Much has changed in Ukraine during 27 years of independence. As a former Soviet republic, it borders both Russia and the EU. Whilst there was once a majority wanting a neutral status, it is now leaning towards European integration and NATO accession.
It is considered a NATO "partner country" meaning there is an understanding that it may be allowed to join the alliance sometime in the future.
Russia wants assurances from Western powers that this will never happen - something the West is not prepared to offer. Members of NATO are weighing up how far they should go to help Ukraine, in the face of a possible Russian invasion. It is Europe’s greatest threat of war in 30 years.
In 2005 I travelled to the Ukraine on assignment to capture the “Children of Chernobyl” for a charity. I photographed at the Chernigov Polyclinic covering the health program monitoring the effects of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
The people that I met and photographed were extremely welcoming, wanted to show me their beautiful culture, and proud of who they were as a nation.
“Communication is the key to education, understanding and peace”. James Bryce
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 .
The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is a United Nations-sanctioned holiday observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and people. In 2013 the day was dedicated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to peace education, the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.
I photograph for a number of non-governmental organisations and charities that work towards building lasting peace or indirectly by improving the economic stability of a region, including International Alert, The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) and The Red Cross.
I recently attended the launch of “The Peace Perceptions Poll 2018”, a collaboration between International Alert and the British Council, in partnership with global polling agency RIWI.
Bringing together the views of more than 100,000 people, the Peace Perceptions Poll sought to answer questions around how people experience and respond to violent conflict, and how they think their government should respond to conflict.
More countries are experiencing violent conflict now than at any time in the past 30 years. People have been displaced from their homes at a rate not seen since the Second World War. The cost of conflict is currently estimated at US$1.04 trillion a year.
Conflict and violence appear on our screens every day. Whilst we all understand that conflict is detrimental to the economic stability of a country and wellbeing of the people it is more challenging to assess what can be done to prevent conflict in the first place.
The findings showed a clear public appetite for long-term conflict prevention, commonly termed 'peacebuilding'. There are no short term fix solutions with education and economic improvement being the top two elements voted for in the poll.
During the panel debate, someone from the audience asked the question that if the solutions are long term, then what should we be doing in the here and now?”
Our perceptions that peacebuilding is long term often means that people do not think that they can make a difference. With long term solutions of education and economic improvement we will always be in the “here and now” and there will always be conflict around the world. The Peace Perceptions Poll is a shining example of what we should be doing in the “hear and now” and also to what a difference we can make.
Take the poll at The Peace Perceptions Poll 2018