dima gavrysh – uganda’s forgotten war

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Dima Gavrysh

Uganda’s Forgotten War

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For over two decades a sectarian rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its infamous leader, Joseph Kony, have been waging a war against the Ugandan people and government, burning villages, mutilating civilians, and abducting children. Based in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the LRA has continued to terrorize northern Uganda since the late 1980’s, forcing millions of people to abandon their homes for dire conditions of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.

The ongoing warfare became one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts and one of the most underreported crises in the world. The LRA has been known for particularly brutal mutilation of the civilians, and an uncounted number of people who survived an encounter with the LRA guerrillas had their limbs, ears, and noses cut off. Terrified by the prospect of being killed, abducted, or tortured, most villagers in northern Uganda prefer the squalid conditions of the IDP camps, and by the present time an entire generation has been born and raised in IDP camps and has never seen their own village. People in the affected area have been helped by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who provide health care, rehabilitate and run hospitals, battle epidemics, carry out vaccination campaigns, and offer mental healthcare, easing the existence for the refugees.

Children have suffered disproportionately in this conflict, and they are one of the most striking symbols of the violence in the region. Over 20,000 children have been abducted by the LRA during the conflict, for use as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves. An unknown number has been killed. As a result, every night tens of thousands of children stream into towns and centers of larger IDP camps to seek shelter for the night. Various humanitarian organizations set up shelters, such as the Noah’s Ark shelter in the town of Gulu, that provide a safe place for the so called “night commuters” to spend the night. As the darkness falls, slender shapes wrapped in blankets fill the floor of plastic tents that serve as communal bedrooms. Before the sun rises in the morning, children gather their belongings and return home, surviving another night.

A fragile truce was established between the Ugandan government and the LRA in 2006, and the 1.6 million people from approximately 200 camps began drifting toward home. The reports of various human rights violations, including killings, mutilations, abductions, and sexual violence are still not uncommon; however, as peace talks progressed in 2007 and LRA fighters left northern Uganda, people continued to return to their villages or smaller camps.


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Dima Gavrysh


230 Responses to “dima gavrysh – uganda’s forgotten war”

  • Ufff!!!! I’m speecheless. Dima congratulations for this body of work. It could be Nachtwey, but no it’s Dima. Once again the bar has been lifted!

  • Tour de force. Stunning. Wonderful and wrenching. No more words at the moment.

  • excellent work. very strong single images. the program ran slow for me – so i was not able to view all of them – but i personally found the first project stronger. the 2 opening images are fantastic. i too thought of Nachtwey…. nice work.

  • damn – your nigerian prostitute work is excellent as well.

  • Wow Dima, this is really a great job, I wish I could do even 10% of what you did here!

  • I am not typically a supporter or enthusiast of this brand of photography – ‘conflict photography’ to re-use the VII moniker – the visual profiteering of the miserable, the abused, the murdered and the beatification of the horrible. But Dima, there is a determination in your work here that transcends the devastation they portray. A very clear rendering of ideas and a direct telling; quiet, terribly quiet.

  • I keep 1,2,5,7,11,13,14,16,17,18,20,22,23,25,26,27,29
    That is 17 pictures. Not bad…

    I can easily do without the rest.

    Would have liked to see more interaction with adults.

  • and here we are dreading to look at ourselves in the mirror…

    thank you for this essay.
    will comment later once i recover

  • it is always hard to say “excellent pictures” when pictures have so strong meaning, when pictures telling about pain and misery. And it’s hard to say “good job”, “great essay” “beautiful portraits”.

    I will say only… sad essay…

  • I think it’s worth noting that all IDP camps in Gulu were officially closed last month.

    Around 2006, the popularity of the Invisible Children documentary caused so many Westerners to flock to Uganda (and other countries’ IDP/refugee camps). There was much good done, but many of these people were a bit too free with their snapshots, a bit dehumanizing, disrespectful…unintentionally of course. But from what I’ve seen and heard, it caused a distrust of and backlash against foreigners with cameras.

