The Fine Art of Documentary

Documentary sits somewhere on a spectrum between fine art and journalism. We’ll let you decide where your work lays, but show us your best and let gallery curators and photo editors hash it out as they review and evaluate your work. Your project can be about zenophobia, Zimbabwe, Zika, or zebras. What matters is that the stories are about real stuff, your stuff — messy, awkward, jubilant, filled with contradictions, want of answers, but the stuff that the world is made up of everywhere, every day. Is it art? Of course it is. But it needs to be documentary to enter.

First place winner will be featured in the fall 2016 issue of ZEKE magazine and receive a $1000 cash prize.

All submissions are exhibited on the SDN website and are eligible to be featured in ZEKE magazine. Select entries will be featured in our monthly Spotlight, and promoted through our social media.

Winners will be announced August 1.


First Place: One photographer

• Featured in the fall 2016 issue of ZEKE magazine as one of three main articles in the magazine.
• $1000 cash prize.
• Museum quality print of your work by Digital Silver Imaging.*
• Featured in email Spotlight sent to SDN’s 9,500 followers.
• Featured on SDN’s home page.
• Featured on SDN's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds.

Honorable Mention: Four photographers

• Presented in the spring 2016 issue of ZEKE magazine along with other Honorable Mentions
• Receive 100 "frames" from SDN to be used for new exhibits or renewals. ($85 cash value)
• Museum quality print of your work by Digital Silver Imaging*
• Featured in email Spotlight sent to SDN’s 9,500 followers.
• Featured on SDN’s home page.
• Featured on SDN's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds.

All entrants wil receive a 50% discount for a subscription to ZEKE magazine. $8.50 for two issues. Includes domestic shipping. Additional rates for shipping outside the US. Instructions will be included with entry confirmation.

* Prints sent to US addresses: Choice of 16x20 inch print or 11x14 inch print with 16x20 matte. Prints shipped outside the US will be 16x20 inch rolled in a tube. Color prints will be inkjet on fine art paper. Black and white prints will be digital silver on fiber paper. Includes shipping.


Barbara Ayotte: Senior Director of Strategic Communications, Management Sciences Health, a global health nonprofit organization that has worked in over150 countries to help leaders, health managers, and communities in developing nations build stronger health systems for greater health impact; Director of Communications, Social Documentary Network. Former Director of Communications for Physicians for Human Rights.

Jeff Campagna: Associate Photo Editor, Smithsonian Magazine. Jeff is a photography editor at Smithsonian magazine and has been with the magazine since 2004. He’s collaborated on numerous award-winning projects, receiving recognition from American Photography, SPD, BOP and the World Press Photo Awards. Jeff regularly contributes arts and culture pieces to He is an award-winning songwriter and a graduate of Bucknell University.

Alicia Colen: Howard Greenberg Gallery, NY. Alicia joined the Howard Greenberg Gallery in 2007, prior to which she worked for several years as a master printer at Palm Press. Her focus is primarily on mid century documentary and street photography. In her time at the Gallery, Colen has helped to plan and execute numerous exhibitions by artists such as Dave Heath, William Gedney, Joel Meyerowitz, Brassai, and Edward Burtynsky.

Chelsea Matiash: Deputy Multimedia Editor, TIME Magazine and an executive board member of NPPA. Before joining TIME, Chelsea was a Photo Editor at The Wall Street Journal where she was also editor of Photo Journal, the official photography blog; and prior to that, she was a Photo Editor at The Associated Press. She has also served as a juror and portfolio reviewer with organizations including The Eddie Adams Workshop, The Kontinent Photography Awards, The New York Portfolio Review, APA, ASMP and Photo Plus.

Andrea Meislin: Director, Andrea Meislin Gallery, NY. Andrea is an art historian, writer, and independent curator. She was formerly the associate curator of photography at the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), and an independent research associate at the Phoenix Art Museum. Meislin has organized museum and gallery exhibitions, and catalogued numerous significant private collections.

