marcus bleasdale – the rape of a nation

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Marcus Bleasdale

The Rape of a Nation

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the deadliest war in the world today. An estimated 5.4 million people have died since 1998, the largest death toll since the Second World War, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

IRC reports that as many as 45,000 people die each month in the Congo. Most deaths are due to easily preventable and curable conditions, such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and neonatal problems and are byproducts of a collapsed health care system and a devastated economy.

The people living in the mining towns of eastern Congo are among the worst off. Militia groups and government forces battle on a daily basis for control of the mineral-rich areas where they can exploit gold, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds.

After successive waves of fighting and ten years of war, there are no hospitals, few roads and limited NGO and UN presence because it is too dangerous to work in many of these regions. The West’s desire for minerals and gems has contributed to a fundamental breakdown in the social structure.

 

Bio

Marcus Bleasdale was born in the UK to an Irish family, in 1968.  He grew up in the north of England and initially studied economics and started work as an investment banker. Although he was a director in a large international bank he resigned in the mid 1990s and began to travel through the Balkans with his camera. He returned to study photojournalism at the prestigious London School, during which time he won the Ian Parry, Young photographer Award for his work on the conflict in Sierra Leone. He has established himself as one of the worlds leading documentary photographers concentrating on Conflict and Human Rights. He has been awarded many of the worlds highest honors for his work and continues to highlight the effects of conflict on society. He is a member of the photo agency VII. He lives with his wife Karin Beate in Oslo, Norway.

 

Related links

Marcus Bleasdale

www.anthropographia.org

www.viiphoto.com

 

Editor’s note:

Comments are open on this essay… If you have any questions, feel free to ask Marcus, he will be jumping in on the comments soon…It is with great pleasure that I present Marcus Bleasdale on Burn through Matthieu Rytz from Anthropographia… Marcus Bleasdale is the recipient of the Anthropographia Award for Photography and Human Rights… Many thanks Matthieu for your ongoing efforts…

… david alan harvey

61 Responses to “marcus bleasdale – the rape of a nation”


  • Strong work. Great storytelling. Excellent printing. No questions here.

  • Strong, indeed! Thank you for showing it here, I’ve also just spent a good deal of time on your homepage, looking and reading.. one question, Marcus: how do you cope with the emotional impact, which must be huge, over and over again, can you find strenght within the people and places you work with, or do you recharge/recover ‘outside’ of it?

    Thank you!

  • Extraordinary, impacting photographs done without blinking with focused, serious intent… I see both the seemingly insurmountable depth of the crisis and the humanity of the people involved. I just wonder what must change, or be done, to give hope a chance.

    Jonathan Vink made a comment about getting up close to conflict. I was reminded of his words when I saw image #9. It doesn’t get much closer than that.

  • Questions for Marcus

    How do you know where you want to travel when documenting conflicts? I’m just thinking there are so many conflicts going on at the same time in this world to chooose from. For instance, if you know there is a place which has already been heavily photographed, would you rather give preference to another place? This is very generally speaking.

    Good essay because you’re allowing to show both the cruelty and the hope that I can sense from some of the faces, there is a good balance between those two here.

  • Marcus,

    Your work has such an air of confidence. This is an extraordinarily well crafted essay. You let me touch and feel what you witnessed in the DRC. The images are sweeping, intimate and horrifying, but executed with tremendous craftsmanship. Thank you for sharing this. It is stories like these that produce change in the world. Let this go viral!

  • Firstly, I would like to thank David and all the Guys at Anthropographia for making this discussion possible. Secondly, thank you for all your comments so far.

    Eva, your question regarding dealing with these issues personally is one I find so difficult to answer as it is always so easy for me to leave and come home to loved ones. But, that said, I have spent over 10 years in DRC documenting this war and one of the things that helps and surprises me is the resilience and the love of the Congolese people. Their ability to laugh and love during this extraordinary time is very humbling. Any issues I may have become insignificant. That said, I have my nightmares and I have a great family and a special group of friends who I can discuss these issues with. Additionally, I gain great strength in supporting projects in DRC which allow me to see the hope. There is an extraordinary orphanage in Bunia I support as best I can, where we care for 99 children and it is amazing how small things like that will counteract all the horror and negativity of war. One small smile from one of the kids there is enough to crush me for a week.