    It looks as if you were there for only a month, did you become close with your subjects? Did MSF guide you around? Did you experience this distrust?

    (This is probably a silly question but…) Why are the people in the portraits, in this set and in general, not named? Is it for privacy? Isn’t it more powerful to know even just their first name?

    Sorry, so many questions! Your work is hearbreakingly gorgeous…(favorites 1,14,44) and I will be coming back to it (and the other projects on your site) often. Thank you for sharing!

  • hi dima.

    some really very well constructed photographs.. excellent work..
    christinas questions above are very interesting as well, and i look forward to reading a response..

    i’d like to ask – where does your work feature in the publishing world, apart from here on burn?
    i simply ask because more important than the style of the photographs is that this kind of work is actually getting out there and seen.

    best wishes

  • Dima,

    with each image i kept holding my breath wondering if you could possibly ‘exact‘ yet another compositional invention. You always did. i was utterly amazed with your solutions.

    almost every image could be a stand-alone cover page for an entire written story, almost all have that dynamic ‘mantra’ power, i do think there are two or three big outliers for both ‘story’ and image quality, but it’s almost shameful for me to even mention that.

    about half way through the work i wondered if the compositions were going to steal the show, purely by being so dramatically inventive, but i must say there was a strong sense of sadness that kept my heart pinned to the story even though my mind was thinking hard about each and every one of the solved visual puzzles. i wonder what it would be like to ‘not’ be a photographer and see these compositions; how would they impact my read? i’ll never know, maybe someone else might know though.

    for me, quite selfishly, i want to know how in the world do you make the eyes of a Dima. I think feeling and sensitivity to life is something we each have with varying degrees, but the ability to find the point of views that you have found to depict life is simply genius, and i’m not using ‘genius’ as a descriptor there, it’s simply a fact of your framing abilities.

    Was there anything that you can remember that helped open your mind to find such inventive places to put the camera? How much did the relatively clean canvas of the country and the use of B&W play in to those solutions? Were there any transition projects, or people, or lessons that opened your mind to framing this way, to see shapes this way?

    i think anyone that thinks compositions are key to photographs would do well to sit and look at every image, better yet, sketch it out, figuring out where the camera was actually placed, what focal length was used, what aperture was used, where critical focus was set, and sometimes, better yet, how the heck did Dima manage to even get the camera in that place pointed in that direction without totally collapsing/disrupting the information he planned to collect.

    Dima, I hope you can give us as much of the behind the scenes as both an observer, but more importantly what were the challenges as a photographer to see and capture and edit this story.

    Best Wishes,


  • YES.
    In these days of worrying about mortgages and payments lets hope people like you can get an image that wacks us in the face and reminds us that, we ain’t got it so bad and that, as David suggests, hopefully, some end up in the public media and do so.
    If any sort of image can make a difference, surely its this sort of photography. Isn’t it?
    How can little people not be affected by the brutality afflicted upon them continuing on through generations till something stops it in its tracks!

  • Man, you take great pictures!

  • a very strong feature, Dima, absolutely beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing them. Whenever I see pictures like these it reminds me even more of the importance of such features and, on a more personal level, why I’m trying to tell this kind of stories visually (still haven’t had a chance to do so, yet, but that’s another story).

    In times like these, when the word “crisis” is used so often and for so many different situations, it’s even harder to think about how we (as western “civilization”) have had our heads turned away from Africa and its tragedies, which we’re hugely responsible for.

  • Great Work Dima – Tho I have to concurr with Mr Vink re kids and adults , I went to your site and got a real surge in my guts when I went to the Uganda section and saw the third picture in . Great Picture ,says a lot more than most and all round you could have said a lot more with less, But WTF ?
    Great Work!!!

