with people and create empathy. It’s a universal language, everybody understands it. I don’t know much about the technical aspects of it, the software, I only focus on how photography can bring change to communities and how we can use photography as a tool for social change. My mission is to make people take responsibility for what they see.
CC: As a photographer documenting Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have you noticed any changes in the mainstream media narrative about this region, since you started working there?
Reza: I have been working as a professional since 1979, which makes it almost 40 years now. The big change came around 15 years ago, when we started moving towards digital: the communication became immediate and a lot of people got access to these tools. Before that, in most cases, we were the only witnesses of the whole story. We felt we had a much bigger mission and people were trusting us more. The digital era has changed it completely: the number of people who take pictures, write or broadcast has multiplied by millions. Also, local people have access to media coverage of their own destiny and see that what is shown and told in the big media is not always the reality, because the media is run by governments and corporations with their own agendas. We have very few independent newspapers and magazines today and even they show a mainstream point of view, so we (photographers and journalists) have now become the target of the people who are unhappy with the reporting, because they immediately see what’s happening.
From my very first trip to Afghanistan during the Russian invasion in 1983 and onwards, I realized that the mainstream media was not able to tell the whole story. We come for a few days or a few weeks even, and we have our newsroom waiting for us in Paris, New York or London, and we have to come up with something to feed the beast. That’s how I thought, “What if I teach people how to tell their own stories?” That’s how I started doing the very first refugee training in 1983 in a camp in Pakistan with seven Afghan refugees. I bought the cameras myself in the Peshawar market, I bought the film, I workshopped with them, I left the cameras with them and told them to keep photographing and if they saw another photographer coming, to give them the photographs they had taken. From that moment, I’ve devoted half of my time and my income volunteering to help people tell their own stories. Only taking pictures is not enough.
Recently, I was in the Panjshir valley in Afghanistan, where they were commemorating the assassination of Massoud, the head of the resistance against the Russians, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban until he was killed two days before 9/11. The day after he was assassinated by two Al-Qaeda operators who posed as TV cameramen pretending to interview him, his people printed a few thousand photographs of the portrait of Massoud I had taken and sent it to the frontline for each soldier. Everybody said those portraits helped them resist until the coalition forces came and the bombardment started and the Taliban was defeated. There are a lot of stories like this, about how a single photograph can have an impact on history.
CC: How have you tried to get your audience more involved in topics that drive your photography, particularly refugees, migration and displacement? Do you believe in a “refugee fatigue,” just as there is war or poverty fatigue, and what can be done to still get people to empathize and sympathize with refugees?
Reza: This is a challenge I have faced, like all media, with all kinds of crises: fatigue is not only created by the story covered by the media, but by the corporations or governments that don’t want the story talked about. My first action is deep respect for both the people I photograph and those who are going to see my work. I always feel like I’m trying to bring them together. If you’re arrogant, people will see you’re there for your reputation and don’t care about them. Honesty is transmitted through your photographs.
Photography is an art and it’s not because I’m a photojournalist that I’m not an artist: whatever I’m covering, even if it’s a war, I always try to have a perfect composition and to make it beautiful. What I believe is most important is to help people get over their fatigue to make it personal. We have all seen so many pictures of boats carrying people — similar colors, similar clothes, similar faces, some drowning, some getting help — and it’s normal that after a while we are not shocked anymore. Make it personal, tell the story one by one, create empathy between the people who look at the pictures and those who are photographed. The way I do it is through portraits: they’re all very simple, on the spot and spontaneous. “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” and I’m trying to get those souls out.
Another way to get people interested again is training refugee children to photograph the daily life in the camps. In the past five years I started trainings with Syrian and Yazidi children. They became the camp reporters and I’m publishing their photos around the world and this has a very different effect on people. Professionals already have a preconceived idea of what kind of picture will show the refugees, while the children just show their daily life.
CC: How would you define being an “involved photographer” and do you think there are any ethical issues in being both a journalist and an activist?
Reza: I really don’t think that journalism and activism are different. By all means any journalist who is looking for the truth is an activist, especially at a time where major corporations and governments are trying to cover it up. For me, there is no interference between my photography and my NGO work. One example is creating an independent media and cultural centre in Kabul, which I opened just a few days after the fall of the Taliban in September 2001. In 17 years, we have trained over 1,500 Afghans to become journalists, photographers, filmmakers, a lot of them women, and helped them create their own media, such as Afghan Women’s Voices. We can bring more change not only through our photographs but giving voice to people who don’t have it.
Affected by an ongoing war, the loss of the Crimea to Russian aggression, and endemic corruption, Ukraine, a geopolitically important country straddling Europe and Russia, remains hopelessly divided. Despite the Euromaidan protests four years ago that overturned a pro-Russia government and the more recent Minsk Protocol aiming to reduce hostilities, the country remains in a stalemate. The war in the Donbass in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian militias and government and paramilitary forces has resulted in more than 9,300 deaths.
Michele Cirillo, in his exhibit “Forgotten War” shows the realities of this war-torn quagmire--the destruction of homes and soldiers with lost limbs. But like in all conflict zones, life manages to move on. Aude Osnowycz’s portraits from her exhibit “In the Shadow of an Empire” show us a Ukraine with its rich culture of ballerinas, rock stars, activists, and youth militias. Jan Zychlinski’s “Ukraine’s War Children” delves deeper into the question of refugees and internally displaced persons from Crimea and Donbass, where the war rages on with pro-Russian separatists. People are living in container settlements, rented flats, old sanatoriums, kindergartens, dormitories or some in huts in the middle of nowhere. Amongst them, there are lots of children—a generation at war with so many different expectations and perspectives.
The Ukrainian crisis is a story about Russian aggression, a divided nation, domestic corruption, and common people caught in the middle. The crisis has produced not only a conflict between the deeply divided east and west, but also a deep sense of disillusionment among Ukrainian youth.
The recent Ukraine crisis began in November 2013 when President Victor Yanukovych pulled out of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement that would have strengthened cooperation between Ukraine and the 28 EU member states. However, according to the Lithuanian president’s office hosting an EU summit to finalize the pact, Yanukovych was pressured to pull out of the agreement by the Kremlin. On December 17, 2013, Yanukovych instead signed an Action Plan with Russia in which Russia agreed to buy $15 billion in Ukrainian Eurobonds and supply natural gas at a lower price. This immediately set off protests by youth who looked to the west (the EU) as their future.
An investment of capital from either the EU or Russia was vitally important to Ukraine that year as industrial production fell by 4.9%. Moreover, natural gas prices were hiked by the Russian natural gas provider, Gazprom, after it discovered that officials in Ukraine were stealing gas and failing to pay off debts. Public opinion was starkly split between the EU (39%) and the Russia-headed Eurasian Customs Union (37%). However, EU-friendly western Ukraine citizens, centered around the capital of Kiev, were outraged after Yanukovych didn’t deliver on his promise to join the EU agreement.
The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution (also called the Euromaidan Revolution) was organized by the Maidan People’s Union, the ultra-nationalist Right Sector, and other citizens who mobilized on social media in favor of Ukraine signing the agreement with the EU. The protestors called for Yanukovych to resign and end the oppression against activists and opposition leaders.
