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The Transformative Power of Photography and Collaboration

  • River in Seattle
    Duwamish River, Seattle, WA, from series Sites Unseen, 2010. © Brooke Singer
  • Website splash page
    Superfund365.org (splash page) © Brooke Singer
  • Drawing of a girl
    Christ Siu Leasiolagi, a young father, can only reach his daughter Shay through drawing art on an envelope he sends home while incarcerated. He draws an image from memory of what she last looked like before he was arrested. © Jean Melasaine
  • Woman driving a car
    Steeda McGruder and her daughter May, whom she had while she was incarcerated. Steeda spent the last 17 years in and out of incarceration. She now runs a support group for women who were recently released called Sisters That Been There, which has inspired Piper Kerman, the author of Orange Is The New Black, and has been nationally recognized. © Jean Melasaine
  • Man being photographed
    Making of The Enemy. Gilad Peled, an Israeli soldier during a 3-D hologram and photo shooting in Tel Aviv, May 2014. © Karim Ben Kalifa
  • Magazine spread with portraits
    Foreign Policy Magazine, January 2013. © Karim Ben Kalifa
  • Men praying
    Men praying in a common area of the Bari Palese Identification and Expulsion Center, Italy 2014. © Mario Badagliacca
  • Checkerboard with bottle caps
    Checkerboard realized with bottle caps. One of the devastating effects of detention in the Identification and Expulsion Centers or, Centri di Identificazione ed Espulsione (CIEs) is alienation and inactivity, mainly caused by an inability to understand the reasons for detention. © Mario Badagliacca
  • Swamp with dirty water
    Water and chemicals bubble up from a punctured aquifer off of Highway 126 near Rogersville, New Brunswick. A hole, called a shot-hole, was drilled in the ground by Southwest Energy’s contractor Geokinetics as part of seismic exploration work. The company drills these holes then fills them with explosives. Seismic data is then gathered from the explosion. It is believed that the aquifer is exposed to contamination as a result. SWN denies that testing is unsafe. © Andrew Stern
  • Person stands near burning tires
    A multicultural group of land protectors shut down a local highway in response to a court ruling banning protest near shale gas (fracking) exploration worksites, burning debris and equipment. The few regional highways are major arteries for local traffic and the most direct routes through the thick forest. They provide an efficient thoroughfare for Southwestern Energy to collect seismic data on the amount of natural gas hiding in the underground shale formations. © Andrew Stern
  • Man shows tattooed hands
    Shorty, 28, shows his Killing Fields tattoo, Philadelphia, PA, April 2011. © Pete Pin
  • Portrait of a woman beside a portrait of young girls
    From left to right: Chandevy Angela Khim, 42, Long Beach, CA, April 2014; portrait from ChonBuri refugee camp (Khim in middle, aged 10, with sisters and friends), circa 1979–80. © Pete Pin
  • Two landscape photos side by side
    Presence and Impressions is a series of nine diptychs. It features found photography from historical archives, depicting the once thriving villages and agricultural landscapes from nine Palestinian villages, prior to the 1948 mass depopulation of the Palestinian land. Courtesy of Selma Feriani Gallery and Rula Halawani
  • Family snapshots
    Traces is a series of eight installations that document how refugees, despite fleeing their homes in 1948, keep the memories of Palestine and their previous lives alive. The interiors of their new dwellings become the archive for objects that evoke memory. Courtesy of Selma Feriani Gallery and Rula Halawani

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.

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