    Andrew, What must change? We must change! We must see the consequences of our actions and of our need to consume. This war is all about natural resources, natural resources that no Congolese uses. If we did not demand Gold, Coltan, Cassiterite then this would not be happening. We must increasingly see the links between our behavior in the developed world and wars in the developing world and accept the responsibility we all have in creating the conflict and accept the responsibility we all have in trying to make it stop. As a photographer I feel I can supply the tools to the people who have the power to make that happen.

    Bjarte, I don’t necessarily choose a destination. I study and I read and I research and I document those things that make me angry. I tend to concentrate on those issues that are under reported and out of the mainstream media. I work closely with Human Rights Watch and if they want me to concentrate on a particular issue I certainly do it. They are an amazing organisation.

    Thanks again to all of you for your thoughts. Keep them coming.

  • Simply terrific, awe-inspiring, beautiful, heart-rending work.

  • A very powerful essay Marcus. Thank you, if thank you can be appropriate given the circumstances, for showing your work.

    How would you rate the success of your photographs in terms of the amount of help they generate for the people depicted? I ask because I imagine that such photography is seen, primarily, by photographers rather than the general public. That’s not a criticism of your work or motives, I just wonder what the appetite is for such photography at newspapers and magazines?

    I once bought Sebastiao Salgado’s book, An Uncertain Grace, which mixed more general photography with terrible scenes of famine in Ethiopia. The photographs were so beautiful in composition and tone that the horror they contained was somehow amplified. I couldn’t keep that book, it was too painful to view. Such work belongs in newspapers / newswebs (I just invented a new word!), not in photography books or on museum walls.

    Best wishes,

    Mike.

  • This is really powerful work about a horrible situation. Well-done, and I hope this essay can bring some enlightenment and positive change to this complex socio-economic issue.

    I’ve been to Africa and it’s a country of contrasts. I’d like to tell people that while there is the horror and unbelievable meanness of spirit you see in this essay, there are also so many good and noble people there full of values, warmth, and generosity…even though they have so little. It’s sad that we don’t often see this with the exploitations, wars, famines, and epidemics that fills the news.

    I hope you keep-up this important work.

    Ian

  • Mr. Bleasdale,

    You’re a stranger among a foreign culture in ambiguous situations that could potentially turn mortally dangerous in a flash. How do you behave around the people you photograph to reassure them that you are there to do no harm?

    Ian

  • “He lives not long who battles with the immortals, nor do his children prattle about his knees when he has come back from battle and the dread fray.”-Homer, ‘The Iliad’

    It takes a particular courage and a particular stake in one’s life to continue to attest to the savagery and loss that not only reigns down upon a nation but is often at the behest of one’s nation. the long and profoundly tragic history and war in the DRC comes, has come, and continues to come from an elemental human stake: our nearly unredeemable greed. Take a look at the gold necklace that scarfs your neck, the gold ring that pinches the movement of your 3rd finger-knuckle, the gold impravdo that cascades around all that you wish to think of sublime: in that, in many of those mirrored brilliances lay the destruction of a nation and that ain no tale…..

    I am so happy to see Marcus’ essay here. Not only because I have the good fortune to call Marcus a friend but because, more than whether or not the pictures and the essay is powerful (it is) but because this is another way that each of us can change and harbor a re-thinking of what we have and from where it comes. I had the fortune of seeing Marcus’ show ‘the hidden face of gold’ which was supported/partnered by Human Rights Watch. Later in the week, I also had an opportunity to sit down with Marcus over a few glasses of wine and talk about the work, which i’d also shown to my son. I told Marcus of the power of the image of the boy soldier on the bike, who looked as if he were my son’s age and of the young girl, Catherine, 9, who had been macheted while she was in the hospital and was taken, on broken board, out of the hospital as she was too afraid to remain…..i told him that what makes journalism so important, what makes this story so important is that we have the obligation to escape ourselves and our confined world and understand from where and for what are riches become…what boat-caravan of mud and blood get sifted for our precious things….at this day and age it is no longer excusable to be blind to the blinding of others….

