Visual Stories Exploring Global Themes/2016

Send us your best documentary projects and photo editors from the New York Times, Time, Smithsonian, National Geographic, and the Los Angeles Times will review them (see below for full list of jurors). All entries are exhibited on the SDN website and most appear in our monthly Spotlight, and promoted through our social media.

The first place winner will receive a feature in the spring 2016 issue of ZEKE magazine and receive a $1000 honorarium.

Our definition of documentary is broad and it doesn't have to be about problems. We encourage work about joy, happiness, and ordinary life anywhere. Your work can be about solutions, recovery, peace and reconciliation, and rebuilding. But it can also be about conflict, migration, disease, and climate change. What matters is that the stories are about the real stuff, your stuff — messy, awkward, jubilant, filled with contradictions, want of answers, but the stuff that the world is made up of everywhere, every day. Remember, your local story is a global story to someone on the other side of the world.

Winners Announced: February 15, 2016


First Place: One photographer

• Featured in the spring 2016 issue of ZEKE magazine as one of three main articles in the magazine.
• $1000 honorarium
• Featured in email Spotlight sent to SDN’s 9,000 followers.
• Featured on SDN’s home page.
• Featured on SDN social media.

Honorable Mention: 2-4 photographers at discretion of judges

• Presented in the spring 2016 issue of ZEKE magazine along with other Honorable Mentions.
• Featured in email Spotlight sent to SDN’s 9,000 followers.
• Featured on SDN’s home page.
• Featured on SDN social media.


Barbara Ayotte: Director of Strategic Communications for Management Sciences for Health (MSH); Director of Communications, Social Documentary Network. Former Director of Communications for Physicians for Human Rights.

Barbara Davidson: Staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times. In 2014 she was named the International Newspaper Photographer of the Year for the second time. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 in Feature Photography and a national Emmy for her story of innocent victims trapped in the crossfire of Los Angeles’s deadly gang violence. In 2006 she won a team Pulitzer Prize in Spot News Photography for Hurricane Katrina. Davidson is a native of Montreal, Canada.

Alice Gabriner: International Photo Editor at TIME magazine, a position she held previously from 2003-2009. Prior to rejoining TIME, Gabriner was a Senior Photo Editor at National Geographic magazine, and before that, she was the Deputy Director of Photography in the Obama White House. During her ten-year tenure at TIME from 1999-2009 she oversaw the magazine¹s award winning coverage of the Iraq War, and she worked with TIME’s notable team of photographers during the Presidential election in 2000.

Elizabeth Cheng Krist: Senior photo editor for National Geographic. Elizabeth curated the Women of Vision book and exhibition. She has judged competitions for Critical Mass, the State Department, Aftermath, and the RFK Journalism Awards. Elizabeth has won awards from POYi, Overseas Press Club, and Communication Arts. She has served on the board of the Eddie Adams Workshop and has spoken at PhotoPlus, FOTOfusion, FotoWeekDC and Pingyao. Elizabeth has taught workshops in Santa Fe and has reviewed portfolios for Palm Springs Photo Festival, LOOK3, and the New York Times.

Molly Roberts: Photographer and photography editor, currently Chief Photography Editor at Smithsonian magazine, with 25 years experience in the magazine publishing world. She 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 issue facing America.

Glenn Ruga: Founder and Director, Social Documentary Network; Executive Editor of ZEKE magazine. Former Executive Director, Photographic Resource Center at Boston University; Curator of 2012 New York Photo Festival.

Mikko Takkunen: Photo editor at The New York Times. From 2013 to 2015, Takkunen was the International Photo Editor at Before joining Time in 2013, he spent two years working as a freelance photographer in London for various international newspapers. In 2007, Takkunen started the popular Photojournalism Links website, for which he curated the best photojournalism published online. Photojournalism Links was published on Time’s LightBox photo blog between 2013-15.

Jamie Wellford: Jamie Wellford is an independent photo editor and consultant based in Brooklyn, New York.

Entry Requirements

All entries must have between 6 and 30 photographs related to a specific theme. The submission may also have a multimedia component to supplement the still images. Submissions must have an abstract to provide context (180 words maximum) and captions to accompany the photographs. Additional text about the situation being documented may also be entered, as well as a bio of the photographer, information on organizations working with affected communities, and other relevant information. Photographs must have been taken after January 1, 2010.

All work must be submitted via the Social Documentary Network website at For specific image specifications, see: Images must be a minimum of 1500 pixels in one dimension.

All entries are automatically and simultaneously submitted for exhibition on the Social Documentary Network website and must follow all rules and regulations regarding exhibits on SDN.

Exhibits on need to be approved before going live (click here for more information). In the event that an entry to the Call for Entries is not accepted for the SDN website, the photographer may make changes to their exhibit and re-submit, at no additional cost, up until the entry deadline. Greater than 90% of all exhibits submitted to SDN are approved.

Photographers can submit multiple contest entries but individual photographs may only be submitted for one entry.

All entries will be viewable to the public on the SDN site.

Note: The account management section of the SDN website requires Safari, Firefox, or Chrome browsers. It will not be completely functional using Internet Explorer.

Converting Existing Exhibits to Call for Entries Submission

Existing exhibit on SDN can easily be converted to a Call for Entries submission by logging into your account and clicking a button in the admin page for your exhibit.


Contest is open to professional and amateur US and international photographers. SDN staff, volunteers, advisory committee members, judges, and their families are not eligible to enter the competition. Previous SDN Call for Entries winners in the past three years are not eligible to enter.

Entry Fees

$35 for one exhibit entry of 6 – 30 images and one multimedia piece. All fees must be paid using a credit card on the SDN website. International credit cards are accepted. All entry submissions and fees are final and non-refundable.


Scholarships are available for photographers from countries without access to credit cards or where there the $35.00 fee would be prohibitive. To apply, send an email to with an explanation of your need. Requests for scholarships must be received by January 4 and deadline for scholarship entry submissions is January 6.

Important Dates

  • Entries accepted on SDN website: Starting November 13, 2015
  • Entries deadline extended: Midnight EST, January 10, 2016
  • Judging: January 18-Feburary 1, 2016
  • Winners Announced: February 15, 2016
  • Published in ZEKE: April 2016

Use Rights

All entrants and winners retain copyright of their work. By submission for jurying, photographers whose images are chosen grant SDN a royalty-free license to use their images for the purpose of subsequent display on the SDN site or in SDN promotional materials. Entries grant SDN the right to use their name for promotion in any medium including radio, newspapers, publications, television, videotape, and/or distribution over the internet. Samples of the winning work will be released to the press for promotional purposes. Photographers grant use of their images as stated without further contact or compensation from SDN other than the prizes listed above. Photographer’s credit will be provided with all use. Winners grant SDN the right to use the work in SDN Annual if chosen (digital or print).


Entrant acknowledges that SDN may not be held liable for any loss, damages, or injury associated with this contest. Entrant agrees to indemnify SDN for all costs, damages and attorney fees resulting from any third party claims, including copyright infringement, arising from entrant’s participation.

SDN reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any entrant that fails to comply with contest and website rules and guidelines. This Contest is void where prohibited by law.

About SDN

Social Documentary Network (SDN) uses the power of photography to promote global awareness. SDN members include photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students who create and explore documentary websites 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.


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Above photo by Ricardo Teles