  • joe

    an exercise we did in collage was to project photographs and paintings onto a white board and then draw the dominant lines within each composition onto it.. and then switching off the projector we seemed to be left with construction lines , dominant shapes and layers which each piece consisted of.
    it´s a great game to play – just as great as looking for the naturally occurring compositions all around us.

    i did share your concern that the essay above may reduce to simply an exercise in compositional tricks, although as you say – once the story moved on into the night moments there was more feeling to engage with.. so it works out very well to me..
    and you´re right.. in terms of getting single worthy images to make the whole i think this is great – highly usable photos which could deliver clients and number of ´exclusive´ front photos to accompany text..

    i think this is important with humanitarian work, although it is important with all PJ work – the better the photos, the better the possible use, higher the circulation and therefore the more people who can be made aware of what the photographer wants to show.
    it would be a shame to confront such situations as this.. or the congo.. or anywhere.. without the talent that dima clearly has.
    to point a camera at suffering people and not gain them the greatest coverage deserved, through lack of technique or marketing after the shoot, is shaky ground to stand upon..


  • This is why cameras where invented.

  • Kind of a mix of VII and NatGeo. Regardless of the skill of the photographer at composition, I’m troubled by this brand of conflict photography. There is no doubt the photographer is talented. But what’s the point? Another window opened on man’s inhumanity to man. More photos of damaged people.

    Why did the photographer travel here and take these photos? I always wonder about the motives. What is the point of exploiting these situations if there is no hope? Sure they make great photos in newspapers, and they will get you a lot of gushing praise on Burn magazine. And perhaps a bunch of rich folks will sip wine and gawk at them blown up big on a wall in a gallery. But surely this isn’t why the photographer shot the photos?

    Of course the children suffered disproportionately. They always do. In every photo of these conflicts, every essay, the children suffer. And photos of suffering children stop us cold. And we shake our heads. And we ponder why. And then tomorrow we see another photo, another essay, in another part of the world. And we shake our heads. And we ponder why.

    Why did the photographer shoot these photos? Why did he submit them to Burn magazine? If you want to be a famous photographer you don’t have to shoot this kind of stuff. DAH is a good example. I’m certainly not one to stick my head in the sand. But if you want to really help these people, a camera is not an effective tool. We are awash in these images. They have lost their power to shock people into action.

  • The series is too neat, too artistically photographed.

  • jim.
    ¨But if you want to really help these people, a camera is not an effective tool. We are awash in these images. They have lost their power to shock people into action.¨

    in general of course your are right and we are living in a time of donar fatigue, as well as a time when digital ´trouble tourists´ seek out suffering in order to produce ´worthy´ portfolios..
    but your statement above, about a piece of work as well crafted as this, simply has no base in reality.
    without researching the job, life and actions of every person who views these photos… it is not possible to hang such a statement on this work unless you have the omnipotent presence of some ethereal being, which none of us do..

    jim – the more i read you saying that work ´has no hope´ – be it the portrait of a dying man or this story – it makes me see you as someone with no hope..
    and i know you have done a great deal and care passionately about people, as you have expressed in the past.

    i am looking forward to hearing from dima, in part for similar reasons i am sure – to make sure the work is getting out there, apart from here on burn.
    and i also agree in part with you that there is a chunk of new photographers.. and perhaps form the last 50 years.. who believe to be taken seriously as a pj you have to take photographs of serious suffering.. but could it not also be true that there are some genui9nely talented humanists still working teh craft for altogether more altruistic reasons?

    the other point is that everything that happens on this planet is worthy of being placed on record photographically.. suffering through to fun there is the idea that a body of work can simply exists as a record of a time..
    i do not like the idea of suffering-tourists awash in places like this, snapping what the perceive as serious work so they can win awards, kudos or join an agency.. it´s alarming and tragic that some may ´practice´ on suffering.. but dima is clearly not practicing.. and i look forward to hearing from him, since to me his vision is accomplished.. genuine and utterly thorough..

    you are right that to become famous you do not need to snap at suffering – but jim, not everyone is photographing toward the end of fame, vii or magnum.. not everyone starts to photograph with the goal of a magazine or agency in mind – some start because they are compelled to.. and once good enough they can choose where to direct their talent in order to maximize the CHANCE that good can still come from humanist work.

    as i say though – i do in part share your concerns jim, and look forward to dima chipping in and hopefully lending the essay more context than his words above already have.