    I recommend each take a look as well at Marcus’ book “The Rape of a Nation”, from which this powerful and important series stems, which steeps in the depth of this story, as well as his multimedia pieces….

    a powerful, heart-breaking and incredibly important story on a nation whose death toll has at this point exceeded 6,000,000….and extraordinarily corrupted and horrible price paid mostly off the wealth of the gold that is traffic’t and bought and sold and horded around the globe….

    on personal note (don’t get embarrassed Marcus), I can tell you that not only is Marcus a great photographer but a great person, a humble and whipper-smart cat who has not rested on the laurels of his photographic achievement but has committed his life to the work and to the people of the DRC. He left a cushy job and has made it his mission to get people to understand what has happened and how we have a relationship in this stake….he’s one of the most humane people i’ve had the pleasure to share wine with, not because he’s a terrific photogrpaher, but because he cares more about the people than anything else….where it only more true of more photographers….

    big congrats and thanks Marcus for sharing with Burn…

    marcus: check your email, sent u something this morning too think about

    hugs
    running
    bob

  • It’s an amazing work and an amazing life.
    I didn’t know you were a banker, it’s a really incredible shift…
    And I was wondering what leaded you to make the schift, from a banker to this kind of photography, from a fantastic office, to the worst place in the world you can go…
    For me you are one of my hero, and if you really read this, it’s incredible that I can tell to you.

    This work it’s fantastic, in all his pain and suffer, it makes you thing that those problems are near us, and not in a remote place of the earth. And are this kind of work that make me go forward in photography, to try to do something that really matters, also if I think that what I’m doing now compared with those kind of essays, it’s really not important, and I hope one day that I will do photographs that really changes something in the world.

    P.s.
    sorry for my english.

    Jacopo

  • Marcus, you have a very powerful essay that can spread the word of what is going on to many people. The composition and light in these photos create a powerful essay.

    While I understand what you believe to be the root cause of war in third world countries, consumerism, I think this is an over simplified answer. For instance, if the resources of this country were extracted without harm to the earth, and the tyrants were not allowed to kill citizens to extract them, it would be a plus for the citizens to be able to trade with other countries. Trade is a natural occurrence in this world and has been for centuries. One country has resources that are needed and/or desired by others and a natural trade system has evolved. That said, along with the evolution of trade between countries bad elements have been allowed to take control of certain of these resources and create chaos, despair, destruction, and death.

    I will not buy products from this regime of terror due to what they are doing to the peoples of this country. I would however support this country by purchasing their goods if the situation were reversed and the harvesting of natural resources was done without harm to the earth or their people.

    The cause of war and savage treatment of a country’s citizens is not due to consumerism, but to greed by those with small brains and big guns, and lust, who cannot make it on their own so terrorize weaker human beings. And by those in the middle man position that know how the products are being acquired yet turn the other way due to their greed. This has happened from the beginning of history.

    I applaud your efforts to bring this situation to light (and I have seen so many sad works on this country’s plight). At this point in my life I have seen so many situations such as DRC that I am numb to the effects of essays like this. I want to see, along with the terror that is happening, something about what the people are working for in this country and pressure applied to the heads of government to step up to the plate and do the work to obliterate the bad elements in this country. (While I see smiles on some faces I also see the smiles are on the outside only.)

    My simply not buying gold or other resources from this country will not stop the savageness that has been unleashed there. I want to see these photos plastered across galleries in DRC, on the front pages of their magazines, on the internet, so that in the DRC those close to the problems see the horror of their lack of intervention and can make change in their own land. They are the ones that need to confront these images daily until this horrible situation is reversed. Until they do you are right we cannot support this regime of terror’s greed.

