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Dear Spotlight Readers:

This past month the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Fidel Castro died, and SDN has awarded the featured photographer to Salym Fayad for his project on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). All of us can celebrate the first and the last of these events (except for Cleveland Indians supporters), but the middle two events--Trump's election and Castro's death--are quite different, either inspiring intense degrees of mourning or celebrating.
While Trump and Castro both came to power as champions of the working classes, Trump has never been anything other then the scion of a wealthy real estate mogul and then himself a billionaire founded on a global brand of real estate and other business interests. Castro on the other hand fought a guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestro mountains, living, eating and sleeping with peasants while preparing to overthrow the corrupt Batista regime in Havana.
Trump's popularity is based on his openly nativist and American-first position as well as his implicit white nationalism and threatening provocations of Muslims and Mexicans. Castro on the other hand has been on the forefront of an international solidarity movement celebrating all peoples of all races who were victims of, or fighting against, repressive regimes throughout Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere.
While Castro deserves praise for the high quality of healthcare and public education in Cuba, it is also true that he was an authoritarian ruler in the model of the contemporary "strong man,' destroying his opponents. No other movement inspired by Castro better exemplifies the limits of his ideology then the FARC in Colombia--first inspired by revolution but soon an ossified, corrupt, and brutal movement terrorizing the civilian population of Colombia.
Castro's last mark on world affairs culminated in the October agreement in Havana between the FARC and the Colombian government--ending a 52-year struggle and paving the way to bring the FARC out of the mountains and into Colombian society. (The agreement was overturned in a popular referendum but then quickly re-affirmed by the Colombian government with cosmetic changes.)
This brings us to Salym Fayad, this month's featured photographer, for his project, "The FARC's Last Conference" documenting this historic gathering where FARC unanimously ratified the contents of the peace agreement that they had reached with the Colombian government after four years of negotiations in Havana, Cuba.
Glenn Ruga 
SDN Founder & Director

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Salym Fayad

Photo by Salym Fayad from Inside FARC's Last Conference.
Salym Fayad
December 2016 Featured Photographer of the Month
Inside FARC's Last Conference          

In September 2016, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) held their 10th conference at a camp in the Yari Plains, in the fringes of the Amazon rainforest. At the conference, the rebel group unanimously ratified the contents of the peace agreement they had reached with the Colombian government after four years of negotiations. One thousand rebel soldiers attended the event, while they prepared to be demobilized. The peace deal marks a historic opportunity to put an end to 52 years of armed conflict, in which more than 200,000 people have been killed, tens of thousands have disappeared and seven million have been displaced from their homes.
View exhibit and complete text >>

Salym Fayad
Salym Fayad is a documentary photographer and independent reporter from Bogota, Colombia based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has worked extensively in Sub-Saharan Africa on issues related to popular culture and music, migration, conflict and human rights.

His work has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, the Boston Review, El Tiempo, Semana, Arcadia, El Malpensante, Gatopardo, Sunday Times, National Geographic, Mail & Guardian, Libération, among others, and has contributed to Agence France Presse (AFP) and European Pressphoto Agency (EPA). His work has been exhibited in New York, Berlin, Helsinki, Perpignan, Bogota, Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Goma.

He currently works on collaborative projects on the Somali diaspora in Johannesburg and on justice and gender violence in Eastern Congo. He has also worked in the management of cultural exchange projects related to music and film between Colombia and South Africa.

December 2016 Spotlight

Featured exhibits submitted to SDN in November 2016

Victor Galeano
Guardians of the Río Gualcarque>>
by Victor Galeano/ Honduras

After the death of Berta Caceres, the Lenca community continues to experience conflict brought to the area by the hydroelectric plant "Agua Zarca". Since the project started in 2013, six people have died and the threats towards several defenders of the Gualcarque River continue...

Sarah Blesener
Toy Soldiers>>
by Sarah Blesener/ Russian Federation

This is an ongoing project that I began in 2016, focusing on patriotic education and ideology among youth in Russia and the USA. I see the contradiction between the freedom of youth and the indoctrination of war. This project is a search for an answer: why are we in love with the whimsy of war...

Norberto Tongoy
by Norberto Tongoy/ Philippines

In November 2013, the terrible typhoon Haiyan struck Philippines with such brutal force that left so many dead and homeless. It was one of the strongest tropical typhoons ever recorded. The damage was absolutely horrific. Images of death and suffering were blasted through media channels. Families gone...

Diana Duarte
Amazona's Project>>
by Diana Duarte/ Nicaragua

This is a project conceived from the point of view of empowering women in areas of extreme poverty to boost their knowledge, skills and enhance what they have inside. Focusing on women--single mothers, oppressed by their former partners, the sexist society ...

Jim West
Mormon Youth Handcart Trek>>
by Jim West/ United States

In the late 1850s, thousands of Mormons emigrated from Europe, bound for Utah. Where the rail lines ended in Iowa, those who could not afford oxen and covered wagons built carts that they pulled by hand across the plains and over the mountains. Hundreds died when caught by winter in Wyoming. Hand...

Emiliano Cribari
Io sono Giuseppe>>
by Emiliano Cribari/ Italy

This is a photo project on a serious rare disease that affects children; currently in Italy only 10 cases were diagnosed and even the doctors don't know this syndrome well. So the families of these children are obliged to understand, test and treat the symptoms almost by themselves. Trisomy 9...

Michele Zousmer
"FEELING" The Delta>>
by Michele Zousmer/ United States

The Mississippi Delta sets the tone for all things southern -- good and bad. The hospitality is warm and engaging, the food is delicious and filling, the "Blues' are smooth and intoxicating. The Civil War and the civil rights struggles have left deep wounds. Unemployment ...

B.D. Colen
Mornings at the Delmar>>
by B. D. Colen/ Canada

The Delmar is a diner in London, Ontario, an industrial city of about 360,000 that has seen better days. The Delmar is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it is from opening to about 10:30 a.m. that it is in its glory, a place where everyone knows your face, and regulars and a handful of visitors...

Advisory Committee
Lori Grinker
Steve Horn
Ed Kashi
Jeffrey D. Smith
Stephen Walker
Frank Ward
Jamie Wellford

Glenn Ruga
Founder & Director

Barbara Ayotte
Communications Director

Caterina Clerici

Special Issue Editor 

Kelly Kollias

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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.