The Fine Art of Documentary: Why beautiful pictures of war, poverty, and disease matter

Presented by Glenn Ruga, Founder and Director, Social Documentary Network and Executive Editor, ZEKE Magazine, and Barbara Ayotte, Communications Director, Social Documentary Network Editor, ZEKE Magazine.

Wednesday,  January 29, 2020 — 7:00-8:30 PM

Co-sponsored by Sweethaven Gallery and Firehouse Center for the Arts

For eleven years, the Social Documentary Network (SDN) has been presenting powerful, and often beautiful, photographs of both challenging and uplifting situations around the world. The uplifting work often explores the grace of indigenous cultures, the majesty of the natural environment, or the day-to-day lives of ordinary people around the world.

The challenging work presented on SDN explores poverty, disease, environmental degradation, war, migration, and many others. Why does it matter that a photograph of a malnourished child is composed well, or that a photograph of a migrant family camping in the mud on the Serbian/Hungarian border uses black and white tonality in a masterful way? Aren’t the facts presented by the photos in such cases what is most important? Does form matter when the subject is about life and death?

Glenn Ruga and Barbara Ayotte will make a compelling argument why form matters, why art matters, and why it is a disservice to the issues being explored to only focus on the raw facts visible on the surface and not to also honor the integrity of a photograph created with the talent and skill of an artist who has organized these elements into a meaningful, and often beautiful, composition.

Launched in October 2008, the SDN website today has presented more than 3,200 compelling online exhibits submitted to the site by more than 2,000 photographers from all corners of the globe documenting issues as diverse as the effects of modernization on Kathmandu, homelessness in the U.S., the consequences of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta, and reconciliation in Rwanda. All photographers on SDN share a common curiosity about the human condition and a strong desire to communicate their insights through words and photographs.

In 2015, SDN launched ZEKE: The Magazine of Global Documentary, a print and digital publication presenting the best work from the SDN website combined with in-depth articles written by journalists exploring in greater detail the themes presented by the photographers.


There will be a raffle at the end of the lecture for:


With ZEKE magazine you get the best of global documentary photography delivered to your door, and to your digital device, twice a year. Each issue presents outstanding photography from the Social Documentary Network on topics as diverse as the war in Syria, the European migration crisis, the Bangladesh garment industry, and other issues of global concern.

Two year subscription — $35 value.

1 ticket for $1  —  5 tickets for $4  —  10 tickets for $8

Lecture followed by Q&A

Date: Wednesday, 29 January, 2020

Time: 7:00-8:30 PM

Prices: Adults ($10), Students ($5) Plus $2 processing charge. (Click here for tickets)