    Good work.

  • Thank you Anton, David, Mattieu and Marcus for bring this incredibly beautiful body of work to Burn. Kudos.

    Marcus, thank you for showing us again and again that in a world where “light news” has sadly become the norm, there is still a place for hard hitting work (and in black and white) that can find it’s way to the people. You’re an inspiration to us all.

  • It warms my heart to see that young boy laughing at the joy of a simple shower (image 21) – its one of my favourite all time photographs. Thank you so much for taking it Marcus. And the picture of the Congolese man sandwiched uncomfortably between a religious icon with a helping hand and a diamond dealer quite simply says it all. Thank you for helping us to see how the big picture operates and the local impact the same time through your work.

    There are NO words for the evil of wars being fuelled by foreign interests trying to maintain control over natural resources OR for how long this has been going on as was/is the war in DRC. I’m hoping that as far as the Congolese people are concerned, the Chinese will begin to provide the hospitals and SCHOOLS, basic transport and communications networks that are so desperately needed – delivered peacefully in return for resources and that other countries follow China’s lead with ideas even more favourable to African countries – like many of the joint-ventures that kick-started development in so many Asian countries!

    It’s lovely to see your work on Burn. Thanks for sharing it on here – I’m SO looking forward to seeing the book! Unlike Bob, I have not had the pleasure of meeting you but hope I will one day.

    Jenny

  • Marcus;

    It’s images like these that should make us aware of how lucky we are if we live in a stable and relatively wealthy country. We often bitch and moan about our own situations until we receive a reality check with images such as yours.

    It’s easy to say;”But what will these types of images change?” Well I do believe that your images were partly responsible for the awakening of the world to the problems in the DRC. They helped put the spotlight onto a crisis that was flying under the redar (or maybe simply ignored by the countries that could help?)

    So I do believe these images did indeed creatye change for the better. Congratulations on your work and hopefully one day you won’t be able to photograph this type of image in DRC because it will have become a peaceful and prosperous nation

    Thank you

  • This is amazing work. Marcus is a master photographer. Very memorable classic images. The work, and some of the comments so far have stirred up many questions in me.

    Mike R, your comment about this sort of work being seen primarily only by photographers is a valid concern. Photo books are essentially art books. The days of Life or Look magazine where photo essays were seen by the general public are long gone. How does one get this sort of work out to the wider audience?

    We’ve debated here before about the issues around making beautiful photographs of ugly situations. What immediatly popped into my head when viewing this work was that the sheer beauty of the images absolutely makes me look, and have incredible power. As I said before, this is masterful work.

  • Gordon; “work being seen primarily only by photographers is a valid concern”

    I think you have a point about this type of work in general. But I remember when Marcus’ book came out; it caused quite a stir in general circles and was one of the initial communicators of DRC’s problems. The work caused an actual awakening and helped motivate change.

    Cheers :-)

  • Ross

    Yes, a testament to the power of this work.

  • Gordon/Mike R:

    this will be quick as im off to write for a deadline, but if i may, let me shed some light upon this discussion, vis-a-vis who/how Marcus’ work is seen.

    When his exhibition “The Hidden Face of Gold” came to toronto a few years back (help me Marcus, was it 2008 or 2007?), it was NOT shown in a museum or art gallery. In fact, it was shown in a public space, the BCE Place:

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2364/2504080355_62c26a9337.jpg

    why is this so important. Well, to begin with the photographs and story were displayed (as is the WPP award shows that comes to Toronto) in this public corridor and it was viewable/accessible to all: anyone walking/working through this space saw the work. I went a couple of times, including taking my son (without telling him the content of the show prior). Moreover, there is another reason that Marcus showed/displayed the exhibition there: it is home to many (most?) of Canada’s mining and trading companies, including companies that deal specifically with gold and DRC. This rumbled a lot of feathers and it drew the attention of both the employee/managers and all the people who work in that space….eyes were opened. Also, Marcus did a bunch of interviews (cbc and others) for the show and at one point i saw coverage of the show on a local TV channel. This was NOT about or for the art world or photographers. Marcus’ choices were very clear and determined: this work was for people, for their enlightenment and discomfort. Later when Marcus showed a bunch of us his multimedia piece (at the small cafe where mostly photographers and editors, but also family members and other kinds of journalists), Marcus’ presentation was clearly aimed at the world away from the clausterphobia of the photo world….it’s something he and i also spoke of and i am certain he’ll address here too….