  • Excellent work! Each frame is a winner and can stand on its own!

  • In addition to Jim’s comment which I agree with 100% I have to say the following.

    The photographs are wonderful as black and white, very rich in tonality. Love them! My thoughts on the compositions are that they could have been well researched by knowing the area well or heavily posed. But I say that because they seem too good for their own sake, and too constructed, and it is a little distracting, maybe artificial. To me it seems like you’re creating these types of images, because the people are not interesting as themselves? Maybe you thought you needed more images but I felt all 3 essays could have been cut in half. I didn’t need to see 50 images. Others have commented these images work as stand alone images and they are correct, you are talented, and I hope this essay can help the people you photographed.


    My other problem is that these kinds of issues in Africa are very well documented, so much so I’m tiring of it as I’ll outline below.

    It begins to tell me that the power of photography isn’t working if photographers as a collective can keep going back to Africa, and shoot the same dramatic pictures of Africans in plight all the time. While at the same time it reminds me that we as a race need to be tirelessly reminded all the time that these social issues are still happening as well.
    The LRA victims while powerful, also annoy me because they are posed dramatic images, again something I’ve seen countless other times in the past. I as a viewer ‘get it,’ Africa has problems, and they need dealing with, and those running our countries should intervene and just put a a real end to all the problems there. But you as a photographer are recycling the same material in effect, you’re not doing anything drastically different, the images are remakes in effect because the subject is so well documented.

    Another specific problem are the descriptions you offer are very matter of fact, and I can only assume for the moment that you didn’t get to know your subjects well enough to include their names. I stopped looking at the descriptions after a while because they offered nothing in addition to the image so all in all, I found this essay a very frustrating experience for the various reasons I’ve outlined.

  • David, the photographer can silence me by going back there and photographing the success of his work…well fed, happy children attending school and living in decent surroundings. But he can’t. Because that’s not the outcome.

    If I believed that photography could really change the inhumanity that infects the world, I would be its greatest advocate for that purpose. But it cannot in any significant way. That’s not my cynicism speaking, that’s just the reality of it. If you want to photograph this stuff, photograph the people and organizations on the ground trying to help. Don’t photograph hopelessness.

    As far recording everything that happens in the world photographically, I agree completely. As a record. But this wasn’t submitted to Burn as simply a record.

  • Very interesting thoughts, and I don’t think I can add anything really significant to the discussion. While I understand Jim Powers’ and JonathanJK’s point of view, I think I agree with what David Bowen wrote.

    Maybe I’m biased, idealistic, naive, or just plainly stupid in believing that these are problems that can be solved, though I know they’re not going to be solved just because of a single picture or a reportage. Still, I believe that this kind of pictures can in fact help changing things. If just one person sees these pictures and is moved to do something about this kind of situations, or even to think about it for a second, then I believe the photographer’s effort is worthwhile. Everything that could come after that in one person’s mind or actions is a plus. The very fact that we’re talking about the nature of this essay is proof (to me) that this kind of pictures are still necessary and very important.

  • i´m really hoping that dima will be available online soon, since this discussion is going in an interesting direction that would benefit greatly from his perspective.

    i can see both sides – sure.
    as i mentioned before on RT – working extensively in n. ireland was an eye opener for me.. people benefit there far more from positive press about the renewed cultural happenings and the healing of the city than they do from ´tale of two cities´ type stories in belfast and focuses on the still difficult hangover from so much war… high suicide.. unemployment..
    focusing on the difficulties does not encourage investment there.. nor tourists nor the cities self perception, yet people still want to photograph and report on them..

    and in the balkens i saw that pdfx had a story about croatia which may not actually benefit the people there – while at the same time there is lots of good news to report which does feed back to the people living there.

    there is a character-quote from ´waking life´ which i may have used before.. and i cannot find exactly.. but they exert that the media does not exist to enforce or encourage change, it only serves the purpose of allowing us to become accustomed to just how unjust a place the world can be.. that man craves upheaval and needs great disasters..
    and then the guy sits, pours petrol over himself and lights a match..

