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”

  • “I thought war wasn’t really a game either, be it for younger or older photographers.”…..it is for Jim, he loves playing war ………

  • “Journalism in general should not become a common commodity. And journalists should not become media stars. It is for journalism I advocate. Just because it is becoming “art” and a commodity doesn’t mean that is the best outcome. You are arguing that because things are as they are with journalism, that is as they should be. I disagree.”


    As always you deny the rights of human nature and you want make your wishes a general behavior.
    What is basicly quite normal for human beeing, but…
    if you always will focus on what should or not should be…
    if you always will disaree because something is not like you wish should be…
    you will never find the good part of many things.
    Like in this thread.
    nothing is just black or white…
    nothing is just good or bad.
    maybe in movie only…
    you never divide the problems for pieces to analyze them.
    you just presented opinios as a voice of god.
    I never see you have doubts with your opinios…
    I wish I could be so sure about everything and everyone as you are.
    it could be easier…. hmmmm… so so much easier…
    but it this world nothing is easy or simply or just black or white.

    even if you wish to…


    I apologize for my absence last time.
    to many work I have.
    I am just reader right now.
    but my mind is with you :)

    peace (for Tibet)

  • Jim, as the topic of conversation invariably seems to strongly drift in your direction, I was wondering how someone with 40 years of photographic experience only has 50 obscure photos floating on the web. If I had been at it for that long I would hope to have a little more to offer, also accounting for the generation gap/shift from film to digital. The validity of opinions are as you pointed out not so important, its just the images that stand at the end of the day that I was curious about. I’m just a young ‘photographer’ trying to improve my talent and I’m trying to ‘absorb’ as many quality photos as possible – via both the net and printed material.

    To David Alan Harvey, although I have never met you, I was initially saddened when you announced your departure from your residence in New York. I would have loved to visit one of those ‘parties’ that you hosted in your loft! I guess I may still have the chance if the gallery idea is up and running. But, at the same time I’m happy for you that you are moving to a more comfortable house near the foreshore.

    Here is a strange question; do you think that your photography could head in the direction that Edward Westons did when he photographed the dunes on the coast? Is it feasible that in the future you move away from documenting other cultures/subcultures to a more personal documentary style of still life and or landscapes. I remember reading about Paul Strand moving onto photographing plants and other still objects in the near vicinity of his house. Consequently, could a transition from an urban setting to one with more nature change your focus of photography? Anyway, good luck with the move!


  • Johan, believe it or not, most photography from we old guys in not on the web. I like to hold photography in my hand or stand near it on a wall. I guess most photos these days is never printed, but that’s not my preference. I guess that seems strange to those who grew up with digital and the web.

    But what if I weren’t a photographer? I would hope for Burn that a far larger audience than just photographers commented here. Would their lack of photographs cause them to be ignored or marginalized? Whether or not I’ve produced a single photograph should be irrelevant to this discussion.

  • The last and first time James Nachtwey kindly “came” and had a talk with us (on Road trip), trolls came out of the woodwork to spoil it all. It was an awful and shameful experience and I was only glad I read it all afterwards, having to work that day. Glad too he took time to answer my (recorded) question before the shit hit the fan.

    But really, there are only questions here, no answers.

    So, A question to Jim Powers: since you are sure about how PJ work is to be done, Why do you think James Nachtwey agreed to the film war “photographer”, a glorifying no warts apology of the man that gave him a wider fame or recognition his pictures ever did? You can answer the simpler way and tell us what do you think of the film itself.

  • I have no idea why he did the documentary. I liked (and own the DVD) the documentary, because it gave me some insight into the man. As was noted in the documentary, his work has changed him. It has set him apart from others (physically and philosophically and emotionally) because he has seen so much misery. He has done what he has done at great personal cost, so he clearly acts from conviction. Whether I agree with his gallery shows or books making money from misery, I admire his skill as a photographer and his personal conviction to a cause he clearly believes in.

  • Marcin, there is a world of ideas, philosophies and beliefs out there. We should examine them carefully, even try them on if that is your thing. But at some point in life, we’ve got to find a place to stand. We have to say, “this is what I believe.” Draw a line in the sand, if you like. Otherwise we spend our lives tossed on a sea of pan-everything-ism. And we never achieve our goals.

    There are a lot of gray areas in life, I agree. But you cannot function in life if you believe they are all gray. You do not personally, whether you’ve examined it or not, live your life as if every idea has the same value. I know this because you disagree with my ideas and the way I express them.