Kurt Mutchler: Senior Photo Editor for Science, National Geographic. Kurt has worked at National Geographic magazine since 1994, producing more than 120 stories and 25 cover stories. During this time he has held many positions—photo editor, deputy director of photography and director of photography. He is a former adjunct professor at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., where he taught photojournalism. Prior to joining the magazine, he was the photo and graphics editor of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

Molly Roberts: Photographer and photography editor, currently Chief Photography Editor at Smithsonian Magazine, with 25 years experience in the magazine publishing world. She is an advocate for powerful visual storytelling and human rights and recently created the non-profit HumanEyesUSA to present documentary photography projects in public spaces and to use powerful imagery to help illuminate complex issue facing America.

Glenn Ruga: Founder and Director, Social Documentary Network; Executive Editor of ZEKE magazine. Former Executive Director, Photographic Resource Center at Boston University; Curator of 2012 New York Photo Festival.

How to Enter

Create and submit an exhibit of your work on the SDN website. When submitting, you will have a choice for a standard exhibit or competition entry. Choose competition entry. The remainder of the process will be identical to creating a standard exhibit, but your work will be entered to the call for entries. Click here for details on how to submit your work to SDN.

Entry Requirements

All entries must have between 6 and 30 photographs related to a specific theme. The submission may also have a multimedia component to supplement the still images. Submissions must have an abstract to provide context (180 words maximum) and captions to accompany the photographs. Additional text about the situation being documented may also be entered, as well as a bio of the photographer, information on organizations working with affected communities, and other relevant information. Photographs must have been taken after January 1, 2010 unless the work is part of a long term project that continues past January 1, 2010.

All work must be submitted via the Social Documentary Network website at For specific image specifications, see: Images must be a minimum of 1500 pixels in one dimension.

All entries are automatically and simultaneously submitted for exhibition on the Social Documentary Network website and must follow all rules and regulations regarding exhibits on SDN.

Exhibits on need to be approved before going live (click here for more information). In the event that an entry to the Call for Entries is not accepted for the SDN website, the photographer may make changes to their exhibit and re-submit, at no additional cost, up until the entry deadline. Greater than 90% of all exhibits submitted to SDN are approved.

Photographers can submit multiple contest entries but individual photographs may only be submitted for one entry.

All entries will be viewable to the public on the SDN site.

Note: The account management section of the SDN website requires Safari, Firefox, or Chrome browsers. It will not be completely functional using Internet Explorer.

Converting Existing Exhibits to Call for Entries Submission

Existing exhibit on SDN can easily be converted to a Call for Entries submission by logging into your account and clicking a button in the admin page for your exhibit.


Contest is open to professional and amateur US and international photographers. SDN staff, volunteers, advisory committee members, judges, and their families are not eligible to enter the competition. Previous SDN Call for Entries winners in the past three years are not eligible to enter.

Entry Fees

$35 for one exhibit entry of 6 – 30 images and one multimedia piece. All fees must be paid using a credit card on the SDN website. International credit cards are accepted. All entry submissions and fees are final and non-refundable.


Scholarships are available for photographers from countries without access to credit cards or where there the $35 fee would be prohibitive. To apply, send an email to with an explanation of your need. Requests for scholarships must be received by June 24.

Important Dates

  • Entries accepted on SDN website: May 20, 2016
  • Entries deadline extended: Midnight EST, July 1, 2016
  • Judging: July 8-22, 2016
  • Winners Announced: By August 1, 2016
  • Published in ZEKE: Fall 2016

Use Rights

All entrants and winners retain copyright of their work. By submission for jurying, photographers whose images are chosen grant SDN a royalty-free license to use their images for the purpose of subsequent display on the SDN site or in SDN promotional materials. Entries grant SDN the right to use their name for promotion in any medium including radio, newspapers, publications, television, videotape, and/or distribution over the internet. Samples of the winning work will be released to the press for promotional purposes. Photographers grant use of their images as stated without further contact or compensation from SDN other than the prizes listed above. Photographer’s credit will be provided with all use. Winners grant SDN the right to use the work in SDN Annual if chosen (digital or print).


Entrant acknowledges that SDN may not be held liable for any loss, damages, or injury associated with this contest. Entrant agrees to indemnify SDN for all costs, damages and attorney fees resulting from any third party claims, including copyright infringement, arising from entrant’s participation.

SDN reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any entrant that fails to comply with contest and website rules and guidelines. This Contest is void where prohibited by law.

About SDN

Social Documentary Network (SDN) uses the power of photography to promote global awareness. SDN members include photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students who create and explore documentary websites 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.


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Above photo by Ara Oshagan