Protests Turn Violent
Although protests in 2014 began peacefully, they quickly became riots after demonstrations were suppressed violently by police units. When the Ukraine government passed anti-protest laws in 2014, masked protesters held regional administration buildings hostage and clashed with law enforcement. Unable to silence the revolution, Yanukovych finally signed the Agreement on Settlement of Political Crisis in Ukraine in February 2014. However, he fled the country for Russia that same month, halting all plans to salvage the EU Association Agreement and cancelling all provisions promised from Russia through the Ukrainian-Russian Action Plan.
Soon after Yanukovych’s resignation, pro-Russian protests began in eastern and southern parts of Ukraine. Historically, territories of eastern Ukraine were administered by Russia and became a republic under the Soviet Union. In 1991, following the demise of the Soviet Union and a failed coup attempt by Soviet hardliners, the government signed the Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, establishing an independent state. Although many Ukrainians wished to maintain sovereignty, regions in eastern Ukraine such as Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk were linguistically and culturally affiliated with Russia and felt that Ukraine and Russia should unite into a single state.
The Kremlin’s active involvement in Ukraine ultimately divided the country. During the 2014 Revolution, the Kremlin provided Yanukovych with military support to suppress protesters. In March, Russian soldiers without insignias invaded the Crimean parliament building, held a referendum on independence with Russian sympathizers, and annexed Crimea. Similar referendums were held by pro-Russian and anti-government groups in Donetsk and Luhansk, which mobilized combatants alongside paramilitaries groups coming across the border from Russia. What ensued was the war in Donbass, in which the Kremlin allegedly provided tanks and “humanitarian convoys” to separatist members to prolong the conflict and expand its territorial influence. Although, cease fires were negotiated through the Minsk I and II Agreements, fighting still continues to this day.
EU Responds to Russian Aggression
The EU responded to Russia’s aggression by imposing various restrictive measures against Russia. On top of cancelling high-level diplomatic meetings and limiting access to EU capital markets, the European Council also imposed asset freezes on 155 people and 44 entities because their actions undermined Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.
The outcomes of the revolution, the ongoing war, and international disputes have been disproportionately harmful to ordinary citizens. Since 2014 when the war began the UN estimates that 23,500 people have been injured and 10,000 people killed. Even after cease fire provisions from the Minsk Agreement, mortar shells fly between government territory and the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk. In war zones, people live without central heating. Collapsed infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and public buildings aren’t repaired because of fear of more shelling. Worse, professionals such as lawyers, judges, and doctors, have left war-torn regions, leaving the inhabitants in precarious conditions.
Moreover, widespread corruption is still pervasive throughout Ukraine. According to investigative reporters with the Al Jazeera TV, Yanukovych along with his corrupt oligarch cronies, appropriated $1.5 billion through off-shore businesses registered in Scotland. A logbook confiscated by the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Bureau suggests that Yanukovych disbursed $1.4 million worth of bribes on a daily basis. Even following the revolution, corruption is still endemic as seen from nepotism in the judicial system and irregular payments in the tax administration. In the medical industry, for example, patients pay bribes to doctors to get intensive care and medical equipment. There is even a Ukraine corruption park that displays the sheer pervasiveness of corruption.
In midst of such circumstances, Ukrainian youth hold a critical role. Twenty-six-year-old Yulia Marushevska, an activist who appeared on the viral video ‘I am a Ukrainian’ during the 2014 Revolution, was appointed as Chief of Odessa Customs with the goal to make customs more transparent. However, according to a nationwide poll produced by the New Europe Center, 65% of respondents aged between 14-29, are “not interested at all” in Ukrainian politics. The unpopularity of civil activism (only 6% of respondents) is concerning. The New York Times suggests that Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, a famous rock singer whose songs became protest anthems during both the 2004 and 2014 revolutions, will be a strong candidate for president. Whether he will choose to participate or not, Ukraine needs role models like him to lead its next generation and rebuild its country.
What is the role of the journalistic or documentary photograph for maintaining the public record and enabling constructive social change in this era labeled “post-truth”?
In the first 466 days of his presidency, Donald Trump made 3,001 false or misleading claims. “Seventy-two times, the president has falsely claimed he passed the biggest tax cut in history — when in fact it ranks in eighth place,” the Washington Post reported on May 1, 2018. “Fifty-three times, the president has made some variation of the claim that the Russia probe is a made-up controversy. (If you include other claims about the Russia probe that are not accurate, the count goes to 90.) Forty-one times, the president has offered a variation of the false claim that Democrats do not really care about the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump terminated.”
As well as his disdain for the truth, Trump’s frequent attacks on the press as providers of “fake news” further undermine the functioning of democracy, dependent upon a credible press to report on issues and events so that citizens can decide how to vote and their political representatives on how to govern. Elsewhere, authoritarian leaders increasingly borrow from Trump’s attacking strategy, describing as “fake news” that which can be construed as criticisms of their policies. For example, a January 25 piece in the Guardian asserts that “In February, an Amnesty International report said the Syrian government had killed at least 13,000 people in a military prison between 2011 and 2015. Assad disputed the report. ‘You can forge anything these days,’ Assad told Yahoo News. ‘We are living in a fake news era.’”
The Age of the Image
Simultaneously, we are living in the Age of the Image with billions of photographs and videos uploaded daily, trillions available online, yet we are not sure what they mean, how they help, or whether they can be believed. Is that “selfie” a self-portrait, an exploration of identity, or a form of branding formulated to increase someone’s status online? Is that a photograph of an actual event, or a fabricated image made to simulate a photograph of an event that never happened? And we are left asking, in this era of social media, of strident opinions and media bubbles, of frequent and often unfounded allegations of “fake news,” what is the role of the journalistic or documentary photograph for maintaining the public record and enabling constructive social change in this era labeled “post-truth”?
A 1990 book of mine, In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography, argued that the imaging software being created then would allow us to re-create the world, and ourselves, “in our own image,” using the myth that “the camera never lies” to camouflage purposeful deceits. My thinking was provoked, in part, by the 1982 cover image of the mainstream publication, National Geographic, in which image-manipulation software was employed to relocate one of the pyramids of Giza behind another to make a vertical image from a horizontal photograph so as to fit it on the magazine’s cover. Two years later the modification was explained to me by the magazine’s editor as, in his opinion, merely the retroactive repositioning of the photographer a few feet to one side so as to get another point of view. Surprisingly, in 1982 National Geographic seemed to have already embraced a kind of photographic time travel. In the digital environment the “decisive moment,” photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous formulation of “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression,” could now happen any time after the initial moment itself.
Less sanguine and concerned about the enduring integrity of the journalistic photograph, National Geographic’s director of photography said that the introduction of such a technique was “like limited nuclear warfare. There ain’t none.” In any case, the reader had not been informed of the modification, and a series of highly publicized alterations of cover images in other publications (Time, TV Guide, Newsday, etc.) that would follow contributed to public skepticism concerning the photograph’s witnessing function. Given this erosion of trust, the photojournalistic community did little in response to bolster public confidence in the photograph, refusing to take these challenges seriously.
