Photograph by Steven Edson
  Photograph by Steven Edson from "Boston Protest Against President Trump's Immigration Ban". 
Dear Spotlight Readers:

"This is not normal!" These are the words on a sign held high during a rally in Copley Square, Boston 10 days ago to protest the Muslim travel ban signed into law (and since overturned) by newly-elected President Donald Trump. Now, more than ever, our work as documentary story tellers is so important in demystifying parts of the world that most of us will never travel to, or humanizing people we may never get to meet in person.
The SDN Call for Entries, "Documenting What Matters" closed last week with 120 entries by talented and committed photographers the world over helping us to understand people and places far from our homes. The judges are now reviewing this work and we will be announcing the winners by February 22. Thank you to everyone who submitted!
This month's Featured Photographer, Ana Palacios from Spain, is awarded this distinction for her remarkable project about a clinic for albinos in Tanzania, home to the largest number of albinos in the world. As Ana explains in her project description, albinos in Africa are hunted for their blood--as superstition says it brings good luck--but their greatest challenge is the sun, which can cause cancer and other health problems. But it isn't the subject matter that elevates Ana's project to this month's Featured Photographer, but rather the power, consistency, and beauty of her images. What sets Ana's project apart from others is that every image in her gallery is a ringer; every image is consistent in how it represents space, color, form, and, of course, content. It is as if her documentary was shot on a Hollywood set with controlled lighting and professional actors, but of course it wasn't. Rather, it was shot on location at a shelter for albinos in a remote part of Tanzania.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Molly Roberts to the SDN Advisory Committee. Molly is a Senior Photography Editor with National Geographic. Her complete bio can be found here.
Glenn Ruga 
SDN Founder & Director   

PS. Due to the overwhelming number of exhibits submitted to SDN in January, we will be sending out another Spotlight later in the month to showcase more of this work.  
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 
Ana Palacios
"Albino", Tanzania  

Ana Palacios
Photograph by Ana Palacios from "Albino".   

In Africa, there is a superstition that drinking an "albino potion" brings good luck, which is why they are hunted, mutilated and murdered by bounty hunters wanting to obtain ingredients for this highly prized concoction. However, their real enemy is the sun. The absence of melanin and a lack of suitable protection from the sun causes skin cancer that slashes their life expectancy to less than 30 years. In Tanzania, the country with more albinos than anywhere else in the world, the government has found it necessary to build shelters to protect these people from the clutches of unscrupulous traffickers in human beings.
View exhibit and complete text >>