  • Fair call Jim: that stands to reason. You are from the older generation which perhaps places less emphasis on online photography. That is in no way unusual. So, if you could direct me to some of your published work in magazines or newspapers then I would be most obliged.

    As you mentioned, it is irrelevant whether someone is a photographer or not to make a valid opinion on Burn. I agree with this 100%. Burn (as it has done) should encourage teachers, gallery owners, publishers, curators, editors etc. Participation from all sectors is paramount if Burn is to survive in the ‘new age’. But you have stated numerous times on this forum that you are an accomplished photographer, hence that is your confessed standpoint. Subsequently, that is the version of ‘Jim’ that I’m trying to communicate with and understand.


  • regarding the spectrum of motives for photographing the Suffering, i suppose there is pure charity, i suppose more often than not there is a symbiotic relationship between the motives of the Tog and the benefits for the Suffering, and almost never, but yes it’s possible, there is pure entrepreneurial financial strategy.

    none of these motives prevent the actual benefit of bringing attention to the world that unnecessary suffering exists and to know it exists is a prerequisite to doing something about it.

    J.N.’s XTB story was a perfect example of bringing attention to what he thought to be unnecessary suffering. NOTE: Not Solving XTB, or Not Telling you the Story of XTB, it was to Bring Attention to its Existence, and it did. That’s what J.N. can do with his god-given talent and now it’s the work of people that will use this awareness to carry the torch to the next level. He can now go on and do more of what he does best with his god-given talent.

    There was testimony from people on the ground that images like Dima’s have been used for recruitment activities for people to drop their personal agendas and devote their time to a cause. Jim do you refute this benefit?

    Since I can’t think of any pattern of photojournalist making their fortune in exploiting suffering, more than likely just ‘existing’ from the activity, and more than likely ‘insolvent’ from the activity, I will always fail to see the linkage between classical photojournalism, the suffering, and the derogatory term you always use to Jim: ‘exploitation’.

  • Johan, I don’t think I’ve ever said I was an “accomplished” photographer. Only that I’ve been doing it a long time. I’m a blue collar photographer, a newspaper shooter forever. Working for wages. All I’ve ever wanted to be. And I don’t think I represented myself in any other way here.

  • Joe, I don’t question the primary work that Nachtwey does. I’ve read the stories that his photos have illustrated for many years. I do have problems with the secondary use of these photos, isolated on a wall at MOMA or in Coffey Table books.

    Some photographers actually plow the profits from photo sales or books back into the effort to help those photographed, and I applaud with that.


    i agree with you on this point Jim….it would be most relevant if in fact non-photographers were at least sometime readers of BURN….since Nachtwey’s name is being bounced around now, i will say that Jim has agreed to do an original assignment for BURN…new work produced specifically for BURN…he is not the only one….perhaps in depth articles and original photography on relevant issues may attract a wider audience….some of the writers here are professed non-photographers…if the ratio non-photographer writers is the same as photographer writers to our recorded readership, then we already have many non-photographer readers……however, i think we should always stay relatively boutique in nature…getting too big is my worst fear…

    i too have print as the ultimate use of photography…at the same time, i have seen the power of the net that reaches out in a way that print never did….i am sure you see BURN as some kind of exercise rather than an actual use of photography…i can see why you would think this way…however, as i travel around and meet young BURN readers, i am constantly surprised by the weight they give material on the net….and were we to publish one or more of your photographs here it would reach way more readers than you reach on your paper…and to an international community to boot….of course a print version of BURN has always been in the works…

    many photographers share financially and otherwise with the subjects they photograph…Magnum gave the largest percentage of profit(1 million dollars) of their 9-11 book to the New York Neediest fund to go towards aid of various kinds to families of the victims…hardly a week goes by in New York and elsewhere where there is not a print auction from legendary photographers who donate prints where the sale money goes to help whatever cause….

    thanks Johan, you are right on it…..

    cheers, david

  • Choice of words Jim, take it or leave it. From where I stand, accomplished is defined as an acquired skill. If your forty years working in the game isn’t long enough to merit this definition, then there is still hope for amateur shooters like myself.


  • Johan, I’ve shot a lot of photos. Those images don’t belong to me. And I’ve never been interested in ownership. Only shooting photos. (And, please, not another exchange on retaining copyright! ;) There are all kinds of ways to spend a lifetime. My dad worked in a refinery for 41 years. I think I’ve had a lot more fun!

  • David,

    Why are you surprised by “the weight they give material on the net?”

