Spotlight Banner sept 17
 Photo by Alexander Macfarlane, Featured Photographer of the Month, from "Forced Evictions on the
 Waterfronts of Lagos

Dear Spotlight Readers:
Houston, Florida, North Korea, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Kurdistan, Catalonia -- all places deserving our attention. All places that photographers bring us searing images of natural or human-made hardships and also images of the best and worst that humanity can offer. Photographs of floods bring an outpouring of donations of aid. Photographs of carnage brings overflow donations of blood. Photographs of independence movements bring support, opposition, or indifference. Regardless, the world sees and reacts. That is what we want from a photograph.
When the context is clear, words are not needed. An image of a family wading deep in water in Houston speaks for itself. We get it. People are not supposed to swim in their neighborhood streets. Who wouldn't wonder that climate change had something to do with it after this summer? This week, an image of people dressed for a warm night of fun running for cover with bloodied arms and legs doesn't need a caption. We already know that a psychopath shot and killed 58 people from up high in the adjacent hotel. Perhaps the proliferation of guns in America had something to do with this. The nation once more asks this question. Some pray. Some act.
But most photographs don't have such obvious context associated with them. They are not taken in moments of national tragedies that are covered 24/7 across multiple channels of communications. Most of the images you see on SDN or in your daily newspaper or social media are about the daily texture of life and politics, not the headline events. We would not know without a caption or explanation that the extraordinary photograph above by Alexander Macfarlane, this month's featured photographer, is taken in Lagos, Nigeria and accompanies a story on evictions from waterfront communities. Or we have no way of knowing that the photos of people in orange jumpsuits (see below) by Ric Francis are Rwandan prisoners accused of the crime of genocide, unless accompanied by an explanation.
At the end of the day, we want a response from photos, and we get a response when the photographs brings us a greater or more nuanced understanding that other media cannot. This is what SDN strives to achieve with our website and ZEKE magazine.
Thank you for being a part of it.

Glenn Ruga 
SDN Founder & Director     

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F E A T U R E D   P H O T O G R A P H E R   O F   T H E    M O N T H 
Alexander Macfarlane     
Forced Migration on the Waterfront of Lagos     

Photo by Alexander MacFarlane
Photo by Alexander Macfarlane. Janet Azindji (left) accommodated twenty people from Otodo Gbame, including eight children. One of the evictees taken in by Janet is Veronica Agbogla (right). Veronica was blinded by the fires that were lit during the brutal evictions. "I lost my house, all my property, and everything I have laboured for."

In Lagos, Nigeria, an estimated two-thirds of the city's 23 million inhabitants live in informal settlements, where a lack of housing security is a defining characteristic. Without it, residents live in constant fear of eviction. Skyrocketing growth has led to conflicts over land, often resulting in violent attacks on the poor communities and a continued threat of mass evictions of the urban poor across the city. In November 2016, more than 30,000 residents lost their homes when they were forcibly evicted from their fishing community of Otodo Gbame. Eyewitness told how the community was set ablaze and the police entered shooting at residents, forcing them to flee to the water.
View exhibit and complete text »

Alexander Macfarlane
Alexander Macfarlane is a London-based photographer who is drawn to the human and urban world, and through photography strives to capture the way culture and habitat define how people live. Upon completion of a degree in politics, he moved to Japan where he lived and worked for four years. Through his extensive travels through Asia he became increasingly interested in using photography to document different cultures and places. After returning to London, Alexander completed a Masters Degree at the Development Planning Unit at University College London, where he currently works in media and communications. Combining his background and work in international development with photography, Alexander is interested in documenting the challenges faced in a rapidly urbanising world. Through his employment, Alexander is actively involved in research and advocacy that explores the use of media and communication for development and social change. He has been involved in projects and workshops that utilize various participatory methodologies that aim to foster visual and social inclusion.
October 2017 Spotlight

Featured exhibits submitted to SDN in September 

Ric Francis
by Ric Francis/ Rwanda

Imprisoned Rwandans discuss the acts of genocide they committed against Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.


I Am History: The Last WWII Vets in Magadan, Russia >>
by Darya Ryan/ Russian Federation

We live in a world of many wars. The abundance of conflict in the global news coverage hardly allows the time to reflect and remember the past conflicts and past wars. My project aims at providing perhaps the last chance to get in touch with the past, the lives, and the faces of the last remaining ...


Philippe Geslin
Being Maasai>>
by Philippe Geslin/ France

For the past six years I have gone to Tanzania, between the Rift Valley and Mount Kilimanjaro, in the heart of the savanna, where the Maasai live. A people a thousand times described. People of breeders. Free men. They walk the bush to the rhythm of their herds, to that of the water points. We touch a finger  ...


Ogulcan Arslan
Unsafe Space>>
by Ogulcan Arslan/ Turkey

'Unsafe Place' is the story of the unwanted people around us; many people don't look at their faces as they walk down the street, they don't bother engaging in the slightest communication even though they see them. They live in tough conditions in neighborhoods ...


The Battle for Mosul>>
by Yusuke Suzuki/ Iraq

Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, was the scene of a battle for control between Iraqi, Kurdish, and ISIS forces. In June 2014, the leader of Isis, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a global caliphate from Mosul. Since October 2016 it had been the site of a military operation to dislodge and defeat...

Templo Comedor - Changing the face of Colombia one temple at a time>>
by Uday Khambadkone/ Colombia

In August 2017, I worked with Fundacion SACIAR, a non-profit food bank based in Medellin, Colombia, which acts as a bridge for food security in the most impoverished areas of Colombia. The armed conflict for the last 50 years has left the majority of the population in need for basic necessities. ...

Mountainland: The Mlabri of Northern Thailand>>
by Sascha Richter/ Thailand

The Mlabri are one of the smallest ethnic groups living in Thailand, numbering about 400 people. In a period of about twenty years they made a transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer communities living in the forest to a sedentary lifestyle in permanent settlements. They experienced rapid social ...

Life Along a Dead River>>
by Alexandru Salceanu/ Philippines

This series documents life along a small stretch of the Marikina River, Philippines. I followed a few informal scavengers, fishermen and farmers for approximately six months and documented their struggle to survive in a toxic environment. About sixty percent of the pollution comes from human ...

Victim rehabilitation of the Syrian war>>
by Yusuke Suzuki/ Jordan

It's been more than six years since the start of the war in Syria. More than 300,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the war, which began with anti-government protests. Since the conflict began in 2011, about 5.5 million people had left the country, and another 6.3 million had been left international...

Transformation from industry to agriculture. The remarkable story of Singur>>
by Gourab Guha/ India

Taking agricultural land for industrialization has been the dominant narrative of development in the 21st century, especially in the developing countries. In this context, the story of Singur in West Bengal's Hooghly district stands as a striking example in reversing the trend. It all start...

Zapatistas in Resistance>>
by Erick Tapia/ Mexico

A look at the Zapatista women's and children's way of living after 23 years of fighting for their rights, inspired by the ideas of Emiliano Zapata, which emerged at the end of the twentieth century in the Mexican state of Chiapas. 

Advisory Committee
Lori Grinker
Catherine Karnow
Ed Kashi
Molly Roberts
Jeffrey D. Smith
Jamey Stillings
Stephen Walker
Frank Ward
Amy Yenkin

Glenn Ruga
Founder & Director

Barbara Ayotte
Communications Director

Caterina Clerici

Special Issue Editor 

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About Social Documentary Network
Social Documentary Network 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.