Ana Palacios Ana Palacios is a photojournalist who divides her time between international film production and documentary photography focused on human rights. Her work has been published worldwide (Stern, The Guardian, Days Japan, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, El País, and Tiempo). She has published two books: Albino, about the pledge of the albinos in Tanzania and Art in Movement, about art as a social change in Uganda.
February 2017 Spotlight  
Jared Ragland
GOOD BAD PEOPLE: Methamphetamine Use on Sand Mountain, Alabama>>
by Jared Ragland/ United States
The recent rise in the use of methamphetamines across the United States over the last decade has led to increased cultural anxiety about the drug and those who use it, while the general perception of the meth-head is one perpetuated by popular television programs and pervasive anti-meth campaigns...
Eric Mindling
Flags of Community>>
by Eric Mindling/ Mexico
In traditional communities of Oaxaca, Mexico, clothing is culture made visible, worn like flags of belonging. These portraits are a sampling of hundreds made over a two-year period in 60 Oaxacan villages. They comprise the most complete photographic documentation of Oaxaca's traditional dress ...
Paula Bronstein
The Silent Victims of a Forgotten War>>
by Paula Bronstein/ Afghanistan
Afghan civilians are at greater risk today than at any time since Taliban rule. According to UN statistics, in the first half of 2016 at least 1,600 people had died, and more than 3,500 people were injured, a four per cent increase in overall civilian causalities compared to the same period last year. ...
Fausto Podavini
Omo Change>>
by Fausto Podavini/ Ethiopia
In 2010, Zenawi, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, announced the construction of the biggest dam in Africa, named Gibe III. In order to start the construction, 4.8 billion Euros have been given to the Italian construction company Salini SpA. It will be the biggest investment ever made in all ...
City of Widows>>
by Maude Plante-Husaruk/ India
In India, when a woman looses her husband, her social status is immediately reduced to nil even if she is from the higher castes. She carries a burden of spiritual fatefulness towards her deceased husband. The purity she must now observe demands that she be deprived of her femininity. She is therefore pressured...
The Ex Child Soldiers of Leer, South Sudan>>
by Tom Martin/ South Sudan
Endemic conflict in South Sudan has created generations of child soldiers, many of whom are stolen from their family or displaced during the chaos of war. As these children grow older they often have no family to support them, no means to access education and no way to make a living...
Harmonious Invocation at Union Station>>
by Curtis McElhinney/ United States
As probably one of the most prolific icebreakers of all time, the Yamaha piano sitting in the hall of the Los Angeles Union Station serves as a beacon to artists longing to connect with the ivories and themselves. Musicians from all ages, races and backgrounds sit down to express their heart,...
Smuggling victims>>
by Sadegh Souri/ Iran
Six million liters of diesel and paraffin oil are smuggled from Iran to Pakistan every day, which amounts to about two billion liters every year. Joblessness, drought, and the low price of fuel in Iran compared to Pakistan are the main reasons for fuel smuggling, which have led most of the young people...
SYNET-Circumcision Ceremony in Macedonia>>
by Giancarlo Rupolo/ Macedonia
Every year in August, many Macedonians living abroad return to their home country for summer  holidays. In this period, families are reconnected and often celebrate the feast of Synet--circumcision of male children. For Ergi, an eight-year-old Macedonian child of ethnic Albanian and Muslim...
by Nikos Pilos/ Greece
After escaping Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa, refugees attempt the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to the Aegean islands, usually arriving in Kos or Lesvos. Many migrants have lost their lives making the perilous crossing. In what has been described as the "worst refugee crisis ...
Twenty-first-century slavery>>
by Ludmila Ketslakh/ United Arab Emirates
The idea that Dubai is an oasis of prosperity on the Arabian Peninsula is one of the greatest misrepresentations of reality. Yes, it has Starbucks and Gucci, the tallest building in the world, and the largest mall in the world. But beneath these splendors, there is a dictatorship built by slaves...
The Story of Hope>>
by Matthieu Zellweger/ United Kingdom
Stillbirths can happen unpredictably to anyone, anywhere, causing pain not only to parents, but also to families, healthcare professionals and people around them. In the face of such unspeakable -- and often unexplained -- sorrow, each individual must find a way to live with the experience of ...
Boston Women's March for America>>
by Steven Edson/ United States
These photographs attempt to document the Boston Women's March for America that was held on the Boston Common on January 21, 2017. People from all over New England -- young, middle-aged and old, black and white, Asian and Latino, women and men, gay, straight and transgender -- all came together...
Rohingya Refugee in Bangladesh>>
by K. M. Asad/ Bangladesh
"The military killed my husband and torched our home. I fled into a jungle along with my two children. After trying for three days, I don't want to remember how I crossed the river border and come into this camp" said Sitara Begum (21) at Taknaf Rohingya refugee camp, 27 November 2016...
Portrait of an Enemy>>
by Mick Stetson/ Viet Nam
Who is your enemy? By which conditions or circumstances is this determined and by whose decree, spoken or implied? On March 8, 1965, Trâń Văn Chôńg's enemy landed thirty kilometers north of his home. Until then, life was peaceful and predictable in the fishing village where his...

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

Glenn Ruga
Founder & Director

Barbara Ayotte
Communications Director

Caterina Clerici

Special Issue Editor 

Kelly Kolias
Laney Ruckstuhl

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Documentary Matters
Wednesday, February 22, Boston
Shiho Fukada to be guest reviewer 
If you are looking for feedback on your documentary work or a place to meet with others involved with or interested in documentary photography, join SDN and Digital Silver Imaging for Documentary Matters. This is a free and open meeting for anyone interested in presenting, viewing, or discussing documentary photography. Glenn Ruga from the Social Documentary Network and ZEKE magazine will moderate the meeting. More » 

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.