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Photo by Kristen Emack. 2020 ZEKE Award First Place Winner


SDN & ZEKE magazine announce

2021 ZEKE Award for Documentary Photography

Produced by:




ZEKE Award 40-ft banner displayed at Photoville, Sept-Nov 2020.

First Place is shared by:
Kristen Emack, from the US, for Cousins, a story about the photographer’s daughter and niece and their intimate and spiritual knowledge that is both ordinary and extraordinary. 
Jason Houston, from the US, for Last Wildest Place exploring the Purús/Manu region in southeastern Peru, one of the most remote, inaccessible, and important areas of the Amazon and home to perhaps the highest concentration of isolated “uncontacted” tribes on Earth.  

Kristen and Jason's projects will be exhibited in the SDN/ZEKE exhibition at Photoville this fall in Brooklyn and will also be featured in the fall issue of ZEKE magazine. 

Five Honorable Mentions are awarded to:
Etinosa Yvonne, from Nigeria, for It's All in My Head, a multimedia project that explores the coping mechanisms of survivors of terrorism and violent conflict. 
Mohsen Kaboli, from Iran, for Surrogate Mother. In Iran, it is considered that in addition to solving many couples’ fertility problems, surrogacy also reduces the number of divorces.
Tako Robakidze, from the Republic of Georgia, for Creeping Borders. Since the so-called “Five Day War” between Russia and Georgia in 2008, up to 20% of Georgian territory is now under Russian occupation, and more is lost each year.
Nicoló Filippo Rosso, from Colombia, for Exodus. At the border with Colombia, a continuous flow of migrants from Venezuela crosses the line every day, compelled to leave for reasons of violence, lack of access to food, medicine, and essential services and loss of income due to the political situation.
Ricardo Teles, from Brazil, for Everyday is a Saint Day. Black slavery lasted 350 years in Brazil. It was the most perverse, long-lasting and lucrative business in the New World. Perhaps the most common and effective form of resistance was Afro-Brazilian cults and celebrations.

First-Place Winners

Jason Houston: Last Wildest Place

Photo by Jason Houston
Jason Houston

Photo by Jason Houston at Puerto Esperanza, Purús Province, Peru. March 14, 2015


The Purús/Manu region in southeastern Peru is one of the most remote, inaccessible, and important areas of the Amazon, where still-intact ecosystems provide sustenance for settled indigenous communities and home to perhaps the highest concentration of isolated “uncontacted” tribes on Earth. While still largely undeveloped, this last wildest place is increasingly threatened by many deforestation drivers including logging, mining, oil and gas development, cattle grazing, coca cultivation, agricultural expansion, and both legal and illegal road construction projects. These industries open up previously inaccessible forests with devastating and irrevocable impacts on the ecosystems and all who depend on them.


Click here to view the exhibit on SDN.


Jason Houston’s photography looks at how we live on the planet and with each other, exploring human experience through the lens of culture, community, and our relationships to the environment. He works closely with the communities he photographs, including various collaborative and participatory approaches, to learn from and accurately document their lives, understand the issues that affect them, and drive awareness to help guide social and environmental change. Jason has partnered with many organizations including The Nature Conservancy, WWF, UNESCO, USAID, and the Pulitzer Center on projects ranging from wildland firefighting in the American west and maternal healthcare in Haiti and Nepal to documentation of small-scale fisheries throughout the developing tropics. His work has been published editorially and exhibited publicly around the world and he is a Senior Fellow at International League of Conservation Photographers and a Fellow at Wake Forest University’s Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.

Kristen Emack: Cousins

Photo by Kristen Emack. 

“My daughter and my niece's involvement in each other's lives is both gravitational and expected. We all grow up. The girls have each other to navigate this tender process, and I admire their innocent, confident relationships to themselves, their world and one another. Between them is an intimate and spiritual knowledge that is both ordinary and extraordinary, and I'm indebted to them for letting me capture the brilliance of their communion and kinship. As they have matured, they have begun to understand that the lives of Black girls are not well documented, and agree that one added intention of this series is to bring forward that perspective. My hope is that when they look back on this work, they will see the beauty of their childhood together, and when they look for everyday representations of themselves in the world, they will find themselves here, in this work we made together, reflected with love.

Click here to view complete exhibit on the SDN website.

Kristen Emack is a photographer and public school educator who lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She holds a degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She is primarily a self-taught photographer and is a Mass Cultural Council Photography Fellow. She is a CRITICAL MASS Top 50 Winner, a Michael Reichmann Project Grant recipient, a PDN Emerging 30 nominee and will have images on The Fence this Spring for the second time. Her interview in Vogue Italia was published in February, and she recently became the second place series winner in Lensculture Portraits. Although a 2020 recipient of a McDowell residency, it has been postponed until next year due to social distancing concerns. Kristen's work includes two ongoing projects that look at childhood, family and visibility, and a finished series that looks at loss.