  • Francesco, I’ve seen no real evidence these problems can be solved. But I’ve seen plenty of evidence that photography can’t solve them. We’ve seen the problem. We know the problem.

    Let’s personalize it. You’ve seen this essay. What action have you taken in response to it. Personally? What specific action did it motivate you to take to help these folks?

  • francesco – i agree..

    it is so rare these days that a single photographs brings about change – bischofs indian famine photo from the 50´s inspired the league of nations and it was not the only photo to be passed around the halls of power in that era.. today platons grave photo getting a mention from colin p IS big news, and yet i think with mass media there is still a hope that the WEIGHT of work from a place, rather than a single image from a place, has the capacity to bring about positive results.

    i don´t believe there will be a ´live aid´ for this century, but what do i know of how the cylces will turn?
    as said before – it´s only if nothing is done that we can be sure there will be no positive cycle.. and if something is done as well as the piece here then the potential energy to inspire exists.

    DIMA.. where is that snapper?

  • haha – jim.. francesco.. joe.. jonathen..

    i just had a crippling sense of deja vu on reading back this thread..

    it´s forcing me to go have a cigarette and then click away from this site for a while :ø)


  • dima where art thou?

    i left BURN playing this essay as i wanted to look at it again
    and my 5 year old walked in on the pages of mutilation.
    and said “what happened to her nose? ah- hahahahah”
    i about died when i heard him laugh and held my breath.

    he looked at the mirror and looked at his nose
    and he looked at me and looked at my nose
    and said, “i guess she’s got a lot more air to breathe”

    i did not know what to make of what i felt with what i heard.

  • Jim Powers:

    In trying to keep editorial propeity, I will make my response very short. Many of the Questions you’ve raised a critical and important and need to be ask, by photographers and of photographers. However, again, I am often dismayed by your sense that you understanding of ineffectuality means, a pirior, the hopelessness of all work. PHotography DOES NOT change, true, but it can and has and does inspire toward action (more about that later, when i chime in with an Editorial comment). With regard to your question: “Let’s personalize it. You’ve seen this essay. What action have you taken in response to it. Personally? What specific action did it motivate you to take to help these folks?” a simple anecdote:

    When i met the photographer Marcus Bleasdale (http://www.marcusbleasdale.co.uk/features/), I knew very very little about the continual civil war in Congo but what i’d read in books. After meeting Marcus in person, seeing his exhibition sponsored by Human Rights Watch, we became friends. I promoted Marcus’ work and his cause. I joined Human Rights Watch and made a donation to their fund (i would encourage everyone to do the same). I also helped get a group of young students to see the work and discuss it in class. Later, a group of young students raised money for a fund to help the children suffering in congo.

    I have put my money (little that i have) time, words and effort behind work and cause i believe in. And i am NOT alone. Have the wars and feminines and genocides and tortures and slaughter ceased?…no…sadly, our nature of people is to consume…consume others…and to consume simply for our own needs and grandiosity…

    but not all of us sit at home twittling our thumbs…Marcus’ is not only a great photographer but has dedicated his life to getting people to change their behavior. Jim, do you have gold? do you own diamonds? or other precious metals. Do you know where they come from?…These are all questions elicited by the work of reports, writers and photograhers….

    nothing changes…but that we change…and we have the chance to speak out upon the severity of things…

    consuming misery is, sadly, an act many to to placate their guilt or to aggrandize themselves, true…but should we arrest the telling of stories in the hope that worth is done?….

    Can i ask you to then, yourself, donate…join HRW or any other organiation you feel will help…

    it also does nothing to recognize failure but not attempt to address it yourself…

    you have raised critical questions and legitimate concerns, but to raise these yourself and not do anything about them (as a news editor) seems hypocritical as well…

    hope that makes sense..

    more later, in editorial comment…


  • Bob Black, Oxfam is my organization of choice and I have supported them financially for many years. Do you really think I would have asked the question if I didn’t take my own advice? We need to take direct action to help these people, not take photos of them.