    Marcus worked is indeed not aimed at the visually literate or the award-addled junkies that seem to define the photoworld, but his mandate and his personal life mission is much simpler….to harness his skills as a photographer and speaker to get the story told to people who not only may care but may be able to do something definite….and he’s done that…people have gotten involved that have made a difference, albeit small and initial, in the lives of the people of the DRC….

    i can assure you his real audience (for him) aint us, but something simpler, wider….i’ve seen that first hand :))))…

    but great that Burn is showing the work too…now buy the book and show has many people as possible, especially those who wear/buy/sell gold….

    cheers
    bob

  • WOW!!!!
    makes me want to work harder…..
    WOW!!!
    **

  • Lee Guthrie, good post, well reasoned. Gordon Lafleur, yes, photobooks will be read by phoyographers; which is fine, but how to get the story out to the wider public?
    Yesterday I was looking at Stanley Greene’s book, Open Wound, Chechnya 1994 to 2003. The insanity and horror contained in the book is almost beyond belief. It (and Marcus’s book) should be compulsory reading for every politician and also seen widely by the general public. I didn’t buy the book, yet. I’m not shirking reality but … maybe I am.
    The closing chapter contains the diary and tearsheets of Mr Greene from Chechnya. They say it all and should be published in every newspaper: preferably on a single day so there is no getting away from them. Next time someone wants to let the War Genie out of the bottle someone should hit him or her with this book and remind them what happens when they do. If he or she complains call it a surgical strike and apologise for the collateral damage.

    Bob Black, that is a great idea to show photography in such an accessible way! I’m surprised that someone didn’t say that it inviolated their human rights by forcing them to confront reality.

    Mike.

  • very powerful. i found myself holding my breath a little longer with the passing of each image.

  • Lovely work. I especially admire how you have managed to portray people in such difficult circumstances without infringing upon their dignity. Number 18 was also a very clever shot in my mind.

    /// Gustav

  • Marcus,

    This is an incredibly powerful photo essay. Your photos convey the depth and horror of the crisis, intertwined with the spirit of the people and hope for their future. Your commitment to documenting and focusing attention on conflict situations and human rights issues is clearly evident . As with many conflicts, it is people’s greed in pursuing and controlling natural resources that causes conflict and torment for the innocent. My hope is that work such as yours will force people to confront issues that they find uncomfortable or to disturbing and that it will bring about enlightenment and change for the future. We should never allow ourselves to turn a blind eye or to become numb to the atrocities being committed all over the world, and we need people like you to remind us of that. Your work and dedication is truly inspiring.

    Wenata

  • Marcus, thank you for your answers, good to know you have a ‘safety net’.. and thank you for your commitment!

  • Mike R. Good point but actually I show this work mostly to non photographers.

    It does not get published much and the book which is made up of these and many other is not what I would describe as a photography book. It is a document, a testament to the struggle of the congolese. We have exhibited in UBS Bank in Geneva, in the Senate in Washington (part of a committee discussing US foreign policy on DRC – which led to additional funding to help victims of sexual violence in the east of the country) in the UN in New York and it opens at the UN in Geneva next week. I will include here an excerpt from the Nieman Reports, an excellent magazine from Harvard I wrote in recently. I hope it goes someway to explain what work can do. I consider myself a photographer, but I hope I am also an activist who chooses the camera as a medium to show injustice. I hope the following helps explain in some small way what we can do with our work…….

    I recommend this up and coming edition of Nieman Reports as it looks at exactly this issue of using our work more widely to influence real change.