But the issue was not only one of digital modifications. While photographs have always been interpretive, constructions dependent upon the knowledge and intuition of the photographer who makes the picture, the widespread use in journalistic publications of photographs of staged events as if they were spontaneous, and of imagery that emphasized the spectacular without providing context, were similarly deleterious to photography’s role as a social referent.
So, for example, after the 2011 killing by US forces of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 attacks a decade before, a historic retaliation that was supposed to be a partial resolution to a nation’s enduring pain, President Barack Obama said: “It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence—as a propaganda tool.” House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers concurred with the president’s contention but added: “Conspiracy theorists around the world will just claim the photos are doctored anyway.” And Obama agreed: “Certainly there’s no doubt among Al-Qaeda members that he is dead. . . . And so we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see Bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
What are Photographs Good For?
If we are now no longer of the opinion that “a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference,” then why make photographs? And if too contested, too inflammatory, too malleable, too questionable, too much implicated in an image war to be useful to the public as evidence of a very major event, what are photographs good for? Such skepticism also helps to explain why in recent years, with the exception of two images of very small children, the 2015 photograph by Nilüfer Demir of the drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, and the 2018 photograph by John Moore of two-year-old Honduran migrant Yanela Sanchez hysterically crying at the US border, there have been few photographs that have attained the iconic status necessary to focus the world on critical issues (some photos may go momentarily “viral,” but soon fade from public consciousness, in part due to a lack of a “front page” to sustain them). In this media environment innovative strategies that are less dependent upon the previous century’s belief system in the inherent power of the photograph need to be formulated as well.
Furthermore, this era of photographs made malleable via Photoshop and other software may very soon seem like a moment of comparative innocence. In the very near future it will become increasingly easy to synthesize from scratch not only photographs but also video and audio, so that the results will be nearly indistinguishable from the actual thing. Work is being done in laboratories in many countries, much of it with artificial intelligence, to provide inexpensive tools to create realistic photographic-like portraits of non-existent people, to produce videos realistically portraying non-existent events, and to synthesize speeches that sound like they come from the mouths of world leaders (one such recently synthesized speech online, simulating the voice of President John F. Kennedy, was the one he was to give the day he was assassinated in Dallas).
If Anything Can be Real, Nothing Can be Real
A recent discussion concerns the ethically challenging advent of “deepfakes” of female celebrities, their faces composited onto those of others performing in sexually explicit videos. Soon this software is expected to be made more efficient and easier to use, available for widespread use. And the potential to use this kind of software to place prominent people in a variety of situations, such as having a world leader seem to declare war or confess to corruption, will create a multitude of challenges. Whether such software has actually been utilized or not, its existence will call into question much of what we view online, hear on the radio, watch on television, or read in our newspapers and magazines. As one deepfakes user commented, “If anything can be real, nothing is real.” Or, as technologist Aviv Ovadya, who has recently gathered a consortium of colleagues in the tech industry to try to combat fake news and camouflaged bots, asked, “What happens when anyone can make it appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did?”
This challenges the functioning not only of journalism, but of democratic institutions. As Zeynep Tufekci stated in a recent issue of Wired magazine, “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself.” In this vein, software that allows the public to easily synthesize realistic-looking people and events requires a strong response from institutions that take authenticity seriously. But after recently reporting on the use of artificial intelligence to create fake videos, New York Times writer Kevin Roose remarked: “And there’s probably nothing we can do except try to bat the fakes down as they happen, pressure social media companies to fight misinformation aggressively, and trust our eyes a little less every day.”
But if we cannot trust our eyes in this age of image, what then will be able to rely upon? On an institutional level, considerably more has to be done by publications and photographers themselves to verify media and assure the readers of its integrity. Should there be a labeling system that is strictly enforced among reputable publications and photographers to categorize photographs, such as “reportage,” “photo illustration,” “photo opportunity,” “altered photograph,” and so on, similar to one that I proposed in the 1990s with a group of colleagues? The “four corners project” that I have been working on would allow photographers to use each of the photograph’s corners to add supplementary information online, including their own code of ethics, the backstory, image context and links to other websites. And there are many other ideas that need to be urgently investigated.
One of the productive responses to this evolving media climate by a number of photographers is to rely less upon the assumption of the photograph’s inherent veracity and more upon a slower accumulation of evidence via a number of media, photography included, that ultimately provides insights into an underlying process rather than concentrating primarily on its symptoms. It is not a new approach, but one that is now much more broadly practiced. Philip Jones Griffiths’ 1971 book, Vietnam Inc., can be considered a pioneer in this effort, showing the decision-making process among military leaders, juxtaposing the relatively unseen pilots with their victims, explaining how young girls are introduced into the sex trade, and undermining his own dramatic, at times heroic black-and-white imagery captions that he wrote pointing out the absurdity of what he depicts: “US combat troops arrive, outnumbering the enemy 3 to 1 and possessing the most sophisticated military hardware; the job seemed easy. Earlier, spirits were high among the troops, intoxicated as much by the spectacle of their own strength as by the cold beer delivered to them daily.”
There are many photographers today exploring massive social ills with more of a conceptual documentary approach — from chemical poisoning by Monsanto (Mathieu Asselin) to torture at Guantanamo (Edmund Clark, Debi Cornwall) to the blue skies over 1,078 World War II concentration camps (Anton Kusters), drones as weaponized surveillance (Tomas van Houtryve), and the satellites monitoring us (Trevor Paglen). Utilizing techniques of the artist, journalist and documentarian, much of this work is published in books and shown in exhibitions as well as appearing in various publications.
And there are some interesting metrics as well: Gideon Mendel’s photographic work on a pilot program to provide HIV-positive South Africans with anti-retroviral medicine is credited by UNAIDS with encouraging contributions that allowed eight million people to get life-saving treatment, and Magnum’s Access to Life project that highlighted the work of eight photographers raised $1 billion for a similar goal.
More recently, a screening at a 2015 fundraising conference in Kuwait of a virtual reality film on the life of a 12-year-old Syrian refugee, “Clouds Over Sidra,” is reported to have raised $3.8 billion for relief efforts; the use of virtual reality is becoming more widespread among humanitarian organizations attempting to get potential donors and others to empathize with the plight of those in difficult circumstances.
Paradoxically, and hopefully, there are more media strategies than ever before at our disposal while the media’s credibility is under widespread attack. Ways must be found to help restore the requisite referents necessary for society to function, and to provide a greater understanding of crucial processes that currently remain largely opaque. At this point a reactive stance, simply covering events in traditional ways while contemplating the growing morass, is insufficient. It is apparent that newer strategies, including hybrid ones that will take advantage of the enormous and largely untapped visual resources of social media, must be devised to engage a wary, divided, confused, and increasingly exhausted public.
The media revolution is only beginning.
Fred Ritchin began writing on photography and digital imaging in 1984 for the New York Times Magazine. Since then he has authored three books on the subject: In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (1990), After Photography (2008), and Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (2013), the latter exploring media strategies for social change. He is Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography.
