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Our World at War: Photojournalism Beyond the Frontlines

October 3, 2009

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Celebrating International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s 150th anniversary, Our World at War: Photojournalism Beyond the Frontlines is a chapter in a series of events created by the ICRC as part of a global humanitarian campaign.

The exhibition is aimed at instilling a deeper understanding of the impact of war in over eight countries from Afghanistan and Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Philippines. Showcasing images that echo hope; from a woman’s hand reaching from behind bars to adjust a radio antennae that will bring news of the world outside, which she may somebody rejoin to a soccer team made up of amputees, where to qualify you have to be missing one leg. The exhibit tells the stories of prisoners, rape victims, displaced families and others affected by war and armed conflict.

The photo exhibit had a remarkable turnout on its preview night on September 24th at the Loyola University’s School of Communication and is open for viewing until Nov. 20th free of cost. The exhibit is a one time opportunity to observe and absorb war in its raw state, as captured through the lens of award-winning photojournalists; Ron Haviv, Antonin Kratochvil, Christopher Morris, James Nachtwey and Franco Pagetti.

Antonin Kratochvil, one of the photojournalists involved in the exhibition adds his personal experience as a former child refugee in Czechoslovakia, his native country. His experience builds on the bits and pieces of conflict torn images gathered by the other photojournalists from their coverage of war and turmoil in Iraq, Afghanistan, the West Bank and Gaza, to name a few.

War and violence can strip us of many things, but the one enduring and universal thing we all share is human dignity. Behind the suffering there is always a person and that really comes across in this exhibit (Yves Daccord, Director of Communications, ICRC)

Art as a weapon of activism is the subject of this exhibition, which has in the past made masses weep from photographer Frank Fournier’s haunting image of Omayra Sanchez to Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning picture of a vulture waiting to feed on a dying Sudanese toddler. The power of still art is invincible and when the power is rightly invested in capturing undying moments from war and upheaval, the pain and suffering can be felt by generations to come.

The exhibition depicts the appalling human cost of war –Group rape, child slavery and a life torn in widowhood or disability. These are a few of the infinite physical costs of war, which might be amended in some way or the other, but what about the psychological costs of war?

In the DRC, rape is used to terrorize, humiliate and punish the enemy. Frequently husbands, fathers and children are forced to watch and even participate. Experts estimate that some 60 percent of all combatants in the DRC are infected with HIV/AIDS. As women rarely have access to expensive antiretroviral drugs, sexual assaults all too often become automatic death sentences (Silence = Rape, The Nation)

Witness the tears post wars fought by rape, abuse and violence –let the photo exhibit be your motivation to fight for a change, an integration of people of all colors black, brown and white.

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“Rebels came to this woman’s house. They made her stand in the middle of the room and ordered her to sing, clap and dance. They tortured and killed her husband. They took turns raping her daughter, who was not quite 12. When they had finished, they told her to clean the bloody knife. She was still singing, clapping, and dancing when I found her in a camp for displaced persons (Photograph by Christopher Morris)

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