Spot Light

SPOTLIGHT/Number 132, January 2014
Work submitted to SDN in December 2013

Dear SDN Readers: 


Happy New Year! No doubt that 2014 will present the global photography community with many interesting themes to explore over the next 12 months, and no doubt some of these themes are not even in our imagination yet. But if we can imagine for a minute, perhaps we will see a photograph of Israelis and Palestinians building a non-denominational school in the West Bank two weeks after a final peace settlement has been agreed to in Jerusalem. Or maybe the convening of a Committee on National Reconciliation in Damascus following Assad's asylum in Russia on the Black Sea. If 2013 is any guide though, it is more likely that the photography community will have their hands full with the consequences of war rather than peace. Or just the simple facts of life the world over that produce some of the most stunning images and since 1839 has been the mainstay for most photography. In this issue of Spotlight, we present all these themes as usual, from Gwenn Dubourthoumieu's stunning portraits of Turkana Warriors in Kenya to Tira Khan's warm and sensitive photographs of young girls in suburban Massachusetts.


This month's Featured Photographer is Ara Oshagan for his exhibit, A Poor Imitation of Death. After spending many years documenting survivors of the Armenian Genocide and exploring his roots in Nagorno-Karabach, Armenia (resulting in Fatherland published by powerHouse, 2010), Oshagan has turned his attention to his US home, Los Angeles, and particularly youth in the California prison system, many with long sentences for minor crimes. In this exhibit, Oshagan combines stunning black and white images of young incarcerated men and women with photographs of their hand-written notes, poems, and letters, resulting in this powerful essay on young men and women lost to the bureaucracy of a society that does not have an effective solution to the problems of inner city minorities other than lock and key.


Glenn Ruga
Founder and Director 

January 2014 Featured Photographer of the Month       


Ara Oshagan  
A Poor Imitation of Death
United States

Ara Oshagan
Photograph by Ara Oshagan. Peter, 16 years old, Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall.   

Why did first-time offender, 18 year-old Duc, an artist and poet, get a life sentence when he did not pull the trigger in a crime where no one was even hurt? And why did Peter, a 17 year-old piano prodigy and private school student, get 12 years in adult prison for breaking and entering? Also his first offense. Why is the justice system so ruthless on these kids who have so much potential? Why are these kids being discarded from society rather than lead back into it. More>>

View exhibit >>

Ara Oshagan

Ara Oshagan


Since 1995, Ara Oshagan has been photographing and recording the oral histories of survivors of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This work has been published in the LA Sunday Magazine, exhibited at the Downey Museum of Art, and was featured in an NPR Morning Edition story. This work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia. For over eight years, Ara photographed extensively in Nagorno-Karabagh, Armenia, for Father Land, a book project with his father, well-known author, Vahe Oshagan. Featured in Photo District News, the book was published in 2010 by powerHouse books in NY. Father Land  was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery in 2010 and at the powerHouse Arena Gallery in NY. Ara received a California Council on the Humanities Major Grant in 2001 to photograph the Armenian experience of Los Angeles. This work, Traces of Identity, was exhibited at the LA Municipal Art Gallery in 2004 and throughout 2005 at the Downey Museum of Art. The exhibit was reviewed in Art Papers and and featured in the LA Times, LA Weekly and LA Magazine's "Top 10 Things to do in LA" in 2004.


His next book project is A Poor Imitation of Death, a collaborative portrait of youth in the California prison system. This work grew out of the Leslie Neale's documentary film Juvies. In 2012, Ara was invited to speak at the TEDx Yerevan event, presenting a talk on The Documentary Image as Identity. That same year, he joined a group of 16 artists from across the globe for the Shushi Art Project in the town of Shushi in Nagorno-Karabagh. Ara's work is in the permanent collection of the SouthEast Museum of Photography in Florida, the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, Downey Museum of Art in Downey, California and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Yerevan, Armenia.


January 2014 Spotlight

Featured exhibits submitted to SDN in December 2013.

Turkana Warriors>>
by Gwenn Dubourthoumieu/Kenya

 The drought which is ravaging the arid and semi-arid areas of the Horn of Africa has imposed a great deal of pressure on the already scarce resources in the region, and exacerbated the persistent conflicts between the opposing pastoral tribes in northern Kenya, south of the Republic of...

Beauty In Hell>>
by Tony Corocher/Kenya

Beauty in Hell is a personal photographic project I have worked on over the last two years. The project aims to find and show the beauty in some of the most difficult, harsh and dangerous realities around the world. Here two of the largest slums in Nairobi - Mathare and Kibera. These slums are ...

After the Storm: Life and death in Tacloban>>
by Marielle van Uitert/Philippines

Philippines/Tacloban: Typhoon Haiyan leaves a trail of destruction and death in Tacloban. Still thousands of bodies are buried almost three weeks after the disaster. Special search teams recover bodies which are put in a mass grave in order to diminish the incredible smell of death.