BOOKS REVIEWED IN THIS ISSUE:
- On Abortion by Laia Abril
- An Autobiography of Miss Wish by Nina Berman
- MEXICO: Between Life and Death by Harvey Stein
- N.O.K: Next of Kin by Inbal Abergil
- 46750 by João Pina
- UNDOCUMENTED: Immigration and the Militarization of the Mexican Border by John Moore
By Laia Abril
Dewi Lewis 2018
196 pp./ £ 35.00
Laia Abril is a deft excavator, a cultural anthropologist disguised as a multimedia artist, utilizing the light of photography to illuminate historical human encounters often left in the dark. The first chapter of On Abortion, “A History of Misogyny,” delves into abortion with the focus on the repercussions of lack of access. On Abortion, Abril’s third book, is a palimpsest, making visible the layered marks wrought over millennia on the individual bodies of women, and on the body collective of the female gender, born with a biological imperative to reproduce our species.
A compilation of portraits, documentary photographs, film stills, advertisements, legal documents and testimonies honor the horrific truth and undeniable impact of the incessant war on women’s bodies. The book’s pages are unnumbered reflecting the timelessness and vast expansiveness of both the number of years and the number of lives scarred, or killed, due to unwanted conception. Abril documents modes of contraception: from three-month-old sheep intestines utilized to form a condom tied to a penis with string, to the ancient acidic interventions including crocodile dung inserted into the vagina, to the still-present use of piercingly sharp metal cervical stem pessaries inserted into uteruses — our archaic and life-threatening manner of preventing the impact of mating persists.
Abril utilizes images with select and concise text thoughtfully and skillfully entwining the historical and the unfathomable with a consistent lens of fact. One hundred and thirty eight countries restrict a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. Annually, 21.6 million women experience unsafe abortions resulting in 47,000 women dying. Prohibition does not stop the practice of terminating a pregnancy, it does force women to endanger their lives. The United States has seen conviction of foeticide as recently as 2015, and 37 states require parental involvement (if not consent) for women under 21 years of age to obtain a legal abortion.
A photo of the pre-abortion letter sent to her boyfriend by a 28-year-old Brazilian school teacher is paired with a photo of the clinic where she died having the procedure. A glossy-paged double spread ultrasound screengrab is of a fetus within a nine-year-old Nicaraguan mother. The male fetus is her father’s child, the result of his repeated incest begun when she was seven years old. Eight other countries do not consider rape to be a legitimate reason to abort. Five nations prohibit abortion under any circumstance.
Within this macabre reality, Abril, leaves no layer untouched or hidden. She introduces us to activists, we read transcripts of threatening calls made by anti-abortion terrorists to abortion clinicians, and we see the portraits of practitioners who have been jailed or murdered for providing legal health services. We learn of the US advocacy group All Girls Allowed. And we are grateful that for a decade, the Dutch advocacy group, Women on Waves, provides global site-specific resources and online education, answering over 10,000 emails a month in 17 languages. Abril’s brave visual narrative is a necessary exhumation.
—J. Sybylla Smith
An Autobiography of Miss Wish
By Nina Berman
Kehrer Verlag 2018
Nina Berman’s An Autobiography of Miss Wish is an extraordinary documentary book that brings forth the hard truths of sex trafficking, violence against women, drug addiction and incarceration. This is a collaborative work with Kimberly Stevens, formerly Cathy, “Miss Wish,” whose story is told here.
Nina firmly believes that in order to go deep into a project like this one, covering addiction and these difficult issues, it is essential to have it be collaborative. Otherwise the potential for missteps, exploitation and miscommunication around expectations can be harmful and explosive. The fact that Kim has been writing all of her life and making art around her story makes this a unique collaboration between subject and photographer.
In 1990, Nina went to London where she met Kim (then Cathy) who, along with other street kids and castaways, was hustling to get by. Nina photographed for two weeks learning bits and pieces of Cathy’s story. Upon leaving she gave Cathy her phone number and address and promised to keep in touch. Cathy sent Nina her diary and over time Nina amassed an archive of Cathy’s psychiatric reports, identification cards, drawings, letters and writings. Six months after they met, Cathy won a TV music contest and with the prize money visited Nina in New York City. This is where their long-term relationship began.
Cathy came back to New York City in 1993 fearing for her life if she returned to London. From that time on Nina hardly photographed but Cathy became a friend and part of Nina’s family. In 2007, Cathy was in ill health due to HIV and drug use and was incarcerated in Rikers Island prison. It was after this that Nina starting photographing again with no purpose other than to record Cathy’s life.
All the while Cathy was writing her own book and asked Nina if she could get it published. Nina wasn’t sure but began to consider how they could craft this together. In 2014, during a two-week residency at Blue Mountain Center for artists working on stories of sexual violence and human trafficking (that she was also doing), she went through her archive and worked out some ideas for this book.
Nina often asked Cathy if she was sure she wanted to do this, and asked her to write down her reasons for wanting this published. Part of the letter she wrote is in the book explaining her reasons. For Nina, this was more important than any legal consent form.
As documentary makers we need to talk to the people we are working with and openly lay out what it is we are trying to do. With our involvement, sometimes the protagonist might think they can find some notoriety, get on TV, get rich or get a new life. As Nina made clear, Cathy had none of these wishes. She knew the book wouldn’t make her life perfect.
Nina was clear that Cathy/Kim could have her say over what she did and didn’t want to reveal. And Nina was very protective and insisted that certain names and references be blacked out, that some of Kim’s secrets should be kept private. She did not want to risk Kim’s safety. The only thing Kim was adamant about was a photo of her by the Cathedral of St John on 110th Street in Manhattan. She hated it and wanted it out. As Nina pointed out, It must have reminded her of something really bad.
This situation is unique on many levels. If Nina gets paid, Kim gets half. Kim never expected or asked for this but she is an artist and Nina believes she should have something for her part in this.
Kim’s drawings and writing, their text messages and letters, and Nina’s photographs, bring depth and poignancy to the harrowing inhumane details of this story. On pages 212-213 there is a drawing by Kim of a life she dreams of — a bedroom of her own with a dog, above that is a photograph by Nina of an amulet of an angel with Kim’s hand, blurred, gesturing. This kind of subtle photography is what brings humanity to Kim and her story.
There are many difficult scenes depicted in Kim’s drawings and many moving photographs by Nina as well. But she did not want to photograph the obvious— Kim smoking crack, exchanging sex for drugs, etc. As Nina points out,
“Kim is pictured in some ways very straight forward. She’s looking fragile, in crisis, sick. She’s messed up, lying in the street. How can you see the depth of that person and lead the viewer into the story with these images?”
What Kim is searching for is to be seen as a human being. What Nina wants the viewer to come away with is that this is a person who has been looking for love and support all her life, who was looking for adults to protect her. What does it mean to be lonely and to seek out love? One of the takeaways she is hopeful for is that people will now look at a person on the street and not judge but empathize.
At the end of the book Kim writes, “My eyes are streetwise and if you look closely, you will see the pain in my eyes. My eyes are the way into my memories of fear and everything I’ve seen, and somewhere in there is the real me.”
