Spot Light

SPOTLIGHT/Number 133, February 2014
Work submitted to SDN in January 2014

Dear SDN Readers: 


Susie Linfield, director of the cultural reporting and criticism program at New York University, wrote in an OpEd (Advertisements for Death) in the New York Times on January 27:


The documentary photographers of the early 20th century, and especially the early war photographers, believed that the revelation of violence and oppression would lead to saving action. Some even dreamed of a world without war and exploitation. I don't think they ever imagined that the camera would become a tool with which to proclaim and affirm, rather than fight against, the most hideous aspects of war and the most fearsome authoritarian regimes.


This was in response to a trove of 55,000 photographs smuggled out of Syria of emaciated, strangled and beaten corpses meticulously documented by the Syrian regime as a way of providing death certificates to the victims' families.


Linfield raises a challenge to the SDN community that cannot be ignored. We live in a post-modern age saturated with billions of photographic images. Our audiences have either become visually literate, visual skeptics, or blind to the realities beyond the latest Hollywood social media heartthrob. Meanwhile, we are  still out there making images like Robert Capa, and hoping for venues like Life magazine for our work. Our task is to keep these audiences in mind while we walk through this minefield of judgment. We can't always speak to all, but each picture, each story, and each action we take must also recognize the complexity of today's audience, the difficulties of today's market, and the stories of horror, joy, and wonder still to be told. While Linfield's message is insightful, at SDN we still believe in the power of images to tell important stories such as this month's featured photographer, Maryam Ashrafi, and her essay about Kurdish women fighters. 


In the 40+ years between Nick Ut's famous photograph from Vietnam of a napalm victim during the My Lai massacre to the infamous photographs by American GIs at Abu Ghraib, the world has changed dramatically. Currently, at the Brooklyn Museum is a stunning exhibition on war photography. Near the entrance is the actual My Lai photograph by Nick Ut wrapped around the metal drum of a primitive telephone transmitting device that he and a generation of war photographers used to transmit their images from the battlefields to the news rooms. At the time it was cutting-edge technology. After first developing the film and making a print, it would take Ut 20 minutes to transmit the image to Japan, where it would then be sent to New York and within 24 hours appear in major newspapers around the world. Astonishing but pales in comparison to a cell phone and Instagram.


These are our challenges today. At SDN, we want to be your partner in the solutions.


Glenn Ruga
Founder and Director 

February 2014 Featured Photographer of the Month       


Maryam Ashrafi  
Kurdish Women Fighters

Maryam Ashrafi
Photograph by Maryam Ashrafi. Sulaymaniyah-2012: Inside the Iranian Communist party of Komala's camp in the Sulaymaniyah province, a group of men and women Peshmerga, who have recently finished their military training, are testing their guns.  

In the heart of the Middle East, a region plagued by religious fundamentalism and where women are almost invisible in political and social activities, a movement has taken place where women play a substantial role in both practices and decision-making processes within the military and in politics; it is a Kurdish Movement.

View exhibit >>

Maryam Ashrafi

Maryam Ashrafi 

Maryam Ashrafi is an Iranian-born photojournalist, living in Paris.  She received her BA in social documentary photography from the University of Wales Newport. Since graduating, she has focused on photographing global social and political issues, particularly concerning women.




Other Featured Exhibits Submitted to SDN in January 2014 


Curtain of Water >>
by Joe Guerriero/Cuba

 In 'Curtain of Water', photographer Joe Guerriero sets out to make sense of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. Through conversations with people from all walks of life, in and outside of Cuba, he tries to shed light on the political and human sides of this conflict.

Invisible Hands >>
by Saud A Faisal/Bangladesh

Most of the local, small industries heavily depended on underage laborers. They play a significant role in these industries and remains unnoticed. These invisible hands works for their families and the state is not able to provide a feasible environment for their education. Parents finds working in a factory ...

Boarding School >>
by Zahra Ostadzadeh/Iran

Rural girls from distant places come to study in boarding schools. They are only 12 years old when they come to school to finish high school here. Their greatest wish is to go to college. They are studying  constantly throughout the day, no TV, no phone, and they are not allowed outside...

Burning Democracy >>
by Suvra Kanti Das/Bangladesh

In the name of "Democracy", the death toll in political program-related violence has risen to more than 150 since the last couple of months in Bangladesh. On 28th November, supporters of a nationwide blockage torched a bus near Shahbag. 18 people were severely burned. A few of them died during treatment at Dhaka medical college ...