  • but if i do not know where uganda is, what happened there or what these people have gone through, i would not know they needed help

  • Jim, Jonathan,

    Back. Look back. Way back. Look at history. All the imaginable and unimaginable shit happened already. Everything has been told about that shit already, some way or another. Everything has been commented upon what has been told upon the shit that happened. Etc…

    OK. Now shall we try and move on WITHOUT telling that this is or that is shit? Do you REALLY want to try that?

    It is part of us. It is a burden and it is who we are: some of us make the shit happen, some of us tell about the shit which happened. I guess it is about taking sides also?

  • Photos are part of raising awareness to enable more people to take direct action. Do you not see the correlation Jim.
    Obviously if this kind of photography is for self gratification there is a big question mark.

  • @John Vink, I’m not entirely sure what your point was. Could you elaborate before I respond please?

  • ian, our awareness is raised. There is a constant flood of these photos. Our awareness has been raised about genocide in Africa for decades. Photos upon photos. It makes no difference.

  • what sort of subjects would you like to see photographers point their cameras at Jim?

  • @Ian Aitken, since myself and Jim are on similar lines I would like to respond with my own point.

    Because of the way these images have been constructed I think there is a small amount of self gratification on the photographers part, there is on all our parts as story tellers in order to make our work interesting. But while you’re obviously right in what you say about photography raising an awareness, I’m beginning to question why we need to create the same photos over, and over again. How much awareness does their need to be? I’m bombarded with information about Africa everyday and have been on and off since I can remember. I get can’t as much attention as that everywhere else in the world besides the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (even that as a subject has the same problems). The content presented here is the same kind of photography I’ve seen before, photography isn’t moving forward in Africa (or the Middle East), and nor are all the people involved.

    When are we going to move forward?

  • maybe classical photojournalism is dead if its sole intention is to move the masses. Maybe Dima’s work is a classic case of classical photojournalism.

    i think Martin Parr was the first person that made it clear to me not only the ‘passing-away’ of classical photojournalism; he also made clear there was an alternative to classical photojournalism. i don’t suspect his approach has a name, but i suppose i’d describe it as being ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ P.J. It’s a technique where the shortest distance between two points isn’t a straight line and its impact is so severe that it could get someone like Prime Minister, Margret Thatcher’s knickers in a twist from drip feeding it into the Sunday paper before she knew it was taking place and further before she could do anything to diffuse it.

    so yes, maybe classical photojournalism is dead with regards to moving the masses and maybe there are alternatives if that’s what you care about, but maybe the masses were never that important to classical photojournalism anyway.

    how often were the masses ever really the decision makers? How often was it that the masses had to be ‘named and shamed’ and how many times was it that the masses that had to be ‘ashamed’ for letting something happen? Not often i suppose.

    classical photojournalism and more so, the efficiency of it, has a far more important purpose than moving the masses. You see i think humans have a funny way of misbehaving when there is a perceived belief that they won’t be held accountable. i remember coming to grips with this ages ago. i was sitting on a couch waiting to get a haircut, reading the cosmopolitan hoping to get some inside tips on how to gracefully release a bra strap, but instead i was shocked by a university survey showing compelling evidence that if a man could rape a women and he knew he would never get caught, many actually admitted they would do it. Shocking, but considering the degree of date rape at my university, not unbelievable.

    i know that’s a shocking example, but it’s no more shocking than what we might discover if Israel allowed photojournalist free and clear access to their activities in Gaza strip during the ‘conflict’. Or quite the opposite, the degree of grace Israel might employ if they knew classical photojournalist were on the ground, keeping them honest.

    how accountable do you think Israel felt when they all knew they had a tidy little black cloak over what they did? Time will tell. But if classical photojournalism did lose its teeth, then why would we see such a photojournalist hush effort by Israel?