    …….Photographs I took on that trip were used in collaboration with Human Rights Watch to compile a report, “The Curse of Gold,” which examined in depth the reasons for it and the consequences of its continuation. Since those financing the war — the gold merchants – lived on other continents and were dependent on the continuation of this trade for their wealth, it was difficult to connect the pieces and harder still to make what was happening on the ground matter to those whose actions could make a difference.

    In our attempt to bring this story to the attention of these international gold traders, Human Rights Watch and I worked together to create an exhibit of photographs in Geneva, Switzerland, where Metalor Technologies, one of the leading gold mining companies, has its corporate offices. We invited to the exhibit’s opening night gold buyers and mining company executives, as well as financiers, stockholders and journalists. Immediately after seeing this exhibit, Metalor Technologies halted its purchases of Congolese gold.

    But it is not just about Gold. This war has calmed down and the conflict is now concentrated around the mining area rich in Cassiterite. And yes Lee it is an oversimplification but it is resources are a significant part of the problem. Here is not the place to go into that in such depth. There are long discussions on Congolese politics and power plays and the reasons for the war and I will refer you to an extraordinary blog by Jason Stearns http://congosiasa.blogspot.com/ note his interesting discussion on the effect of the international price of Tin and the conflict in DRC.

    This experience convinced me that by combining visual awareness with thorough research, like that done by Human Rights Watch, the result can create a powerful force for positive change. Clearly, this exhibit and discussion with HRW opened minds and led to substantial changes in the company’s business policies.

  • Powerful. I feel helpless to comment, as any words that I might come up with in praise or question seem feeble and unnecessary against the power of the document.

    I do wonder how it is that you have walked, a westerner with a camera in the midst of all this for so long and still remain among the living.

    Your statement about how we must change because it is our consumerism that has ignited all this brings up many questions. My own home, Alaska, is also a place of abundant mineral resource, the exploitation of which does bring out greed and abominable behavior and there are constant legal and verbal battles waged here between those who would rip up every inch if they could make a buck and those who would preserve the same, but there is no war, killings and rapes are limited to the usual reasons that lead to them in all “peaceful” societies.

    So it seems to me the question goes much deeper than just the western need to consume, even though I do not question at all that this is what is driving all this.

  • dear mr. bleasdale,

    your pictures are amazing and the story so sad.
    you can only do so much.
    i hope you stay married and alive.

  • Frostfrog

    Your comment about consumerism resonates with me. There are parallels in my part of the world too, the exploitation of the old growth forests and oceans where I now live, and the outrageous oil sands projects next door in my native Alberta.

    The rape, murder, corruption and brutality which often accompanies the resource exploitation in the third world I feel cannot be blamed totally on consumerism in the developed world, as regretable as it is. There can be no question that it is a factor, but the same evils exist even when there are few recources to be exploited. Greed, brutality etc seem to be enduring themes throughout human history. This is a spiritual and political issue. (Not to be confused with religious issues).

    Bob B, thanks for your insight here. This has come some distance to restoring some hope for humanity in me, and for my faith in the still photographs’ power to make a difference in this sorry ass world.

    I’m still so blown away by the power of these images, and your skill and commitment Marcus. It has re-inforced my belief in how a single instant from the stream of time can speak so very loudly.

    Even on my laptop screen, these images sing, the quality is astounding. Image #4, the white diamond dealer with the cool hat is almost too perfect, almost like a still from an old Bogart movie. I’ve admired this image before and feel it is an absolutely brilliant classic. You also love using silhouettes to great effect. Your clean, powerful, gimmick free compositions are an inspiration. Not a tilted horizon to be seen. Amazing stuff.