Terre de vin>>
by Laurent Garcia/France

La viticulture est un secteur économique important dans ma ville. La période des vendanges n'est qu'une partie du travail effectué par les différents acteurs mais une partie importante et intense, celle où le raisin est récolté. C'est pou...

Migrant Apple Pickers>>
by Paul Grossmann/United States

 A series of photographs from New York State apple orchards. The workers who pick the apples come from Jamaica and Mexico. Each year they are selected for this work in their home countries and this job is desirable. The ones who are chosen have heavy hands with soft palms, so as to be less likely ...

Growing Up Girl: Together/Alone>>
by Tira Khan/United States

Family life can be chaotic; and of course every family can be a little crazy. Yet the moments I tend to photograph show the pause in this cacophony. Children and adolescents have a seriousness about them that we, as a culture, sometimes forget. These unposed photographs attempt to reveal the subjects ...

Education for street children>>
by Joseph O'Connor Lincoln/India

A study from 2010 showed that Delhi had approximately 50,000 children living on the street and with a population growth rate of 1.46% in India this number will continue to grow. For these children to have a chance at escaping poverty it is vitally important that they receive an education. The ...

Join the SDN community!
Upload your documentary exhibits and let thousands of photographers, editors, curators, gallerists, students, and the general public learn about you and your projects.

SDN offers $200 each month to the photographer who wins the Featured Photographer of the Month award.

Advisory Committee
Kristen Bernard
Lori Grinker
Steve Horn
Ed Kashi
John Sevigny
Frank Ward

Glenn Ruga
Founder & Director

Barbara Ayotte
Communications Director

Caterina Clerici
Special Issue Editor
Follow Us

Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter View our profile on LinkedIn View our photos on flickr
SDN News
Using the Power of Photography to Promote Global Awareness
Exhibition and Panel Discussion
February 27, 2014
6:30 - 9:00 pm
powerHouse Arena
37 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY

Carol Allen Storey
Photo by Carol Allen Storey from Fractured Lives: The Aftermath of Genocide.

SDN will be exhibiting the work of the five winners of its last Call for Entries on Global Awareness.
First Place Winners: Gwenn Dubourthoumieu & Mark Tuschman
SDN Documentary Prize: Fausto Podavini
Honorable Mentions: Carol Allen Storey and Suvra Kanti Das

Other upcoming exhibitions 

Stephanie Sinclair: Too Young to Wed
Bronx Documentary Center 

Stephanie Sinclair
Yemen, 2010 © Stephanie Sinclair/VII/

January 19 - March 16, 2014
Opening reception: Sat., January 18, 6:00-9:00 pm

The Bronx Documentary Center presents Too Young to Wed, an exhibition of photographs by Stephanie Sinclair and featuring short films by Jessica Dimmock and Stephanie Sinclair. Organized in conjunction with UNFPA and VII Photo.
More information >>

Jason Houston: Conservation Journal
Fovea Exhibitions
Beacon, NY

Jason Houston
Photo by Jason Houston. Former turtle poachers now use their skills to help national park scientists and NGOs catch, tag, and release sea turtles near Loreto, Baja del Sur, Mexico.

January 18 - April 6, 2014
Opening reception: Sat., January 18, 5:00 - 9:00 pm

Conservation Journal explores the complex dynamics at the intersections of nature and culture and how understanding people where they live can help inform how we do environmental conservation work around the world.
More information >>

SDN is now offering reviews of members' work 
SDN is launching a new educational program to help photographers progress in their careers as documentary photographers. Glenn Ruga, SDN Founder and Director, is now offering portfolio reviews of members' work.

SDN is seeking a few energetic volunteers to help with exhibition
Exhibition Installation: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, February 26
Panel discussion and reception: 5:30 - 9:30 pm, February 27
De-installation: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm, March 24
powerHouse Arena, 37 Main Street, Brooklyn

On February 26, we will be installing the work of the five photographers who were the winners of SDN's recent Call for Entries on Global Awareness. We will have approximately 40 photographs, text panels, and vinyl lettering to hang. Volunteers should have some experience in exhibition installation.

On February 27, we will have a panel discussion on Photography and NGOs starting at 6:30 and the reception for the exhibition beginning at 7:30. We need a few volunteers to help with food preparation, general event management, and clean up.

On March 24, we will be de-installing and packing the work.

Email Glenn Ruga at

About is a website for photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students to create and explore documentary exhibits investigating critical issues facing the world today. Recent exhibits have explored oil workers in the Niger River Delta, male sex workers in India, Central American immigrant women during their journey north, and Iraqi and Afghan refugees in Greece.Click here to view all of the exhibits.