MEXICO: Between Life and Death
By Harvey Stein
Kehrer Verlag, 2018
It is a pleasure to view Harvey Stein’s new photography book, Mexico: Between Life and Death. This striking publication offers Stein’s street photographer aesthetic combined within a documentary framework. He has selected one hundred and fifty-seven pictures from fourteen trips between 1993 and 2010.
In New York, Stein has had a forty-plus year career as a photographer of life on the street. He is also well known for his teaching, most recently at the International Center of Photography. Originally influenced by the 1967 New Documents show at the Museum of Modern Art, he and other dedicated educators have helped mythologize the American street as an open studio for making photographic art. In Mexico: Between Life and Death, Stein has exemplified the legendary lure of the street by directing his camera at Mexico’s most dramatic festivals.
Stein is a sophisticated picture maker. By photographing in black and white, he neutralizes the friction of contrasting colors. Documenting the world in shades of gray pushes his pictures toward a traditional street shooter aesthetic. In addition, he often under-exposes the white-hot sun to emphasize gorgeous skin tones and telling details outlined in shadow. He is adept at sorting his crowded frames into dark and light fragments. In his pictures, facial expressions pop out of the darkness and dramatic body language can hide in the shadows. Stein’s skilled vision expresses the mystery of Mexico.
These duotone images become a visual text on how to transform what is in front of the lens into a successful picture. A possible distraction in the foreground can be the subject, the frame, or lead the eye into a composition. He keeps his camera close to the action; it seems to parade along with the Mexican people he is picturing. Stein brings his inclusive New York vision to portray Mexico in all its kinetic magnificence.
N.O.K: Next of Kin
By Inbal Abergil
Essays by Carol Becker, Maurice Emerson Decaul, Fred Ritchin and Stephen Mayes
Two Volumes, 111 pp. each/$45.00
The first indication that this is not a typical photography book is the format. N.O.K.: Next of Kin, by Inbal Abergil, is printed as two separate volumes held together with elastic cord. Part I contains only photographic plates. Part II, only text.
The text is a series of faithfully transcribed personal stories—of mothers, fathers, wives, sisters, brothers, and other family members of men and women who were killed in action, from Iwo Jima to Iraq. Abergil interviewed 18 Gold Star families across the US for this project. Their unscripted, candid reflections touch on the moment they learned their loved one had died, their struggles with loss, and their powerful memories.
This choice of format—the stories collected in their own volume rather than appearing in a single volume with the photographs—gives them the intended weight. The photographs complement these personal stories—they don’t overpower them. Printed at a small scale (some only four inches wide), the photographs suggest faithful documentation, intentionally devoid of any interpretation by the artist.
The photographs are of the things the soldiers left behind, carefully preserved, cherished by their families.
Some of the possessions photographed are markers of a career spent in the military—newspaper articles, uniforms, boots, medals. But these objects alone don’t tell the story of a life. As one woman interviewed by Abergil—the sister of a fallen soldier—notes: “My dad says […]when he looks up at his medals, he starts thinking ‘What did you become to me? Pure medals?[,,,] I told you to not try to be a hero because the heroes end up in the cemetery.”
There are more images of mundane, day-to-day possessions, markers of a full life: a handmade ornament on a Christmas tree, a cigar, a harmonica, an album of baseball cards, a box of old toy cars.
Most of the photographs are extremely close-up—the numbers on a football jersey, a pearl necklace, and a watch completely fill the frame. This treatment gives a sense of the preciousness of the object, how it is being held in memory, all that it now represents.
There are a handful of wide-format images—a corner of a bedroom with a backpack on the floor and a snowboard in the corner, a living room that has been converted into an altar to a lost son, a view of a bedroom with a photograph on the bedside table. These wider views explore loss in a different way, and perhaps in a way that is more accessible to the viewer. In a room where a soldier’s possessions are still laid out as he or she might have left them, death seems even more incongruous. A room in which a family has carefully laid out cherished objects makes clear the loss they live with every day.
But all the photographs convey one coherent message: that the possessions of a loved one—the things they touched, wore, played with, wrote, loved—take on profound meaning in their absence. Abergil’s photographs, in partnership with the honest and moving personal testimonies, tell a story of loss, the struggle to make sense of it, and the attempt to find one’s way in its wake.
—Jenna Mulhall Brereton
by João Pina
46,750 is the number of homicides in Rio de Janeiro between 2007 when Rio won the FIFA World Cup bid and 2016 when it hosted the World Cup games. The extraordinary personal photographs in João Pina’s book, 46750, belie the title. These photographs are not statistics, rather they are real people living, working, and dying in real favelas as this city and nation struggle with poverty, drugs, gangs, and preparing for a signature international event—World Cup soccer.
To put this in perspective, Rio does not list on the top 50 homicide rates of cities in the world. The homicide rate in Brazil is far below that of El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, South Africa, and the US Virgin Islands. But at an average of 4,600 homicides per year, this is still more than ten times the number of homicides in New York City—a city with a much larger population.
No matter. 46,750 is a sobering statistic. Approximately 25% are the result of police action and the remainder from gang and other criminal action. 46,750 people with loved ones. 46,750 people who through circumstances not of their own making, live in a city that pits law enforcement against residents living in poverty and find themselves involved with, forced into, or seeking out gangs for protection, identity, and financial support. Police officers who seek out decent paying jobs often end up being the target of gangs in a city they are trying to keep safe.
This is the background for the gritty, bold, beautifully composed, and human-centered black and white photographs that make up this masterly designed and produced book by Pina. His photographs walk us through a city alive with soccer, samba, funk, prisons, gangs, police raids, corpses, and lovers, all watched over by the statue of Christ the Redeemer on a 2,300 foot peak overlooking the city. The product of Pina’s work though only begins with the photos. The book itself is a brilliantly designed stage. Interspersing the pages of photos are black uncoated paper leaves with numbers from 1 through 46,750 printed in white opaque ink. The only color in the book is the deep red cover and a handful of narrow pages interspersed throughout the book and printed with the same red ink on one side and overprinted with poignant poems by Vivian Salles. The most gruesome photos are embedded in foldouts forcing the reader to open up a gatefold to reveal the horror—details of one of the 46,750 homicides.
The art of making a black and white documentary photo is painstaking, and Pina makes it look obvious and easy. On page 8-9 is one of the signature images in the book. According to the caption, “Policemen from the DRAE (Civilian Police Division Against Weapons and Explosives) carry the body of a young man, while two children coming back from school look at the scene….” But this is not only a news photo. The composition, the gestures, the facial expressions, the tonality, the cropping, make this a classic work of composition worthy of any Renaissance painting.
Today when photographers and publishers are seeking ways to expand on the experience and meaning of a traditional two-dimensional photograph, they can look to how Pina has done this brilliantly with 46750.