  • crudely realistic, consumed, vibrant… such a real reportage! my compliment

  • hi marcus.

    great to see you here – the book of this work is epic, and your hard work and dedication to stick with the subject is admirable… the photographs are poetic and disturbing testaments and anyone who has yet to see the book would do well to get down to the library and spend some time with it..

    two questions –
    bob hinted at a love of wine..
    coming from the u.k. how do you deal with the price of red wine here in norway?

    secondly –
    i read somewhere that your current ongoing project revolves around the oil extraction and industry at large – norway is certainly a good place to start, with the trade show in stavanger and much of the economy dependent upon it´s sale.
    how is the project going?
    my reason for asking is that tackling a corporate industry which has good reason to be protective of it´s image and interests could lead to a number of dead ends.. closed doors.
    starting out on this project relatively recently – it would be great to hear about your initial hopes, intentions and the possibilities you have found, as well as the practical limitations of the subject matter.

    thanks again for staying around and answering questions on burn – it is a validation of your intentions as both a campaigner and educator.. your work has a much valued added depth for me when viewed in context with your passion for people and efforts away from the camera.

    perhaps if you´re ever in bergen, we could split the cost of a bottle of red?
    it´s the only way i can afford it..
    :ø)
    best wishes
    d

  • Marcus,
    I obviously knew the work, and I am really happy to see it published here!
    Congrants for your awards, you and your photographs are a source of inspiration.
    VERY WELL DONE!!
    Best
    Mimi

  • Marcus, thanks for the reply and for the details of how you use your work. I’m impressed and educated by what you write. I have seen your work before your publication here on Burn.

    Do you find that newpaper / magazine publishers shy away from such a powerful story? I rather think that they would but feel that they do the general public a disservice by doing so. We keep being told that we, the public, are ever-more visually literate but serve up news-lite and celebrity gossip.

    Thanks again for your replies here on Burn.

    Mike.

  • Here a couple of links:

    Festival du Film in Geneva, Switzerland: http://www.fifdh.org/?lan=en&rubID=1

    And here’s the exhibition of Marcus Bleasdale’s work: http://www.fifdh.org/2010/index.php?rubID=22&lan=en

    From March 5th to 14th.. I’ll be there on the 11th..

  • Mike R, The magazines have published this in parts, but honestly that is not the focus here. It is policy makers and decision makers. Whilst awareness in itself is extremely important nothing can compete with getting to the top policy makers and architects of foreign strategy and funding. Get to them and there is a chance things change.

  • Marcus,

    incredibly powerful and important work.

    There’s an old saying. ‘The only way to stop war is to take the profit out of it.’

    Policy makers and decision makers are most deeply affected by public opinion; that’s why it’s fundamental that the stories of The Congo reach as wide as audience as possible. On that note I was disappointed that you turned down the opportunity to do a special documentary this coming Christmas about this on the BBC World Service and BBC News websites (45 million people). It would have been good to give the photos the context they deserve.

    Looking forward to seeing your work on oil.

  • Marcus,

    Brilliant and really personally inspiring work. Tackling these kinds of issues with photography is something that I hope more photographers would consider. My question would be with regard to how you ensure your own personal safety when traveling in the DRC. Do you have any children? If so does that impact your photography and where you place your focus. I also wonder if your background in banking adds to your credibility and opens doors to get this message out or acts as a barrier? I find the suffering intolerable and feel that there seems no end to the suffering for many of people in the developing nations of Africa. It breaks my heart and at the same time I have to numb myself to these images and others like them. I do think this type of work needs to displayed in the halls of commerce and government so that it remains as a kind of public conscience and begs for accountability.

    You mention that consumerism in the West is the key to the continuing exploitation of developing countries. I would tend to agree with that in a simplified way, but what is the role of finance and government in making these situations viable? It is also my understanding that China has been behind much of the financing of similar projects in resource rich African nations. Is there any moral ground that banks hold in making investment decisions? Again from my understanding most of the available gold in the earth’s crust has already been mined and most gold used for jewelery is often recycled back into supply when prices rise. The value of gold has been steadily rising since 2000 when it was around $200 per ounce to over $1000 now, with some saying that it could reach upwards of $2000-3000. There is much debate in investment circles about the role of gold as a hedge against inflation and protection against debasement of fiat currency (paper or digital money) and is the foundation of a free and healthy economy. China and Russia have been steadily increasing their reserves of gold where the West has sold much of their reserves and gone the route of high finance (aka mortgage back securities that proved to be worthless) and set the world up for the worst financial crisis since the great depression. Gold’s value over the millenia has been a store of wealth and form of currency not really as a consumable where the case for silver could be made. It is also interesting to note that banking and specifically fractional reserve banking was invented by goldsmiths and the lineage of the banking families can be traced backed to these early beginnings. In fact the Medici family; benefactors of the Itallian Renaissance, where bankers and dealers of gold. Can you comment on any of this.