Z-one >>
by Sheila McLaughlin/United States

In this project, Z-one, I photograph those neighbors who live near me in the San Francisco Western Addition precinct, where I've lived for almost 21 years. Inspired by my own sense of isolation, I began approaching people on the street to ask to take their photographs in early 2013. It has ...

East Timor Dances Alone >>
by Albertina d'Urso/East Timor

According to the United Nation's Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, East Timor is ready for the withdrawal of hundreds of international peacekeepers stationed there. East Timor (officially titled the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste) a former Portuguese colony for three centuries, suffered...

Friday Prayer of Bishwa Ijtema-2014 >>
by Abdur Rahman/Bangladesh

The Bishwa Ijtema (or Bishsho Istema, Bengali: the World or Global Congregation or Meeting) is an annual Tablighi Jamaat Islamic movement congregation held at Tongi, Bangladesh by the River Turag. It is the 2nd largest Muslim congregation in the world after the Hajj. The event focuses on prayers an...

国庆节 National Holiday >>
by Katja Stuke/China

On the "National Day of the People's Republic of China" on October 1, 2011, I produced about six hours of video material of people on Tiananmen Square and four other areas in Beijing: financial districts and shopping streets. I selected 100 portraits which I photographed using the TV...

Liberia: Life after Civil Wars >>
by Keiko Hiromi/Liberia

Liberia has suffered from two consecutive civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003). During these civil wars, energy supply, water pipes, and infrastructures were damaged. Today, the majority of Liberians rely on biomass, wood, and charcoal for their daily energy needs. Only 0.6% of Monrovians have access...

Residents of Old Residual Palace >>
by Muhammad Hasan/Bangladesh

Birulia is a village situated at Savar upazila, Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was surprised in visiting Birulia. It is a small island near Dhaka but it is full of old architecture. People without shelter live there in a very risky situation. At any time it can result in an epidemic.

Salvador Medrano: In His Own Words >>
by Paul Giguere/United States

Salvador Medrano (1933-2013) led a storied musical life. Sal is one of the many musicians who ply their talent in the subways of the world. With the quick precision of a master guitarist, and a soft voice filled with passion and soul that he put into every song he played, Sal stood out from the crowd...

The Modern Faces of Iran>>
by Eelkje Colmjon/Iran

In Iran women are not allowed to show their body, but they don't have to hide their faces. For the modern Iranian women this means their face has to be perfect. Progressive women use a lot of cosmetics and, if they have money, visit a plastic surgeon to fix their noses. Even if you already have ...

Life in a Garbage Dump>>
by Daude Helal Fahim/Bangladesh

'Life in a Garbage Dump' is a photo story of those people who live and work with garbage. People here are collecting rubbish for resale. At the end of the day, they earn TK 100 to 200 (1 to 2 USD) . The Matuail Dump  is one of the three waste sites for Dhaka (Capital of Bangladesh) ...

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SDN News
Using the Power of Photography to Promote Global Awareness
Exhibition Reception 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

Panel Discussion:
Photography and Global Health
With Barbara Ayotte, Todd Shapera, and Mark Tushman
6:30 - 7:30 pm
Immediately preceding exhibition reception

Exhibition Reception:
7:30 - 9:00 pm

More information >>

Exhibition Sponsors:

Digital Silver Imaging

Crowd Funding Campaigns 
Once upon a time photographers could expect the media to fund their investigative documentary work. The media was flush with cash from advertising and it was a fair trade--to support a photographer's day rate and travel expenses to spend a week or longer investigating important issues of interest to an audience hungry for information. The world is different today and one very effective form of funding important work is through micro-donations in crowd funding campaigns. Rather than a check for $10,000 from Time magazine, today's photographers rely on hundreds of people making smaller donations. And it works!

Here are two important projects that deserve your support:
Ed Kashi Photography and Video Project on Fatal Chronic Kidney Disease among Nicaragua's Sugarcane Workers


Vlad Sokhim Crying Meri: A Creative Response by Vlad Sokhin to Endemic Violence Against Women in Papua New Guinea.

Reza Reza shows the world - with his first digital book - the importance of the dreams of warriors for peace in Afghanistan

The Fence 2014 Now Open for Submission 
The Fence
Following its successful expansion from New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park to Boston's Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in 2013, THE FENCE continues its mission of providing unprecedented visibility and opportunities for photographers by expanding further to include a third location in Atlanta for 2014!

More information >> 

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.