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 Photo by Giorgio Bianchi from "Donbass Stories: Spartaco and Liza". 
Dear Spotlight Readers:

We are proud to present this month's featured photographer, Giorgio Bianchi, and his both powerful and sensitive project "Donbass Stories: Spartaco and Liza." This is an intimate look at a pro-Russian militia member and his girlfriend whom he met on Facebook and their lives together and apart in this region of eastern Ukraine bordering Russia. The challenge for me is that this exhibit tells a sympathetic story about a political position that I am opposed to - the illegal and violent Russian incursion into  eastern Ukraine, an aggression that included the downing of Malaysian Flight MH17 in July 2014 killing all 283 passengers on board.
I did pause to both seriously consider if Giorgio deserved the award of Featured Photographer of the Month for this exhibit and what politics played in my decision. After carefully comparing it to other deserving exhibits, including Michele Cirillo's excellent "Forgotten War" telling the story from the Ukrainian perspective, I did feel that Giorgio's images, the writing, and the story was a notch above everything else and clearly deserved this distinction. Whether or not you or I agree with Spartaco, I think we can agree that Giorgio has done an outstanding job telling this story.
It is also true that Giorgio spent little time explaining or justifying the politics other than to say that Spartaco was "ideologically very motivated." The remainder of the exhibit is a very human story about a soldier, his girlfriend Liza who is a seamstress sewing flags for the pro-Russian militias and costumes for the Donetsk Opera Theatre, and the cherished time they spend together between Spartaco's deployments.
I also want to remind our readers that today is the last day to enter our Call for Entries on Celebrating the Global Community.  I want to thank everyone who has submitted projects. It is always an exciting time for us to see so much meaningful and well-executed projects come into SDN. We will be announcing the winners towards the end of the month and then featuring the first-place winner in the fall issue of ZEKE magazine.
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 
Giorgio Bianchi   
Donbass Stories: Spartaco and Liza   

Photo by Giorgio Bianchi. Liza is disheartened after knowing that Spartaco's license was revoked. Due to increased fighting it happens more and more often that military permits are suspended.

Right after the outbreak of the conflict in Donbass, Ukraine, Spartaco left his job and the house where he was living with his mother to enlist as a volunteer in the ranks of the pro-Russian militias.  Convinced he had nothing to lose, ideologically very motivated and relying on his previous military training (Folgore paratroopers and Italian Army) Spartaco decided to join the separatist cause finally abandoning his life in the province of Brescia that disheartened and depressed him. Through Facebook Spartaco met Liza.
View exhibit and complete text >>

Giorgio Bianchi is a freelance photographer based in Italy. His work focuses on a combination of long-term personal projects and client assignments.  He has covered stories in Syria, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, India, and throughout all of Europe.  Since 2013 he has made several trips to Ukraine, where he followed closely the crisis from the Euromaidan protests until the outbreak of war between the government army and the pro-Russian separatists.  He is now making a documentary film entitled "Apocalypse Donbass." Bianchi's has exhibited his work at the Strand Gallery (London), Royal Geographical Society (London), MIBAC (Rome), A.F.I. Archivio Fotografico Italiano Palazzo Cicogna (Varese), La Fabbrica del Vapore (Milan), C40 Mayors Summit (Mexico City). His work has been published in the Guardian Magazine, Internazionale Magazine, Il Venerdì, La Repubblica, Il Manifesto, Gente di Fotografia Magazine, Fotografia Reflex Magazine and in many online galleries. Giorgio Bianchi is currently represented by Witness Image. For a complete list of his accomplishments and contact information, visit his profile page on SDN. 

July 2017 Spotlight

Featured exhibits submitted to SDN in June 2017
Sara May
After the Crisis>>
by Sara B. May/ Sierra Leone

With it's insidious onset in May of 2014, the Ebola epidemic proceeded to ravage Sierra Leone for nearly two years, leading to the deaths of nearly 4,000 people. In December 2014, Francis Yorpoi lost both parents--his mother, a homemaker, and his father, a photographer--within two week...

