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Democracy Photo Challenge Expands Global Conversation

Date and time: 02 July 2010

Documentary photographer Phil Borges, International Center of Photography director Willis Hartshorn and Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos named as jury co-chairs

Washington, D.C.  – The global Democracy is… conversation expands July 7 with the launch of the inaugural Democracy Photo Challenge.  The contest asks people around the world to complete the phrase “Democracy is…” through digital photos submitted online. The Democracy is… conversation leverages social networks and creative challenges to allow global publics to share, consider, debate, and learn from diverse perspectives on democracy.

Photo entries will be accepted from July 7 through July 28.  Democracy is… partners worked with Google’s Picasa Web Albums team to create the contest platform, which is the first of its kind, specifically to power the Democracy Photo Challenge. An independent jury will announce 36 finalists August 19, and the public will select 12 winners during a global online vote beginning August 19 - August 26.  The winners will be announced on the United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Democracy, September 15, with the winning photographs exhibited at the UN in New York.  

“How appropriate that the winning photos should be on display at the UN,” said jury co-chair and International Center of Photography Director, Willis Hartshorn.  “Contestants involved in this challenge have an opportunity to use their cameras to open the world’s eyes to their unique ideas and experiences.”

“Photography is a great creative medium to enhance a global online conversation,” said Jonathan Sposato, Product Manager, Google Photos. “We're happy that Picasa Web Albums is fostering meaningful dialogue.”

The high-level jury will select up to 36 finalists from each of world’s six geographic regions. The Photo Challenge jury co-chairs are:

  • Phil Borges, documentary photographer and founder of the nonprofit Bridges to Understanding
  • Willis Hartshorn, Ehrenkranz director of the International Center of Photography
  • Louie Psihoyos, Academy Award-winning documentary director (“The Cove”), photographer and executive director of the Oceanic Preservation Society


The Democracy is… global conversation, created by a unique public-private partnership, asks engaged citizens around the world to complete the phrase “Democracy is…” through creative online challenges and dynamic offline dialogue.  The Democracy Photo Challenge was inspired by the Democracy Video Challenge, an annual contest launched in 2008 asking the world’s citizens to complete the phrase “Democracy is…” through short online videos. Over the last two years, more than 1,600 people from 111 countries submitted video entries and spurred the online engagement of nearly 3.5 million people.  In addition to the 2010 Democracy Video Challenge, the Democracy is… global conversation has spawned a Twitter challenge in which more than 1,400 people from 30 countries participated. 

People around the world can track updates and join the real-time democracy conversation online at: and

Democracy is…
partners and participating organizations include:  The Annenberg Space for Photography, Bridges to Understanding, the Center for International Private Enterprise, Getty Images, International Center of Photography, the International Republican Institute, the International Youth Foundation, the Motion Picture Association of America, NBC Universal, National Democratic Institute, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, One Economy, the Recording Industry Association of America, TakingITGlobal, University of Southern California (USC), USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the U.S. Department of State, and YouTube.

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