Kristen Emack

Barbara Ayotte is Communications Director for Social Documentary Network and Editor of ZEKE Magazine. She is also a communications strategist, writer and editor for leading nonprofit organizations. Barbara is the Director of Editorial Resources at WGBH, America’s preeminent public media organization and the largest producer of PBS content for television and the web and a major supplier of content for public radio and digital audio services. Barbara was the Senior Director of Strategic Communications for Management Sciences for Health, an international non-profit development organization working on global health issues in over 30 countries. Prior to that, she was Director of Communications for Physicians for Human Rights, a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. 


Greig Cranna is Founder and Director of the Bridge Photography Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Greig eventually settled in New York City where he began his photography career in 1976. His clientele included the Council on Foreign Relations, the Japan Society, ABC Television, the International Typeface Corporation and the U.S. Dept. of Energy. He has traveled extensively in the Canadian Maritimes, photographing seabird research, Atlantic salmon research, aquaculture, environmental issues and ecotourism. Since moving to Boston in 1982, his work has expanded into economic development, housing, architecture, and agriculture.  For the past four years he has been documenting the new generation of architect-designed bridges and their physical and cultural impact on the landscape.


Barbara Davidson is a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy award-winning photographer/director. She is currently working on a Guggenheim Fellowship photographing survivors of gun violence across the US using an 8x10 film camera. A staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times until 2017, Barbara spent the past decade photographing women and children trapped in a culture of poverty and guns. She was also the lead photographer and curator for the global partnership to “End Violence Against Children” where she documented the plight of children across three continents. Barbara won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography, and an Emmy for her work on innocent victims trapped in the crossfire of deadly gang violence in Los Angeles.


Angelika Hala is the New York photo editor and producer for stern, stern VIEW, stern CRIME, and stern fashion supplements. Angelika came to photography with a background of TV and film production and the publishing business. As photo editor at the New York office of stern, she commissions, researches and licenses photography for a wide range of features from documentary, science, sports and news to portrait and fashion.  She works with established photographers as well as developing talent. Angelika co-produced and curated Open Show New York events and has done multiple portfolio reviews across the country.


Michael Itkoff is a Cofounder at Daylight Books. For over fifteen years he has been deeply involved in the publishing industry in both print and digital media. Michael’s photographic and video work is in public and private collections in the United States and his work has appeared on the covers of Orion, Katalog, Next City, and Philadelphia Weekly. Michael was the recipient of the Howard Chapnick Grant for the Advancement of Photojournalism, a Creative Artists Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Arts Council, and a Puffin Foundation Grant. Michael’s monograph Street Portraits was published by Charta Editions in 2009.


Alexa Keefe is an Assistant Managing Editor at National Geographic magazine where she shapes the visual narrative for short and long form stories related to natural history and the intersection between humans and wildlife, including conservation and wildlife crime and welfare. She first joined National Geographic in 2011 as a photography producer and then became one of the founding editors of Proof, National Geographic’s award-winning digital series highlighting the experiences of visual storytellers from around the world.  She started her career at U.S. News and World Report, where she was a photo archivist and photo editor from 2001-2010.


Kurt Mutchler is a senior science photo editor at National Geographic magazine. He was awarded both Magazine/Media Visual Editor of the Year in Pictures of the Year International (POYi) as well as Magazine Picture Editor of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) in 2018. He was also nominated for Picture Editor of The Year by The Lucie Awards in 2019. His work has also been recognized by the Overseas Press Club of America, The Association of Magazine Media, Society for News Design, The Society for Publication Designers and World Press Photo. He has worked at National Geographic magazine since 1994 where he has held many positions—photo editor, deputy director of photography and executive editor of photography.


Uche Okpa-Iroha is the Executive Director of the Nlele Institute in Lagos, Nigeria, a Pan-African nonprofit art photography organization. His own photography draws attention to the African continent where he uses cinematic narratives to investigate the stereotypical representation of deviant or marginal cultures. Uche is a founding member of Blackbox, a Nigeria photography collective. He is a two-time winner of the Seydou Keita Award at the 8th and 10th Bamako Encounters. He is a contributor to several publications including “Lagos – the City at work”, “Nigerians Behind the Lens” and “Unifying Africa”. Uche is an alumnus and ex-resident of the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2011/2012).


