Sarah Blesener receives first place for documentary exploring patriotism and nationalism in Russia
SDN is thrilled to present the winners of our recent Call for Entries, Documenting What Matters. The judges selected one first-place winner and four honorable mentions. The work submitted was outstanding and a clear demonstration of the commitment and interest in documentary photography and visual storytelling.
The first place winner is
Sarah Blesener from the US for her project
Toy Soldiers, documenting rising nationalism among youth in Russia. Her work focuses on patriotic education, military-war camps, and alternative youth groups
.Toy Soldiers will be featured in the upcoming issue of
Honorable mentions are
Fabien Dupoux, from France, for
Valerie Leonard, also from France, for
Younes Mohammad, from Iraq, for
In the Name of Religion, and
Woong-jae Shin, originally from South Korean and now based in the US, for
From Sand to Ash. (See below for more details on these projects.)
We very much want to thank the jurors for their contribution to this Call for Entries:
Barbara Ayotte: Senior Director of Strategic Communications, Management Sciences for Health
Dimitri Beck: Director of Photography,
Polka Magazine, Paris
Andy Patrick: CEO, VII Photo Agency
Nicole Werbeck, Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic
SDN would also like to thank all of the photographers who submitted to this call. Click here for more information on this Call for Entries and the prizes received by the winners. Click here to view all the submissions.
Very significant work and commitment to the Russian story. Very worthy photography to be supported and promoted. -Andy Patrick, CEO, VII Photo Agency
From Toy Soldiers by Sara Blesener. Dmitri Antonets (17) rests after an intensive drill. 1 August 2016. The group from Stavropol is practicing for an upcoming "fake war" between groups at "Orthodox Warrior" camp. They are using air-soft guns for the practice and competitions.
Over 200,000 youth in Russia are currently enrolled in patriotic clubs, with 10,000 in Moscow alone. Each club functions independently with their own structures and philosophies. In 2015, a proposed program from the Russian government entitled the "Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens in 2016-2020" called for an eight percent increase in patriotic youth within the next ten years, and a ten percent increase in new recruits for the Russian armed forces.
Sarah Blesener is a documentary photographer based in New York City. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she studied Linguistics and Youth Development at North Central University. While in university, she worked as a photographer for the organization Healing Haiti based in Port au Prince, covering events surrounding the 2010 earthquake. Upon graduation in 2012, she studied at Bookvar Russian Academyin Minneapolis, concentrating on the Russian language. She is a recent graduate of the Visual Journalism and Documentary Practice program at the International Center of Photography in New York. Her latest work revolves around issues of nationalism and militarization of youth, focusing on Russia, Eastern Europe, and the United States. She is represented by Anastasia Gallery, New York.
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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.