This years theme for the United Nations International Day of Clean Air for blue skies is “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet”, to help raise global awareness of air pollution and its devastating impact on health. The UN is very clear about the scale of the problem: Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to global public health, and it particularly impacts children, women and the elderly, with increased links to diseases such as dementia, diabetes, COVID-19, cardio-vascular and neurological diseases. Developed countries have greatly improved their air quality in recent years but many developing countries are, still reliant on wood and other solid fuels for cooking and heating. The result is that many vulnerable and marginalized people also suffer from the worst air quality.
I worked with the organisation DelAgua in Rwanda, photographing their cook stove project. I travelled throughout Rwanda with the DelAgua team photographing the distribution days, community health worker visits and how the program is improving the lives of those involved. Over 3 billion people still cook over polluting fires, a major contributor to carbon emissions, deforestation and climate change. Cooking over open fires or inefficient stoves emits one-quarter of global black carbon emissions—the second largest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. Household air pollution is the leading environmental cause of premature death and disability, ahead of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, causing more deaths than Malaria, HIV and TB combined. Clean cookstoves are vital to tackle both global challenges and they also provide a plethora of other benefits that impact the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The UN calculates the cost of inaction at $ 2.4 trillion and describes the provision of clean cooking solutions as nothing less than a human rights issue.
The DelAgua cook stove is designed to work for the reality of the lives of the families who use them. It uses wood, but just small pieces of twig and tinder, which rural families can gather without encroaching on forestry. Crucially the design of the stove increases thermal efficiency resulting in quicker cooking speeds and much lower fuel requirements. The stove requires at least 50% less wood than a traditional fire. The stove is durable and saves the equivalent of 14 tons of CO2 emissions over its seven- year life.
Education and ongoing support is central to the work. Every family is visited by a Community Health Worker who explains the dangers of cooking on a traditional fire and household air pollution and the health advantages of cooking on the stove and they also make sure the family know how to use it. Behaviour change is immediate and lasting. 99% of stoves are still in daily use after 2 years.
I am honoured to be a FINALIST in the eleventh edition of the World Report Award 2021 | Documenting Humanity in the SINGLE SHOT category. My entry of “A Boy from the Crowd” photographed in Liberia for International Alert was shortlisted from over 13,000 photographs taken by photographers around the world. An international jury composed of Lauren Steel, Svetlana Bachevanova, Gary Knight, Alberto Prina and Aldo Mendichi selected the work which will be exhibited during the annual edition of the Festival of Ethical Photography in Lodi, Italy.
The World.Report Award aims at a new form of social commitment through photography. The award gives attention to work focusing on people and their social or cultural stories; public or private, minor or crucial, major human tragedies or smaller daily life stories, changes and immutability.
Every year the contest creates a fresco that tells the stories of our planet, its great changes and its intimate and personal relationships connecting human beings.
The World Report Award|Documenting Humanity isn’t simply a contest that through its prizes economically supports those who are actively engaged in this difficult sector of photography, but it also represents a way for all participants to enter into a supportive community that they have built over the past 10 years and composed of professionals who are already collaborating with the organization.
The winners in every category will be announced on August 30th.
I am proud to announce that I am part of the Venice International Art Fair: “Fragmented Identities”, exhibiting at The Room Contemporary Art Space in Venice, from July 12 to August 01, 2021. Venice International Art Fair is a contemporary art exhibition that presents collective and solo projects by leading and emerging international artists. The 13th edition will represent a forum for direct exchange of ideas and contacts between collectors, artists, photographers, designers, and art professionals. The art fair features paintings, sculptures, photography art, installations, video art and live performance.
Borders Art Fair is divided into three appointments (Bodies + Cities Skin, Fragmented Identities and Future Landscapes). I was invited to exhibit three works as part of the Fragmented Identities collection.
Fragmented Identities analyses human beings as living mosaics composed of many different pieces, that form who we are. The challenge is to recognise that there is not just one perspective of knowing someone. In understanding our fragmented identities, we will be able to break down all the barriers and boundaries that divide us.