UNDOCUMENTED:Immigration and the Militarization of the U.S.-Mexican Border
by John Moore
powerHouse Books/Getty Images, 2018
Everyone has seen the iconic picture. The image of a young Honduran girl crying at the border in Texas as she and her mother were searched by US border agents. Featured on the cover of Time Magazine, it has become a symbol of Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies and represents the thousands of children who were separated from their parents this summer. As I write this review, nearly 500 migrant children remain in detention separated from their families. But there is much more than this one image to John Moore’s work. Undocumented is an extraordinary volume of photographs taken over ten years of documenting the immigration crisis along the entire length of the border. It is unflinching, honest and leaves no stone unturned. And every American should read it.
The book is structured as a six-part story beginning with the origins of flight from impoverished and violent Central American neighborhoods; moving on to the decision to embark on the perilous journey north through harsh conditions; the militarized border and the agents who monitor it; life in detention with its stark, chain-link enclosures and cement floors; and finally, the deportation back. In this unending journey of misery, Moore is an optimist, ending with the hopeful pageantry of the naturalization ceremonies for the newest Americans.
While Moore’s images don’t hold back from showing brutal violence, he manages to find beauty in the sunset over Zone 18, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City, or in his gorgeous night shots—illuminated by the ambient light of flashlights, klieg lights, or the moon.
Two-page color spreads are shot from the point of view of the migrants, documenting what they see as they push through thick forests or perilously ride atop moving freight trains to reach the border. Other spreads show the perspective of US agents enforcing laws, high atop the border in their surveillance helicopters and drones. The center of the book features full bleed color spreads without captions showing the rugged beauty of this cruel and thankless terrain—aerial views of the Rio Grande, the border fence snaking through scrublands and canyons, and the Imperial Sand Dunes-—hiding the stark choices that lurk below. From the perspective of the US border control, Moore shows the exasperation on the migrants’ faces as agents close in on them at night.
Moore doesn’t take sides in this book. He includes trifolds of portraits “to put a human face on a complex story,” silhouetted against black backgrounds of immigrants from Central America, gang members whose faces are covered by handkerchiefs, border patrol agents, inmates, Dreamers, protesters, and finally, new Americans. He shows how undocumented immigrants live ordinary lives in tidy houses, share meals, and work the farm fields in back-breaking jobs. Their kids, like all kids, play on trampolines.
Moore “dealt all the players the measure of respect they deserve” in this continuing tragic narrative. The book is largely apolitical except for the jarring photo of the lush green golf course on the border, showing the stark economic disparities while giving a nod to President Trump’s favorite pastime.
John Moore reminds us that we must look beyond the headlines and the statistics. We all have a migration story somewhere in our family history. In many ways, their story is ours.
Taha Ahmad is a documentary photographer based in Delhi, India. He believes photography has a strong influence in creating and developing discourse for the future. Currently, he is covering issues related to his community, people and his memories. He is the recipient of The Documentary Project Fund/Award 2018, among others.
Scott Brennan is a photographer living in Mexico since 2010. His principal interests are in documenting the rise of social movements and the processes of territory defense in rural and indigenous regions of Latin America. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Time Magazine, BBC and has been used by Amnesty International.
Michele Cirillo is a photographer based in Rome, Italy who is interested in using photography to tell stories focusing on human rights issues, identity and health from around the world and how the geopolitical changes of recent years relate to minorities, conflicts and marginality.
Aaron Vincent Elkaim is a documentary photographer currently based in Toronto, Canada. He focuses on narratives where traditional culture and environmental degradation collide. Since 2011, he has committed himself to exploring colonialist narratives where people still connected to the natural world are being impacted by industrial development. Aaron addresses the need to protect the natural world by revealing our profound connection to it. Aaron is the winner of SDN’s Call for Entries on Documentary in the Era of Post-Truth.
Javier Fergo is a freelance photographer/photojournalist and multimedia storyteller based in Spain. He contributes to national newspapers such as El País, El Mundo, ABC, Público and internationally to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and others.
Philippe Geslin is an ethnologist who studied at the Sorbonne and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has contributed to the development of anthropotechnology through numerous fields of research and intervention in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Greenland.
Aude Osnowycz graduated with a master’s degree in geopolitics and began her photojournalism career in 2011 when she spent four years documenting the impacts of the Arab Spring in the Maghreb and Middle East countries for various French and international magazines. She is currently working on a long-term project about Russian borders, using an artistic and personal approach, questioning the Slavic soul and her family history.
Barbara Ayotte has served as a senior strategic communications strategist, writer and activist for leading global health, human rights and media nonprofit organizations, including the Nobel Peace Prize- winning Physicians for Human Rights and International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Barbara is SDN’s Communications Director and is Editor of ZEKE magazine.
Caterina Clerici is an Italian journalist and photojournalist for American and Italian online publications, mainly covering news, social and political issues at a national and international level and diaspora communities in the US.
Enrique Gili is a freelance writer covering environmental issues in Southern California and beyond. His focus is the intersection between nature, science and technology with a twist of food politics.
Lori Grinker is an award-winning photographer, artist, educator and filmmaker. Her projects revolve around the themes of history, culture and identity. She is the author of Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict, and The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women. Her third book, Mike Tyson, will be published by Powerhouse Books. She is an adjunct professor of photography at New York University’s Arthur L Carter Graduate Journalism program, on the faculty of the ICP, and teaches workshops around the world.
Joseph Lim is a Film and Media Major student at Tufts University. He currently works for the Tufts Daily as an editorialist and a former investigative journalist covering the off-campus housing crisis. He is a blogger and poet, passionate in writing profile stories of the people he meets.
Tori Marlan is an award-winning independent journalist whose stories expose abuses of power, illuminate subcultures, and profile fascinating but unheralded people. Her work has been published by many outlets, including Pacific Standard, The Atavist Magazine, BuzzFeed News, the Texas Observer, The Marshall Project, and The Walrus Magazine, among others. She was previously a staff writer for the Chicago Reader.
Jenna Mulhall-Brereton is both a photographer and a professional in the philanthropy sector—two passions that are fueled by her travels throughout the world.
Fred Ritchin began writing on photography and digital imaging in 1984 for the New York Times Magazine. Since then he has authored three books on the subject: In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (1990), After Photography (2008), and Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (2013), the latter exploring media strategies for social change. He is Dean Emeritus of the International Center of Photography.
Glenn Ruga is the Executive Editor of ZEKE magazine and founder and director of the Social Documentary Network (SDN). From 2010-2013, he was the Executive Director of the Photographic Resource Center. From 1995-2007 he was the Director, and then President, of the Center for Balkan Development. Ruga is also the owner and creative director of Visual Communications, a graphic design firm located in Concord, MA.
J. Sybylla Smith is an independent curator with more than 25 solo or group exhibitions featuring over 80 international photographers exhibited in the US, Mexico, and South America. An adjunct professor, guest lecturer, and thesis advisor, Sybylla has worked with the School of Visual Arts, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Wellesley College, and Harvard University.
Frank Ward is a professor of visual art at Holyoke Community College, Holyoke, MA. In 2012, he gave workshops in Central Asia as a Cultural Envoy for the US Department of State. In 2011, he was awarded an Artist Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for his photography in the former Soviet Union. He has received numerous awards for his work in the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslavia, Tibet, India, and Puerto Rico. He is represented by Photo Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.
Of the hundreds of exhibits submitted to SDN each year, these four stand out as exemplary and deserving of further attention.
