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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
EPF 2011 Finalist
Michael Christopher Brown
The Libyan Republic
Since arriving in Libya, I have tried to understand the situation. People swap facts, predictions and rumors, but the complexity of the conflict makes it impossible to fully comprehend. Once a picture is taken or a word is written it is already old news. There seems to be no way to catch up, as the database of history is filed before it is processed. And as a result I have become more confused. But I can attest to one reality, shown in these photographs. They form a loose record of my experience during the war in Libya.
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi ruled Libya for 42 years. During his reign, supporters were given power while those opposed saw their lives crumble. Libya changed from an optimistic, patriotic society to a people living double lives, resigning basic human rights in the face of a brutal authoritarian regime. Trust was elusive and the people were cold.
Then everything began to change. After dictators in similar Mafia-like states of Tunisia and Egypt were forced to leave, thousands of Libyans planned their own Day of Rage. In Benghazi, a peaceful protest on February 15th became a massacre, as protestors were fired upon by police forces. As the uprising spread across eastern Libya, young men throwing stones stormed the Katiba in Benghazi only to be slaughtered by anti-aircraft guns. Though hundreds of them were killed, with help from General Younes special forces the protestors took Benghazi back from Gaddafi. So began the revolution in Libya.
Today, as the war rages on in eastern Libya and in Misrata, Libyans are treating each other as family while creating a new Libya for themselves, not Gaddafi. Though their cities are in shambles, freedom is in the air.
The more time I spend in Libya the more questions I have. Will NATO give up? Who are the rebels and the people creating the new Libyan Republic? Who were the children affected by the HIV trial? What happened to the missing soldiers in the war with Chad and where are their families?
This summer I will attempt to find some of these lost pieces of a past long covered up by the Gaddafi regime and continue documenting daily life, both of which have been shielded from foreign eyes for nearly half a century.
This story has been published before on BURN Magazine, in FOAM magazine (Spring 2011), National Geographic Magazine (July 2011), Das Magazin (April 2011), Photoworld (April 2011), and on Time.com (2011).
Michael Christopher Brown is a contributing photographer to National Geographic Magazine and works regularly for Fortune, GEO and Time magazines, among others. While earning a master of arts in documentary photography from the School of Visual Communication, Brown was named College Photographer of the Year. A former attendee of the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass, his work has won numerous awards from organizations such as BURN, CENTER, Magenta, PDN, The Art Directors Club, Canon and Anthropographia. American Photo magazine named him among a new generation of photo pioneers.