SocialDocumentary.net

22 May 2013

SocialDocumentary.net is a website founded by Glenn Ruga focusing on documenting the human condition all over the world. The website features hundreds of online exhibits from different photographers who all wish to communicate thoughts and stories about the world we live in using the power of photography. Glenn shared with us some insights behind SocialDocumentary as well as some examples of the kind of photography featured on the site. 

Where did the idea for SocialDocumentary come from?
The idea came from a few different motivating factors:

1) I created 3 websites for documentary projects of my own. Each was hand-coded and created from scratch, and was very labor intensive. I thought there must be many photographers who did not have the web-design skills that I had yet had great work that they would want to turn into a website. SDN provided web-based tools to very easily create an online presence.

2) For many years I was a graphic designer doing various projects for nonprofit and human rights-based organizations. I would often need to look for documentary photos for design projects, but there was not one source on the internet to find this work. SDN would be that place.

Photographer: Tariq Tarey 
Exhibit Title: Dadaab, the Somali Struggle to Flee Violence Location: US
Caption: Kenya  

How many submissions to the site do you get in an average week?

It depends on many factors. If we have no particular initiative going one, we may get 2-4 exhibits per week. If we have a Call for Entries in progress, we can get up to 100 in the final week before deadline.

Photographer: Rui Pires 
Title: Rural Moments
Location: Portugal
Caption: Maria is the last shepherd that takes the goats to the mountains every day. 

Does most work get accepted?
Yes. It is a largely unknown fact that greater than 90% of all work gets accepted.

Photographer: Leslie Alsheimer 
Title: A Moment in the Glass: The Secret Life of Uganda's Daughters
Location: Uganda 
Caption: "Light in the Heart of Darkness” Orphan Ugandan children in safe camps play with balls that are hand made from clothing scraps and string. 

Is there ever work that is too graphic or does it not matter?
Rarely, but it does happen. If the work is either just too gruesome, or gratuitously gruesome, we will not accept it. There was an exhibit focusing on the war in Uganda that was just too graphic and in the end the photographer didn’t want it to go live either.

Photographer: Jorge Sarmento 
Exhibit Title: Making bread in a centenary oven
Location: Portugal
Caption: Each bread is done gently...

What made you want to focus on the human condition in photography work?
By definition, that is what documentary is, and that is what I was most interested in for this project.

Photographer: B. Proud 
Exhibit Title: First Comes Love
Location: United States
Caption: Juan and Michael, together 16 years. Photographed in their home in Washington, DC

Do you have a favorite project that you've worked on?
It would be hard to pinpoint my favorite exhibit out of more than 1500 submitted to the site. But neither would I refer to exhibits submitted to the site as projects that I work on. Aside from the website itself, we have done four Call for Entries —3 resulting in exhibits at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, NY. The third one was part of the New York Photo Festival in 2012, of which I was also a curator. Of all the projects associate with SDN that I have worked on, this was clearly the most involved, exciting, and interesting. See: http://nyph.at/ruga/

Photographer: Alfredo Caliz 
Exhibit Title: Women issues and health in Malawi. Action Aid Spain
Location: Malawi 
Caption: Patriak Rita, 12 years. Read Lipongwe School. Through a scholarship program is persuaded to continue his studies after his parents died.

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