Are you working on or considering a documentary photography project and are looking for a place for it to be seen or financially supported? Do you want to learn more about the craft and philosophy of documentary photography? Here’s a handy guide to resources for both aspiring and established documentary photographers.
Social Documentary Network
While some documentary photography focuses on problems that need fixing, wars, poverty and more, documentary photography can also be about “joy, love, happiness, ordinary life anywhere,” and the Social Documentary Network accepts the documents of the good with the bad. Or, as they put it, contributors “work can be about solutions, recovery, peace and reconciliation, and rebuilding. But it can also be about conflict, and disease, and climate change, as long as the stories are about real people and/or real situations. We want the 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.” Got a compelling story that you want a tell? Submit six photos, an abstract describing the project, and captions. SDN charges a “nominal fee” but provides a platform to get the truth out, but membership is free.
Moving Walls is an annual documentary photography exhibition produced by the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project. Moving Walls is exhibited at the Open Society offices in New York, London, and Washington, D.C., as well as online, and includes five to seven discrete bodies of work. Since 1998, the Moving Walls exhibition series has showcased nearly 200 photographers in 23 group exhibitions that align with the Open Society Foundations’ mission to advance human rights and social justice. Open Society Foundations says they “work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.”
Documentary Photography Review
Documentary Photography Review provides a place for documentary photographers of all levels a place to showcase their work. Photo stories and personal project, competed or in progress, are all fare game. Submitted work is reviewed and if it is a cohesive body of work with engaging imagery, it will be added to the site. Rejects are critiqued in the hopes that the photographer will improve and re-submit, making this a great place to go to grow as a documentary photographer. “Through this process the desire is that those who share their stories will evolve as documentary photographers and become more competent in the art of visual storytelling,” says the site.
Once upon a time, American Photo was the ultimate taste-maker in the world of fine-art photography magazines, with a sizable circulation and impressive print reproduction. Nowadays, thanks to the shrinking magazine world, there is no American Photo magazine; it is now a web site. The good news? If you’ve made it in documentary and photojournalism, it’s the place to be seen. Not a place for first-timers, but AP’s editors scour the world for impressive photo essays and documentary work, accompanied by thoughtful text that as always, gives the work the proper perspective.
The Aftermath Project
The Aftermath Project is a non-profit organization on a mission to tell “the other half of the story of conflict – the story of what it takes for individuals to learn to live again, to rebuild destroyed lives and homes, to address the lingering wounds of war while struggling to create new avenues for peace.” Heady stuff. Every year, the Aftermath Project holds a yearly grant competition open to photographers worldwide covering the aftermath of conflict.They’ve partnered with schools, institutes and other non-profit organization to spread the word. Borne of photographer Sara Terry’s five-year-long project documenting the aftermath of the 1992-95 war with Bosnia and Hetrzegovina, Terry felt the concept deserved to be expanded to raise awareness. The goal is to show people the real cost of war and the price of peace.
Founded by a photojournalist and a working press photographer, Momenta provides workshops to teach aspiring photographers the basics of documentary photography and beyond. Momenta is the official producer of Leica Destinations and runs travel documentary workshops (they have one to Bali this summer), and business workshops for photographers, but the heart and soul of Momenta is the Project Series workshops, which promote social change by training photographers at all levels to be better visual storytellers, the essence of documentary photography. Upcoming “project” workshops will take place in New Orleans,, Porland, and Columbia.
W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund
Created in the name of the famous Life magazine documentary photographer W. Eugene Smith, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial fund was established in 1979 to seek out and encourage photographers who are working against the fashions and economics of modern publishing. In the first 30 years of the competition the fund selected 303 finalists out of many thousands of proposals, and provided 32 of them with grant money to complete their projects. The winners of the grant are selected based on their ability to approach Smith’s high standards, encapsulated in the following quote: “I am a compassionate cynic, yet I believe I am one of the most affirmative photographers around. I have tried to let the truth be my prejudice. It has taken much sweat. It has been worth it.” Grant applications are available on the web site, and supporters can donate online as well.
Aperture is a not-for-profit foundation that publishes a highly-respected quarterly magazine that includes extensive documentary work. Aperture also hosts exhibitions at its New York gallery as well as touring shows, sells limited-edition prints, and prints up to 15 photo books a year. Although not exclusively focused on documentary photography, documentary projects make up a high percentage of the work published by Aperture and shown on their web site. An annual Portfolio Prize recognizes and promotes emerging photographers.
doc! photo magazine and contra doc! are online publications devoted to documentary and fine art photography, respectively. Both magazines share the same approach to the photography which they perceive as an universal communication platform between people despite their backgrounds, gender, political views, or religions. Doc! is looking for documentary photo essays only. Submissions of up to 15 photos are welcome.
The Documentary Project
If you’re reading this in March, you just missed the deadline for the Documentary Project’s annual competition. The two awards given in 2017 were the Established Artist award of $5,000, open to anyone on any topic local to the photographer. The second is the Emerging Vision $3500 award, meant for new or transitioning photographers. But don’t worry: More competitions will be available next year, and you can see previous award winners on the web site.
Started by Jack Conte, a mad musical genius who comprises half of the online musical phenomenon Pomplamoose, Patreon is an online crowdfunding platform for the creative arts. Originally started for musicians, it is being used by filmmakers, painters, writers and, yes, photographers. If none of the above works for you, consider a DIY fundraiser.
Lead photo by Victor Bezrukov.