I am exhibiting three photographs from my series of “Portraits of Survivors of Torture” produced in collaboration with TASSC International. The portraits feature survivors of Torture from around the world who fled their home countries seeking safety, recovery, and political asylum. Most were tortured by repressive governments for “reasons” as varied as joining opposition political organisations, criticising their governments publicly, refusing to join the ruling party, being related to a political dissident or because of their religion or sexual orientation. These men and women were persecuted for standing up for freedom of speech or assembly or for exposing government corruption, fighting against gender-based violence or forced early marriage for girls.
Survivors are the strongest and most effective voice in the campaign to abolish torture.
Not all survivors want to be recognised for fear of repercussions to their friends and family. Each survivor selected a photograph that was significant to them. The photograph was then projected over the individual, sometimes obscuring their identity as per their request.
The portraits invite viewers to see the survivors in the fullest measure of their humanity— to look beyond whatever pre-conceived notions they might have about refugees and asylum seekers and see them as individuals with very human connections to place and home.
My photograph titled “A boy from the crowd” of a Liberian child trying to retrieve his ball is the overall winner of the fifth Siena International Photography Awards, the photography contest that has the widest international participation
Jurors selected the winning image from photographers from 161 countries.
I received my award at an incredible ceremony on Saturday 26th October, in the historic Teatro dei Rinnovati theatre in Siena, Italy. The event was attended by over 300 photographers plus distinguished guests from all over the world, once again consecrating SIPA as one of the most important photographic awards in the world.
The picture was photographed for the peacebuilding organisation, International Alert who works with people directly affected by conflict to build lasting peace. I had been asked to document their work in Liberia where they supported various programmes to build stability.
One of the projects that I covered was the annual Cultural Festival which sees people from difference cultural, linguistic and ethnic groups coming together to celebrate peace in a country that was torn apart by 14 years of brutal conflict.
In this three-day festival, on the outskirts of Monrovia, the crowd was tens of thousands of people. I was interested in photographing the people attending and the West African peacekeeping troops who were keeping order, as well as the performances themselves.
With any subject, I observe what is happening whilst trying to determine how I can best show what is front of me. I have revisited the digital series of photographs to see how I came to this particular photograph. I am normally so immersed in seeing how to frame the picture and capture the moment that I am unaware of everything else.
I started by photographing the soldiers, but then changed to what was more interesting in the crowd. I had been circling this soldier, when I sensed something occurring behind. Suddenly out of the crowd leaned this boy reaching for his precious ball. This was a child who had grown up in war and had good reason to be scared of soldiers and their guns. He wanted to get his ball back, but his eyes were fixed on the soldier. This all happened in the blink of an eye and resulted in this picture, which seems to represent the precariousness of peace, as seen through the eyes of a young child with little understanding of the greater dynamics at play. All he knew was, he wanted his ball back, but also to stay safe.
“In just a few years the Siena International Photo Awards has become one of the most important photographic competitions in the world - explains Luca Venturi, creator and artistic director of the Festival - A success not only linked to the enthusiasm, dedication and passion of the participants , but also to the fact of wanting to keep in the heart of the "Siena Awards" what was the initial dream. From the beginning we had the courage to imagine that Siena could and should become the capital of photography. and by virtue of this 'crazy idea' we have chosen to organize a festival capable of bringing together photographers from all over the world. We are happy to have created a large family, a community with photography at its centre, as a form of international language that connects people of every culture and social background. A dream come true, supported by partners and institutions that together with us continue to invest in the power of imagination and the power that images have to be able to tell stories full of meaning ".
In addition to the shots of the Sipa, until Sunday December 1 the city of the Palio hosts exhibitions and exhibition events with the protagonists of the images and extraordinary reportages made by the most important international photographers. A unique body of images that will make Siena the world capital of photography.
- Exhibition info: Siena International Photo Awards 2019
- When: 28 October - 1 December 2019.
- Where: Siena , various locations .