SDN is fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of supportive
professional collaborators and Advisory Committee members who volunteer their skills and time to SDN and ZEKE magazine. Thank you!
Glenn Ruga, Concord, MA
SDN Founder and Director,
Executive Editor, ZEKE magazine
Glenn Ruga is a graphic designer, photographer, curator, editor, and a life-long human rights activist. In 2008, Glenn founded the Social Documentary Network (SDN) which, to date, has presented more than 2,000 documentary photography exhibits from all parts of the world on its website. In February 2010, Glenn curated SDN’s first exhibition at powerHouse Arena in New York on the global recession and has continued to curate exhibitions for SDN in New York and other locations. From 2010–2013, Glenn was the Executive Director of the Photographic Resource Center (PRC) at Boston University, and in 2012 he was a curator of the New York Photo Festival. In 2015, he founded ZEKE: The Magazine of Global Documentary, which is now publishing its seventh issue. Glenn has a B.A. in Social Theory from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and a MFA in Graphic and Advertising Design from Syracuse University.
Barbara Ayotte, Concord, MA
SDN Communications Director
ZEKE magazine editor
Barbara Ayotte is a communications and media strategist for leading nonprofit organizations and a writer, editor and life-long human rights activist. She was the Senior Director of Strategic Communications for Management Sciences for Health, an international non-profit development organization working on global health issues in over 30 countries. Prior to that, Barbara was Director of Communications for Physicians for Human Rights and served as Communications Coordinator for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Barbara has a B.A. in English from Boston College.
Caterina Clerici, New York, NY
SDN Special Issue Editor
Caterina Clerici is an Italian journalist and photojournalist from Milan, Italy. She graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2012. Prior to moving to New York, she was living in London and studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies, where she earned a B.A. in Politics and Development Studies. Caterina works as an independent journalist and photojournalist for American and Italian online publications, mainly covering news, social and political issues at a national and international level and diaspora communities in the US. She also worked as a teaching associate for the Covering Religion class of 2013 at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and as a teaching assistant at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her long-term print and photo documentary work includes projects on “Little Liberia,” the Liberian refugee community in Staten Island, NY, homelessness in Milan, Italy, and life in the last mental asylums in Italy. She is also currently working on a video documentary on the Rockaway community in Queens, NY, after it was hit by Superstorm Sandy.
Lori Grinker, New York, NY
For over two decades, photographer and filmmaker Lori Grinker has traced stories of trauma and loss in her work, exploring themes of memory, identity, and home in the lives of her subjects, including Iraqi refugees and veterans from violent conflicts across the world. Author of Afterwar; Veterans from a World in Conflict; The Invisible Thread; Mike Tyson; and Six Days From Forty (in progress), a multimedia memoir exploring the history of AIDS, gay rights, and sexual identity. Internationally published and exhibited, her work is represented by the Nailya Alexander Gallery in NYC, and is in many private and public collections including, ICP, NYC; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Modern Art. Awards include a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant; W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fellowship; Ernst Hass Grant; Open Society Community Engagement Grant; Hasselblad Foundation Grant; Center Project Grant, and the World Press Foundation. She is an Ochberg Fellow of the Dart Center on Journalism and Trauma, and a senior member of Contact Press Images.
Catherine Karnow, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco-based National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow has covered Australian Aborigines; Bombay film stars; Greenwich, Connecticut high society; and an Albanian farm family. In 1994, she was the only non-Vietnamese photojournalist to accompany General Giap on his historic return to the Vietnam highlands from which he plotted the battle of Dien Bien Phu. She also gained unprecedented access to Prince Charles for her 2006 National Geographic feature, “Not Your Typical Radical.”
Catherine has been photographing in Vietnam for over 26 years. Her retrospective, Vietnam: 25 Years Documenting a Changing Country opened at the Art Vietnam gallery in Hanoi in April 2015, and Catherine was profiled in a PBS documentary about art in Vietnam in May 2015. Her work appears in National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, French & German GEO and other international publications.
Catherine teaches the National Geographic Weekend Workshops in San Francisco. She also gives private workshops and teaching seminars all over the world, for private, corporate, and editorial clients, as well as her own Signature Photo Workshops.
Ed Kashi, Montclair, NJ
Ed Kashi is a photojournalist and filmmaker dedicated to documenting the social and political issues that define our times. In addition to photography and filmmaking, Kashi is an educator and leading voice in photojournalism, documentary photography and visual storytelling. He has received numerous awards, including Pictures of the Year International Multimedia Photographer of the Year 2015, UNICEF’s Photo of the Year 2010, a Prix Pictet 2010 Commission, and honors from World Press Photo, Communication Arts, and American Photography. Ed’s images have been published and exhibited worldwide and his personal projects and editorial assignments, including 17 feature stories for National Geographic magazine, have been published in eight monographs. In 2002, with his wife, filmmaker Julie Winokur, they founded Talking Eyes Media, a non-profit production company dedicated to social and geopolitical issues. In 2014, they began an innovative project with Rutgers University-Newark called Newest Americans, a storytelling project focused on the issue of immigration, and in 2017 received a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities grant to continue the project for two more years.
Molly Roberts, Washington, DC
Molly Roberts is a photography editor, curator, and photographer; she recently joined National Geographic magazine as a Senior Photography Editor after 15 years as Chief Photography Editor at Smithsonian Magazine. With 25 years experience in the magazine publishing world, she is responsible for the content and appearance of many magazines, books, web sites and apps. Molly is an advocate for powerful visual storytelling and human rights. and recently created the non-profit HumanEyesUSA to present documentary photography projects in public spaces and to use powerful imagery to help illuminate complex issues facing America. Also committed to developing diverse voices in the media, she is the acting director of the DC-based, Women Photojournalists of Washington.
Reza, Paris, France
Philanthropist, idealist, humanist, architect and extraordinary photographer, Reza is no stranger to conflict and has been bringing winning images to audiences around the world for the last 30 years.
As a photojournalist for National Geographic since 1991, Reza has photographed conflicts, revolutions, and human catastrophes but also the beauty of humanity. His eyewitness testimony has been distributed through the international media (National Geographic, Time Magazine, Stern, Newsweek, El Pais, Paris-Match, Géo), but also in his books, exhibitions, and documentaries.
As a humanist, from 1983 Reza initiated photographic-training programs around the world in refugee camps in war-torn countries to European suburbs. In 2001 he found Aina World, an NGO committed to children’s education and the training of women in communication and information.
After his Memories of Exile exhibition at the Carrousel du Louvre, he shared his humanitarian vision through various exhibitions such as Crossing Destinies in Paris, One World, One Tribe exhibition in Bahrain, Washington, D.C. and in Paris. and War + Peace, a major retrospective of his work presented at the Caen Memorial Museum.
Author of 25 books, winner of the World Press Photo award, Lucie Award, and the Infinity Award by the ICP, he was honored with the Medal of Chevalier of the National Order of Merit, the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism, and granted the title Doctor Honoris Causa by the American University of Paris. He is member of the Advisory Board of the National Geographic All Roads Film Project, Fellow of National Geographic, Senior Fellow of the Ashoka Foundation, and member of the executive committee of the HSBC Bank’s Foundation.
