The Transformative Power of Photography and Collaboration

This past year, the Open Society Documentary Photography Project revised our Audience Engagement Grant Program. While we remain dedicated to supporting photographers’ collaborative efforts to create meaningful transformation around issues of social justice and human rights, we recognize that this kind of work follows a long trajectory from inception to realization. As a result, we offered two tracks of support—one for project development and one for project implementation—for the many important phases and entry points where partners and communities become involved. 

We are pleased to announce and congratulate the following 2014 grant recipients and their partners:

Track 1: Project Development

  • Nazik Armenakyan to document women living with HIV/AIDS in Armenia.
  • Paul Botes to showcase the impact of the Lonmin Marikana Mine violence in South Africa.
  • Robert Godden to address migration policies, practices, and research in Nepal.
  • Cristobal Olivares to confront violence against women in Chile.
  • Thenmozhi Soundararajan to expose sexual violence against Dalit women in India.
  • Andri Tambunan to chronicle the rise of HIV/AIDS within indigenous Papuan communities living in Tanah Papuah.

Track 2: Project Implementation

The 2014 grantees take on multiple and often simultaneous roles—artists, activists, advocates, and community organizers, to name just a few. In rethinking the Audience Engagement Grant, we also saw a need to better understand, from our grantees, what these projects require and make possible in the communities they aim to serve. For the first time we will gather both groups for an off-site retreat in December to incorporate both individual and collective learning, reflection, and engagement.

During our time together at the retreat, we hope to challenge each other to test assumptions, reassess goals, and strategize on moving forward mindfully and effectively. As much as we are interested in resulting actions, we care equally about the theories of change and values driving these projects, as well as how those are communicated. We believe that developing such a roadmap in a space of shared learning allows for personal growth, and by extension, social change.

Learn More:



I think a wise decision to deal with all the staff on new projects.
I believe that to have a real impact on the public opinion. it would be necessary to promote real documentaries designed in a serial format for the general public.
The audio-visual language has evolved considerably in recent years and the use of images obtained with Ipad or cell is accepted and used.
I think the use of mixed media is impressive.
I also think it would be great fund of videomaker who have the ability to penetrate non-invasively in reality they want to document.

You have a great concern in making the world a better place. This is an effective way to use photography, to expose and resolve problems.
Why not also include everyday life experience
which the focus is not just on strife. Documentary photography exemplifying the common experience in a pleasurable manner. The goal, to show contrasting experiences. A poetic lyrical use of the photographic image, yet remaining a document of information, with strong emotional content.
John Milisenda

For more than twenty years I have used my photographs as a story teller -
First bringing to light - in a book and in a United Nations exhibition that has traveled the world - the lives of people who were permanently exiled because they once had Hansen's disease/leprosy and the dignity they maintained while experiencing societies' worst reaction.
I am one of 14 people who Founded IDEA to eradicate the stigma surrounding once having had Hansen's disease. I photographed and spoke at empowerment workshops in 36 countries. It has been a huge success changing laws, reuniting families, integrating people who were once feared back into society.
Taking a photography project to a place where it makes a difference is to make sure the people you photograph are involved in what they want the result to be...that you find a platform from which they can speak and the audience is the people who can make the change.

I love this I love photography and I took a look at these pictures and some of these are pretty amazing I agree with the thought of getting footage in a video it would be amazing and really interesting

Add your voice