    I think the one of the hardest concepts for the “older” generation to get a handle on is that the net is the new world of print. Don’t get me wrong, I agree there is nothing like relaxing with a good photography book. And although I don’t do a lot of reading, I am not sure I would ever be interested in reading a book on a computer screen. It seems to cold and uninviting for a novel or such.

    But I think the net is becoming a wonderful place to view photographic work. And it may end up being the ultimate free advertisement for the photographer’s work to entice people to go seek out the printed version.

    Or did I misunderstand your point?

    Hope all is well and Jen and I will see you at Look!

  • PETE…

    i do not think i was making a point….just an observation….of course, i realize the power of the net…after all, here i have been for the last couple of years….but, there is still an element of real surprise when i show up at a place like Ryerson Universtiy for example and quite literally meet the dozens of readers here who are hanging on your every word!!

    cheers, david

  • “And it may end up being the ultimate free advertisement for the photographer’s work to entice people to go seek out the printed version.”………..more likely the net will be the means to the end and that is the wonderful part, my walls will be free to be walls

  • The sad part is that everyone will think 72 dpi images on fuzzy, badly color corrected monitors is what “real” photos look like. I think that’s a huge loss for those who will only see these photos on their laptop.

  • It won’t be a fuzzy 72 for too long, technology is in ahurry as is the new generation

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    “The sad part is that everyone will think 72 dpi images on fuzzy, badly color corrected monitors is what “real” photos look like. I think that’s a huge loss for those who will only see these photos on their laptop.”

    Photos on the net are as real as photos held in the hand. They are as good or bad as photos printed well or poorly. The internet is far more accessible, does not eliminate museums, galleries, photobooks and probably stimulates appreciation for these outlets. The net has undoubtedly had a depressing effect on newsprint. But a newspaper image is certainly the physical equivalent of a 72dpi fuzzy print on the net. And the net’s a far more democratic outlet than any other, bar none.

    I find this statement from you very odd considering that you have been compulsively browsing the net and viewing photos on line since the early 90’s. If it was so unsatisfying to you why, um, well why do you still do it? And that’s a rhetorical question. I don’t need or want an answer which would only be more of the same. In fact, why oh why did i post this? i swore i wouldn’t…grr…i am guilty of the same “noise” mentioned above..ok, well, my name is Kathleen Fonseca and i am a “Jim” addict. Hi, Kathie, don’t worry, that’s why we’re all here. It’s not too late for your 3 month pin, just don’t get sucked in again, k? phew…said with some relief, ok..i won’t do it again, i promise!

    my best to Tyler County anyway


  • red cross 150 years old.

    our world – at war

    download the exhibition poster and view photographs from the 8 photographers here – http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/ourworld-yourmove-events-globe

  • Jim seems to really be a “the glass is half empty” kinda guy.

  • Pete, it just seems that way in a forum filled with glass overflowing and filling a swimming pool kinda guys.

  • When I imagine Jim in my stupid head, he’s the wife of the old fisherman who caught the magic fish.

  • Stoop you cant do this to me, I’m supposed to be getting an early night for a dawn shot, I won’t be able to sleep for laughing……

  • Hey Dima, I am glad to see your series here. Great photographs!

  • Photos on the net are as real as photos held in the hand.

    Kat, not sure what you mean by real photo?!?!? But I myself am not so sure that the computer screen could be the only and last abode where a photo would achieve its worthiness as an object of artistic expression. There is something about prints and books that really brings out what photography is all about, and that a screen does not quite achieve. Somehow/sometimes for the soul to be engaged, the tactility of touching that object, or one’s singular presence in front of it, matters more than the swiftness of cyber delivery.

    I do not love screens but I love books is a shorter way to put it, and I think it’s a distinction that matters.

  • Kathleen Fonseca


    i totally agree with you. But i have been able to view much more photography thanks to the computer than i could possibly have books in my house. i have more than i can accomodate as it is, plus art and photos all over my walls. i have to say that before i ever went on the internet i never bought a single piece of art or even an art book to tell you the shame-faced truth. And i was an art major for heaven´s sake. But the internet connected me with the most amazing work, stimulated my curiosity and ignited a passion for photography that i could not have believed possible. The internet has been my contact with a world of beauty and magic and mystery…a WORLD…not a country, not a city, not a coupla friends sharing prints, but a WORLD of creative photography. It offends me to hear someone sniff at the idea of a fuzzy 72dpi photo as being unspeakably inadequate. If the viewer has a fertile imagination and a curious intellect and an open mind, even a 72dpi fuzzy photo can evoke magic.

    my best to Hervette, the little minx

  • Kathleen Fonseca




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