Jeffrey D. Smith, New York, NY
Jeffrey Smith received a B.A. in Journalism from New York University and a M.S. in Magazine Reporting and Writing from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. After serving as a picture editor at Woodfin Camp and Associates in New York City syndicating the work of Newsweek staff photographers, he joined Contact Press Images in 1986 as director of sales, becoming its executive director a few years later. He has directed the photographic coverage operations of the agency for more than two decades. He routinely negotiates complex editorial and commercial agreements and maintains a strong background in intellectual property and copyright law. Jeffrey has served on photographic juries at the ICP and Overseas Press Club of America. In addition to serving as an expert witness at trial in the valuation of archives, he has written on electronic rights for the Columbia-VLA Journal of Law & The Arts. He lives in New York City with his wife Sandra and children, Leanna and Ethan.
Jamey Stillings, Santa Fe, NM
Jamey Stillings’ career spans documentary, fine art, and commercial projects. He holds a BA in Art from Willamette University, an MFA in Photography from RIT, and has a diverse range of international commission clients. Stillings’ work is in the collections of the Library of Congress; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Nevada Museum of Art. The focus of his work for the past several years has been on renewable energy development. Beginning in 2010, with a flight over the future site of Ivanpah Solar in the Mojave Desert of California, the finished project, The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar, is now a book and traveling exhibition.
The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar was the starting point for Changing Perspectives, Stillings’ multi-year aerial and ground-based photography project documenting important renewable energy development around the world.
Stillings’ latest book, The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar, was published by Steidl in 2015. The Bridge at Hoover Dam, was published by Nazraeli Press in 2011. Jamey Stillings is represented by photo-eye Gallery and Etherton Gallery.
Steve Walker, Danbury, CT
Steve Walker is a consultant and educator with a unique blend of experience and skills in education, non-profit management, political advocacy, and government service. As a consultant, Walker focuses on helping non-profits become more effective and efficient in achieving their goals and on helping school districts and educators better prepare their students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. A former US diplomat who resigned from the State Department in 1993 to protest Clinton Administration policies toward Bosnia, from 1993-1998 Walker helped lead a successful campaign to raise awareness of the genocide in Bosnia and coordinate Congressional, grassroots, and other efforts to stop the genocide. He served as Director of the American Committee to Save Bosnia, the Action Council for Peace in the Balkans, the Balkan Institute and, for over a decade, on the Board of Directors of the Center for Balkan Development. He also teaches history, economics, and foreign policy in New York. He has appeared on numerous national and international television and radio programs, including: Crossfire, Larry King Live, Nightline, The NewsHour, and CBS This Morning. He has published in numerous publications, including: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe.
Frank Ward, Williamsburg, MA
Frank Ward is a professor of art at Holyoke Community College (HCC). In 2016-17, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Mass Humanities and HCC sponsored him to photograph and teach workshops in Holyoke, Massachusetts. In 2012, he served as a Cultural Envoy for the US Department of State in Central Asia. In 2011, he was awarded an Artist Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for his photography in the former Soviet Union. Ward has made many trips to the former Yugoslavia under the auspices of Friends of Bosnia and the Center for Balkan Development. The Polaroid Foundation and ViewCamera Magazine have awarded his work in Tibet and the Rotary Foundation has funded his photography in India. He has also received a National Endowment for the Arts/ New England Foundation for the Arts grant. Ward is in the collections of several museums, exhibits internationally and holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Bard College. Ward is represented by photo-eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM and blogs at fmward.com.
Amy Yenkin, New York, NY
Amy Yenkin is an independent producer and editor. She is a recognized expert in the field of social issue documentary photography, with an emphasis on the use of arts for social change, philanthropy, non-profit management, and strategic planning.
Amy is a former director at the Open Society Foundations (OSF), based in New York City. She joined OSF in 1994 as the deputy director of scholarships, and later held the positions of associate director of the Open Media Research Institute in Prague, associate director of US Programs, director of the Moving Walls exhibition, and director of the Documentary Photography Project (DPP), a program she founded and launched in 2004. During her tenure at OSF until she left in 2016, DPP exhibited and funded more than 300 photographers documenting human rights and social issues globally.
Amy is also a member of the Activist Council of Planned Parenthood of New York City, a trustee at the Jewish Education Project, and an advisor to documentary photography funders and organizations. She is a recent past trustee and Vice Chair of the Rodeph Sholom School of New York City and previously served on the board of Media Impact Funders.
ZEKE is published by Social Documentary Network (SDN), an organization promoting visual storytelling about global themes. Started as a website in 2008, today SDN works with thousands of photographers around the world to tell important stories through the visual medium of photography and multimedia. Since 2008, SDN has featured more than 3,000 exhibits on its website and has had gallery exhibitions in major cities around the world. All the work featured in ZEKE first appeared on the SDN website, www.socialdocumentary.net.
Fall 2018 Vol. 4/No. 2
Executive Editor: Glenn Ruga
Guest Editor: J. Sybylla Smith
Editor: Barbara Ayotte
Social Documentary Network
Founder & Director: Glenn Ruga
Communications Director: Barbara Ayotte
Special Issue Editor: Caterina Clerici
Intern: Joseph Lim
SDN Advisory Committee
Lori Grinker, New York, NY
Independent Photographer and Educator
Catherine Karnow, San Francisco, CA
Independent Photographer and Educator
Ed Kashi, Montclair, NJ
Member of VII photo agency
Photographer, Filmmaker, Educator
Reza, Paris, France
Photographer and Humanist
Molly Roberts, Washington, DC
Senior Photography Editor, National Geographic
Jeffrey D. Smith, New York NY
Director, Contact Press Images
Jamey Stillings, Sante Fe, NM
Steve Walker, Danbury, CT
Consultant and Educator
Frank Ward, Williamsburg, MA
Photographer and Educator
Amy Yenkin, New York, NY
Independent Producer and Editor
ZEKE is published twice a year by Social Documentary Network
Copyright © 2018
Social Documentary Network
Print ISSN 2381-1390
ZEKE does not accept unsolicited submissions. To be considered for publication in ZEKE, submit your work to the SDN website either as a standard exhibit or a submission to a Call for Entries. Contributing photographers can choose to pay a fee for their work to be exhibited on SDN for a year or they can choose a free trial. Free trials have the same opportunity to be published in ZEKE as paid exhibits.
Social Documentary Network
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Concord, MA 01742 USA
ZEKE magazine and SDN would like to thank the following donors to our Tenth Anniversary Campaign. Support from private individuals is essential for ZEKE and SDN to continue publishing. If you would like to support the campaign, please visit www.socialdocumentary.net/cms/support-us
Marietta Pathy Allen
Judy and Bob Ayotte
Martha Kongsgaard and Peter Goldman
Jamey Stillings Photography, Inc.
Robert I. Usdan and Amy Yenkin
Joan Lobis Brown
Connie Frisbee Houde
Mary Ellen Keough
Bob and Janet Walerstein Winston