Photography and its impact on conflict and peace


As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This has rung true many times over the years. Many will remember the Pulitzer-prize winning picture ‘Napalm Girl’ where 9-year-old Kim Phuc was shown running naked in agony after having torn off her clothes following a napalm attack on her village. It was 1972 and the Vietnam War was still ravaging across the country. The Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut took the black and white photo for the Associated Press, which many have argued played a part in bringing an end to the brutal war.

More recently the photographer Richard Mosse went to the conflict ridden Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  During his trips to the Eastern Congo in 2010-11, Mosse used the discontinued type of infrared-sensitive, false-colour film called Kodak Aerochrome, originally a military technology used for camouflage detection, to examine the conflict. The film produces a spectrum of light beyond what the human eye can see, depicting foliage and landscapes in shades of lavender, crimson and pink hues. The photo collection Infra documents the ongoing conflict in the DRC. According to Open Eye Gallery “Infra offers a radical rethinking of how to depict a conflict as complex as that of the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” The collection depicts the landscape, half-finished buildings and abandoned structures on the front zone, young children, armed rebels and victims of violence. The photos are truly mesmerizing the pink hues almost letting you forget you’re looking at a conflict, while at the same time making it all the more evident and horrifyingly pronounced.

Despite the official peace accords in 2003 which ended ‘Africa’s World War’ involving 9 African nations, violence still continues in the Eastern regions of the DRC today. Government and rebel groups continue to fight for power and control over mines rich in natural resources. Rape as a mechanism to control the population is widespread. In 2011 the American Journal of Public Health estimated that 48 women are raped every hour in the DRC. The same year it was reported that a mass rape of 170 women occurred in June near Fizi, South Kivu. Violence escalated again in April 2012 with the formation of a rebel group, the March 23 Movement, as soldiers mutinied against the government of the DRC. According to Genocide Watch there are currently genocidal massacres taking place in North and South Kivu in the Eastern Congo.

The questions remain-will these photos change anything? Will there be peace? Or, will we simply be left more aware? Judge for yourself.


Photo credits: Richard Mosse, angs school


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