    Let’s face it, Dima is not a weekend warrior, this is his job and if you look at who he works for it’s not impossible to think that his images would end up in a U.N. slide show to ‘name and shame’ someone into taking some positive steps. Dima is one of these surgeons i once spoke about, they are efficient, talented, and maybe even, dare I say, detached; detached as a perquisite to sustained exposure to this suffering and detached as a prerequisite to the production of objective and honest images. This essay isn’t here on Burn to move you into giving the cause some money, this essay is here on Burn because most of us are armature first-aid wanna-be’s, and here you get to have above-average access to a surgeon at work. We keep forgetting we are not the audience for this, we are amateur practitioners!

    Forgetting accountability entirely, let’s move into altruism, financial steps that make a change for the better. I suppose every bonfire of altruistic effort has at its start just a simple spark. Can someone really agree with Jim Powers and say with such absurd conviction that this spark is never started from a set of photographs attached to a grant submission handed to someone like the managing director of an organisation?

    Does everyone think that financial flow for matters this big comes from the chump-change that we toss into those little pink buckets pushed in front of us before we walk into Gap? Get Fucking Real! This is not how ‘big-thing’ altruism works; this is the world of black-tie altruism and accounts for an enormous portion of what supports positive changes.

    Checks get written off of marketing material, material that includes images like the ones in this essay. And it happens at things so reoccurring as a Valentine’s day dinner that will cost you five hundred pounds a plate, and at that table is a blackberry to assist you in a bidding-war where someone will buy a single red rose for five-thousand pounds. I have seen this with my own eyes, and more importantly, I’ve seen slide-shows of images like this at those dinners.

    So before we pounce on the efficiency and detachment of classical photojournalism to be a positive thing, it might be worthwhile to consider that maybe ‘us’ as fellow photographers are not the most important people in the world, maybe then you might better celebrate the photographic surgeons of the world verses condemn them.

    Jim Powers, working in your capacity for as long as you preach I would have thought you would have known this far better than me by now, I’ve not been alive for as long as the experience you preach and it seems pretty obvious. Do you really work in this business?

    Anway, if this sounded like somekind of personal rant, well, that’s probably because that’s what it was.

  • Hi Jim, I agree awareness is high. The trick is to keep the awareness high and this is one part of the marketing mix.
    When did you last see Coke or Mcdonalds stop marketing, to keep their profile high. What keeps the newspaper you work on in business, marketing.

  • so…
    we should give money
    not take photographs?!?
    that will help more?
    I get a strong sense thru Dima’s essay
    that he cares..
    it is obvious…
    He is not trying to exploit these people,
    he is doing what he knows how to do,
    take a picture..
    document what he is seeing,
    some images are so strong in B/W,
    that I hesitate to say this,
    I would like to see this in color,
    to emphasize the
    here and the now……
    it makes me so sad
    to think people see this as exploitation,
    and a lack of caring on the photogs part….
    we have to tell the stories,
    if not,
    who the fuck will???
    many people can NOT give donations,
    it is a struggle just to pay rent….
    But to view a photo and to be aware of what is happening
    is just as powerful
    and helpful
    than a money donation….
    photography is a visual language,
    and a powerful one at that….
    It has the ability to communicate
    across borders….
    This essay will stay with me,
    has brought me some insight into the troubles in Uganda….
    If an essay has enlightened ONE person (me)
    then I think success!!!
    are you familiar with the Aftermath project,
    if not,
    check it out!!!!!

  • Wonderful essay. Having also traveled through Northern Uganda and seeing IDP camps, I can attest to the magnitude of this issue. The portraits are powerful. My only suggestion would be to edit down the photographs. I think within those 50 there are plenty that could be cutout. The first half of the essay left me feeling distant from the people in the IDP camp. I know how the children love the camera and will chase you down to get a photograph taken, it make a great photo but I feel there were too many that had a similar feel. The second half of the essay with the information on the LRA was definitely personal. Would you ever consider mixing the second-half of your essay with the first? This might create an interesting juxtaposition. Great work!