John Ra
The Positive Community>>
by John Rae/ Zimbabwe, India, Indonesia, Rwanda, Laos, Paraguay, Nepal, Nicaragua

Since the discovery and worldwide distribution of ARV drugs, the community of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) has been growing. HIV infection is no longer a death sentence and living with HIV has become an issue of maintenance. Consequently demands from the PLWA community for services has ...

Michele Cirillo
Forgotten War>>
by Michele Cirillo/ Ukraine

From its capital to the small towns devastated by bombing, Ukraine looks more and more like a country left on its own. Kiev tries to move on its road toward progress, but Euromaidan protests, colliding against the strong Ukrainian systemic resistance, were not enough to raise hope for a tighter ...

Marco Aprile
Saints and travelers>>
by Marco Aprile/ France

On May 24, every year, the tranquility of the Provencal town of Saintes Maries de la Mer is interrupted for two days by the musical notes of the pilgrimage of the Gypsies who come from various parts of Europe to attend the annual celebration in honor of Sarah, protector of the gypsies, and of the ...

Younes Mohammad
In less than an hour>>
by Younes Mohammad/ Iraq

The biggest losers of the battle of Mosul were civilians which have no chance to save themselves from bombardments, snipers and mortars. In some cases, victims have reportedly been killed simply for possessing SIM cards or mobile phones. Reports reaching UN human rights staff include suggestions...

Emel Karakozak
by Emel Karakozak/ Turkey

Uzbek families were settled in Hatay/Ovakent after they were brought to Turkey via Pakistan during the invasion of Afghanistan in 1982. They still keep living their lives according to their own morals and traditions along with their culture and language. They wear their traditional clothes ...

Matilde Simas
Faces Behind Atrocity>>
by Matilde Simas/ Kenya

Human trafficking is globally pervasive, economically motivated, and emotionally overwhelming. The images in this exhibit are of eight young women, ages 13-16, from four different nationalities who have been rescued from the horrors of the trafficking world and are in the healing process. In collaboration...

Sascha Richter
Mountainland: Vietnamese Photographs - North Northwest>>
by Sascha Richter/ Viet Nam

"Mountainland" surveys the lives and societies of Zomia (upland Southeast Asia, India, China). It highlights the classical lifestyle of the mountain dwellers vis-à-vis the respective lowland societies and documents their daily struggle for existence and their incorporation into...

Lucas Garra
Karkinos, Triple Negative>>
by Lucas Garra/ Spain

Edwin Smith discovered at Thebes in 1862 the oldest medical document known to date, presumably written by Imhotep. Among all the historical dates regarding the Karkinos, the most important one for me is December 23, 2015. That day my family, that live in Badajoz (Spain), suffered a severe blow....

Cinthya Santos-Briones
Abuelas: Documenting the Invisible Lives of New York's Aged Immigrants>>
by Cinthya Santos-Briones/ United States

This project focuses on undocumented Mexican immigrant women who came to New York in their youth decades ago and, over time, became grandmothers and the elders of their community and families. Some of them have children and grandchildren on both sides of the border. However, after living in the United States...

Cristiano Burmester
Invisibles: Memories of Daily Life>>
by Cristiano Burmester/ Brazil

This project portrays people and their professions, especially those that are gradually disappearing due to technology, real estate valuation or social and cultural transformation. These images were made in cities of Brazil and Equador. Globalization has pushed huge transformations on how we work...

Marco Sacco
A Family of Blood and Sweat>>
by Marco Sacco/ Italy

In Bari, in the historic gym Kanku Dai, the master Renzo Tagliente has taught hundreds of young people this noble art. His passion has deep roots in the 1990s. It is known as "the science of eight limbs" because it allows the use combinations of punches, kicks, elbows and knees and clinch ...

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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At a time of rising nationalism around the world, show the SDN community and the world's leading photo editors your commitment to the global community and how photography can make a difference. First place winner will be featured in the fall 2017 issue of ZEKE magazine and receive a $1000 cash prize.
Deadline for entries: June 30
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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.