Childhood through a viewfinder
Remember the ‘Afghan girl’ in a pakistani refugee camp whose stare drilled into our collective conscience and made an uncaring world stop and take notice? Remember Vietnam’s ‘Napalm Girl’ whose crying face and naked body reminded us of the agony and horror of wars that destroyed childhoods? Remember a starving child in South Sudan watched by a vulture that shook the world and brought the sufferings of children to light? And remember the heart aching burial of an unknown child after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy? Those images shaped history, social conscience and spurred collective action towards justice for children, reiterating how a single photo can define a decisive moment in the minds of people. It was because photographers took on roles of activists, advocates, protectors, ambassadors and storytellers of children across the world, that their rights continue to draw much needed attention. Today, the rights of children demand a space, a place, a voice due to many who staked their lives to share visual narratives of children, who lived through sequestered places, war torn zones, disaster, famine and floods only to expose to the world the plight of todays children. Here’s a pick of our favourite human rights photographers who when lift the camera to their eye… expose, explore, reveal, reflect, witness, prove, protect and unravel before us the countless stories of children that need to be seen and heard.
An American photojournalist who focuses on gender and human-rights issues such as child marriage and self-immolation, Stephanie is also the Founding Executive Director of Too young to Wed. She has photographed conflicts of the past decade with fearless persistence, covered dramatic events of war and the everyday brutality faced by young girls. Stephanie founded Too young to wed after her encounter with Afghan women who set themselves on fire as a result of being forced to marry as children. She went on to photograph underage wives in Nepal, India, Yemen and other countries, providing visual evidence of the human rights challenges faced by girls and women around the world. Known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues, Stephanie set up Too young to wed to protect the rights of girls and end child marriage worldwide. Stephanie has been telling some very pertinent child rights stories through the power of her images. Website: http://tooyoungtowed.org/ http://stephaniesinclair.com/ Facebook: Stephanie Sinclair Twitter: @stephasinclair Instagram: @stephaniesinclaipix @tooyoungtowed
“The impact of documentary photography has changed history. Nick Ut’s picture of the little girl in Vietnam whose body was burning from napalm shocked the world. That single photograph affected everyone who saw it; many believe that the image ultimately made the withdrawal from Vietnam inevitable.”
Recognized universally as one of today’s finest image-makers, Steve McCurry is best known for his photograph “Afghan Girl” and his evocative color photography. In the finest documentary tradition, McCurry captures the essence of human struggle and joy. “If you wait,” he realized, “people will forget your camera and the soul will drift up into view.” His career was launched when, disguised in native garb, he crossed the Pakistan border into rebel-controlled Afghanistan just before the Russian invasion. Spanning his career, he’s been shot at, robbed, mortared, beaten up, arrested, nearly drowned and had other close calls during assignments around the world. Yet, his curiosity on human behaviour makes him find stories everywhere. Today, his compelling images tell stories of children at war, children at work, child soldiers, stolen childhoods, the most dangerous places to be born, brothers and sisters, mother and child, father and child amongst many others. Website: http://stevemccurry.com/ Facebook: SteveMcCurry Twitter: @McCurryStudios Instagram: @steveMccurryofficial
“I take on issues that stir my passions about the state of humanity and our world, and I deeply believe in the power of still images to change people’s minds. I’m driven by this fact; that the work of photojournalists and documentary photographers can have a positive impact on the world. The access people give to their lives is precious as well as imperative for this important work to get done. Their openness brings with it a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but to also honor their stories.”
Ed Kashi is a photojournalist, filmaker and educator dedicated to documenting the social and political issues that define our times. Known for his intelligence, compassion and fearlessness, he deeply understands his subjects and captures the soul of each situation before photographing it. A sensitive eye and an intimate relationship to his subjects are signatures of his work. As a member of VII Photo Agency, Kashi has been recognized for his complex imagery and its compelling rendering of the human condition. In 2002, Kashi and his wife founded ‘Talking eyes media’, a non profit company that produces short films and multimedia pieces that explore social issues. His most recent works include the documentation of Syria’s lost generation. Website: http://edkashi.com/ Facebook: Ed Kashi Twitter: @edkashi Instagram: @edkashi
Altaf Qadri grew up in Kashmir amid mass uprising against Indian rule and, as a teenager, was once used by members of India’s Border Security Force as a human shield against rebel fire. He was drawn to photojournalism because journalists were afforded more access and protection than ordinary citizens during times of war. His career, however, has brought him into close encounters with death and destruction and it also known to have gone missing for a day in Libya. “I have seen how grenade splinters can damage a whole body, how a bullet pierces through a bulletproof vest,” he says. Qadri believes that photographs highlighting human suffering can make a difference, but he doesn’t restrict himself to only taking pictures. He recently helped policemen bring two United Nations staff to safety in Kabul, Afghanistan, after their guesthouse was attacked. “I thank God for He always gives me a chance to serve humanity,” Qadri says.
Altaf is known for his coverage of the Kashmir conflict, and feature across Afghanistan, Nepal, Thailand and India amongst others. Currently based in Amritsar, India, Altaf covers South Asia and beyond for the Associated Press. Website: http://www.altafqadri.com Facebook: Altaf Qadri Twitter: @altafqadriAP Instagram: @altafqadri
“My job is about telling meaningful stories that will create awareness and hopefully inspire change for the better.”
Ami Vitale’s journey as a photojournalist has taken her to more than 90 countries. She has witnessed civil unrest, poverty, destruction of life, and unspeakable violence. But she has also experienced surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit, and she is committed to highlighting the surprising and subtle similarities between cultures. She is best known for her international news and cultural documentation, and has been praised as a humane and empathetic storyteller.
Ami also works with Ripple Effect Images, a group of journalists dedicated to documenting the plight of poor women and girls around the world, and highlighting the programs that are helping to empower them, especially as they deal with the devastating effects of climate change. Ami is a a member of the Executive Advisory Committee of the Alexia Foundation’s Board of Directors, a contract photographer with National Geographic and a Nikon Ambassador. Now based in Montana, Vitale continues to deliver persuasive and powerful stories to effect change. “We can’t just complain about the problems in the world and do nothing. … It’s your responsibility to make change, too.” Website: http://www.amivitale.com/ Facebook: Ami Vitale Twitter: @amivee Instagram: @amivitale
In 2006, Italian documentary photographer and multimedia journalist, Alex Masi began to investigate and document socio-environmental issues in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, the USA, and most recently Nigeria. He was devoted to expose human-made injustice, focusing mainly on children: their living conditions, their health and their human rights. He is of the belief that documentary photography ought to be an active catalyst in promoting awareness, political and juridical change, in fostering action by individuals, NGOs and governmental bodies. Through his photography, he aspires to stimulate amongst people the deepest and most innate feelings of empathy, justice, respect and brotherhood and strives to portray his subjects with intimacy and meaning. Alex strives to produce intimate images that can sensitize viewers in positive, engaging and proactive ways, hoping to contribute towards a slow change in people’s behaviour and policy-making.
Alex was taking shelter during a monsoon season in Bhopal, India, when he noticed a young girl dart out to shake off the heat of the day – and what Masi did next transformed not only the life of his subject and her family, but also his own. Website: http://www.alexmasi.com/ Facebook: Alex Masi Photography Twitter: @alexmasiphoto Instagram: @alex_masi_photography
Photo Credits : Stephanie Sinclair
Words By : Leher