  • I feel similarly to John V in that I thought that nearly half of these images were what should be kept. For me, those are absolutely effective, amazing powerhouses, completely stunning. Too, the imbalance in the number of images of children to adults was distracting for me, too much directed heartstring pulling that had the opposite effect. And Joe, I have to agree with you about the thought that the compositions might steal the show..they did for me in many instances, but some in a negative way. I was almost angry because for me they to my eyes, were too often NOT inventive..exactly the opposite. The fact that this ruffled my feathers clearly has to do with me as much or more as with Dima, but I couldn’t help but feel that the compositions, perfect as they were, were falling into the use of device and were formulaic, and were too reliant on the successes of past ‘masters’ and not enough on the heart of Dima. I am only being so direct Dima because I think you will find your way into mastery yourself, and I think in order to do so you need to trust your own heart / eye a little more, and then keep on being amazing and doing your work.

  • joe. is. killing. it. again.
    wheres dima?
    vink.. empassioned.. great.

  • editorial comment :))

    Beautiful, graceful, powerful and luminous work. All of Dima’s work is visually astue and penetrating. all of his work demonstrate an acute visual eye and a wonderfully poetic facility for story-telling. In this particular essay, he carefully juxtaposes the difficulty and tragedy of the story with a visual acument that is both refreshing and surprising. Not only is the essay filled with a basket-full of extraordinary and surprising single images (some rich, surprising angles and iconography) but maintains a very clear and honed narrative that allows us, for a moment, to gather in a story that too few of us know anything about or too few of us have had the opportunity to become aware.

    as for the question of ‘too many children’ and not enough exposition with adults, this concern/critique did not trouble me, as I actually viewed this story as that of the story of these children. Akin to Dave Eggers magisterial book about the Lost Boys, “What is the What,”, i saw this particular essay as a recounting of the lives of these children and the world and adults around them through the devastation havoc’d by war and the LRA. Thus, i saw the images of the adults as punctuating and bringing into bare the world and offered another depth of detail for these children’s lives. A fully fleshed out story (including more adults and relationships with the soldier prior and in the aftermath) certainly would bring to richness more detail about the lives of this nation, but i saw this particularly story to be focused on the children…thus all those extraordinary child-like points of view and framing….

    As to the question of the efficacy and value of this kind of photographic work. The points that Jim, Jonanathan and others ARE VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS and I think they necessitate being spoken and discussed. Photography does NOT solve problems, nor does photography end the misery of our human condition. What photography does do well is tell stories and depecit lives (although this is arguable as well). The language of witness is a critical one, for though the photographs stop, the horror will continue for sure. However, the arresting or changing of horror and suffering surely cannot either be countered by innaction. Action can only be sough after awareness has taken place. Without awareness, nothing is accomplished. Jim and others are correct: too many stories, not enough done. too many photographers going for glory and beauty and fame on the backs of the lives of the huddled suffers. This particularly true in the west. Sontag and others have written about this, about grief tourists and our own placating need to ‘see’ horror to ‘learn’ about suffering feeling that our own awareness is enough. As Jim correctly poitns out: it is not.

    However, action can and is possible. I sited my own personal example, small, born on the inspiration of the work and friendship with Marcus. I’ve tried also to continue that. We live in a world increasingly defined and managed by the visual, by images. We communicate and disseminate through pictures/images. More people spend more time at internet than reading books and so,, the role of pictures has, more than ever, importance. How does one tell stories and what is the reason?…each photographer answers this on their own…and all the packets and packages of information greats a numbing miasima of sadness and nothing is done…


    the question is that: can we still make good in the way by telling stories and by asking stories…if they lead us beyond awareness but to action…even if that is the alleviation of suffering of one, than, at least for me, the story will have helped..

    I am thankful that Dima has shared his story and the story of the people and the children of Uganda and i hope, …yes, maybe, someone else will be called to action..


    GREAT link…
    deep breath…

  • great link, plainly explains many issues. Thanks

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