Niama Safia Sandy is a New York-based cultural anthropologist, curator, musician and essayist. Her curatorial practice delves into the human story through the application and critical lenses of culture, healing, history, migration, music, race and ritual. She sees her role as one who endeavors to simultaneously call into question and make sense of the seemingly arbitrary nature of modern life and to celebrate our shared humanity in the process. Her aim is to leverage history, the visual, written and performative arts, and chiefly those of the Global Black Diaspora, to tell stories to lift us all to a higher state of historical, ontological and spiritual wholeness. Niama is an alumna of Howard University, University of London, and the No Longer Empty Curatorial Lab. She is a founding curator of the Southeast Queens Biennial which debuted in 2018. Sandy’s writing has been featured in Artsy, MFON: Women Photographers of the Black Diaspora, NAD NOW, and more. (Photo by Florian Koenigsberger)


Jeffrey Henson Scales  is an independent photographer who also works as a photography editor at The New York Times where he curates the photography column, “Exposures,” and is an Op-Ed editor as well as co-editor of the annual Year In Pictures section. His most recent book of personal photographs, “House” documents life in a legendary Harlem barbershop over the course of six years. In addition, he has been a successful editorial and entertainment industry photographer, photographing regularly for magazines, record covers, film posters, and publicity campaigns. His documentary photographs are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The George Eastman House; and other major collections. He has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards including, New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, W. Eugene Smith Award in Humanistic Photography, and numerous international awards for editing projects at The New York Times. (Photo by Chad Batka)


Fiona Shields is the Head of Photography for the Guardian News Media Group and has over twenty years' picture editing experience across a range of newspaper titles. Throughout her career she has been involved in the coverage of some of the most historic news stories of our time including the events surrounding 9/11, conflicts around the world from Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan, the revolution of the Arab spring and the continuing violence in the Middle East, large scale natural disasters and the humanitarian crises resulting from the growing refugee numbers across the globe. In addition she has delivered talks at photo festivals, taken part in mentoring programs for students of photojournalism and has enjoyed judging the Sony World Photography Awards, Lensculture Exposure Awards, the Renaissance Photography Prize to name a few. Last year she was on the jury of the esteemed Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize and is a regular nominator for the world famous Prix Pictet Award.


Maggie Soladay is Senior Photo Editor at the Open Society Foundations based in NYC. The Open Society Foundations is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, working to support freedom, democracy, and human rights. She curates the Open Society Instagram feed, where each week a different photography project is featured exploring different human rights issues. Maggie has over 25 years of experience in the photography industry having worked in nearly every role from photo assistant, photographer, location scout, producer, and editor.

How to Enter

Entering the ZEKE Award for Documentary Photography is identical to creating a standard exhibit on the SDN website, except that it is flagged as an award entry for the jurors and you pay the submission fee immediately after submitting your project. Click here for details on how to prepare and submit your work to SDN. When you are ready to enter, click the Enter Now button, or click here.

Entry Requirements

Entries must be documentary. We define this broadly, but an important quality is that the intent is to tell a visual story about the subject of your photographs. If the work is more about you as an artist, then it would not be appropriate for SDN or ZEKE magazine. Composited photographs (photo collages) are not accepted.

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 began prior to 2010 and continues to the present.

All work must be submitted via the Social Documentary Network website. For specific image specifications, click here. 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.

All submissions will be viewable to the public on the SDN website. Once your exhibit is accepted, it will remain live on the SDN website for one year. You may choose to hide your entry from the public, but if you hide your entry prior to the completion of judging, you will also hide your site from the jurors.

Converting Existing SDN Exhibits to an Award Submission

Existing exhibits on SDN can easily be converted to an awards submission by logging into your account, going to the exhibit you want to convert, and click a button at the top of the page to convert to the awards.


The ZEKE Award 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. Previous SDN Call for Entries first-place winners in the past five years are not eligible to enter. There is no restriction for honorable mention winners from prior years.

Entry Fees

Early entry fee $25. Standard entry fee $30 for one exhibit entry of 6 – 30 images and one multimedia piece. All fees must be paid using a credit or debit 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 submission fee would be prohibitive. To apply, send an email to with an explanation of your need. Requests for scholarships must be received one week prior to submission deadline.

Important Dates

  • Submission deadline: Midnight EST, May 7, 2020

  • Judging: May 14-June 1, 2020

  • Winners Announced: By June 12, 2020

  • Photoville exhibition: Dates TBD

  • Award Reception: Date TBD, Brooklyn, NY 

  • Published in ZEKE: Fall 2020

Use Rights

All entrants and winners retain copyright of their work. By submission for jurying, photographers grant SDN a royalty-free license to use their images for the purpose of subsequent display on the SDN site, in SDN promotional materials, and in ZEKE magazine. 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.


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. Entrant must have rights to publish images.


SDN reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any entrant that fails to comply with contest and website rules and guidelines.

About SDN

Social Documentary Network (SDN) uses the power of photography to promote global awareness. SDN members include photographers, editors, NGOs, journalists, curators, 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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