    Thanks you for publishing this on Burn and Marcus for your continued dedication.

    Frank

    “Gold is worse poison to a man’s soul, doing more murders in this loathsome world, than any mortal drug.”

    “All that glitters is not gold. Gilded tombs do worms enfold”.

    - William Shakespeare

  • I don’t really know what to say…my instant thought on the front picture was just wow, amazing, a real indiana jones scene, but of course as soon as you look closer and read your words you feel overwhelmed by horror at what people do to each other.
    There’s no doubt you’re an immense photographer and these stories need telling and I’m glad you do, I just find it really difficult to look at and think about.
    Thanks for making me more aware.

  • wow…very inspiring! hope i can do something with a strong impact to influence other people like that. thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Marcus,
    Each image shows the depth and knowledge you had before you snapped the shutter. I hope the world can see the affects of greed and hunger for natural resources which has caused humans to treat each other in such degrading manner. I could not believe on one of the captions which read that the attackers ate off the woman’s hand after they hacked it. What human being does that? It is truly disgusting.

    Your work has been truly Awe-Inspiring! Keep up the good work. I can only pray that you be safe in all your missions. Thanks for sharing your work.

  • I just want to clarify something here. I am not against people buying gold, using computer games, computers or phones or any other final products that these minerals are found. So please don’t be against these products. Many developing nations need the exports of such goods to survive and prosper and to take that away would be insane. So FM Hack, I would not rush to slam gold. I would just ask people to be more aware of where these products come from and select those products you can be certain do not contain conflict minerals or minerals extracted in inhumane ways. A great start regarding this is http://www.nodirtygold.org/ OR The Enough Project http://www.enoughproject.org/

  • DuckRabbit or Benjamin, You maybe misunderstand my role here. I prefer to be a little more targeted. To go to policy makers and decision makers. BBC do a great job in DRC as it is, their coverage is exceptional, as is their correspondent Thomas Fessy who is on the ground there. My role is to get these images in front of people who have the power to effect the change we need at the UN, in the US Senate in the UK parliament and the European Community in addition to the financiers and the mining companies. BBCs role is to inform 45 million people and they do that very well without me.

  • Then maybe the extinction of the human race as we think we know was always on the cards

  • ……….so the masses answer,not on my watch

  • Marcus, DAH, thanks for presenting this essay on Burn.

    The journalistic,documentary and research skills shown in this essay, on top of the quality editing and imagery make this a masterpiece of informed story telling bourne out of true dedication to the subject and hard work. Amazing, good on you Marcus for being spot on with the subject and hitting your target audience where it matters.

    I recently finished reading Bloodriver by Tim Butcher, so to see the mayhem/disaster of the DRC in this graphic essay brings it all together.

    Question, there are examples of this kind of exploitation throughout South America, Asia, in fact the world, I see from your website that the majority of your work is in Africa and frankly Africa has plenty of these stories and probably enough to keep you going for a lifetime, do you have intentions of covering issues in other parts of the world.

    Just one more…. I am sure it has been raised many times.. the legacy of colonialism and the rightfull transfer of power back to indigenous peoples…. The Congo is a prime example of a nation that was pillaged by it’s colonizers and handed back hastily leading to violent division and opportunity for corruption and corporate abuses. Is your work geared towards exposing the legacy of colonialism as well as the abuses by mining companies and finaciers/

    regards

    ian

  • Wow!
    Extraordinary strong work and great story.So good b&w edition.
    Thanks for sharing and good luck!
    Un saludo
    Neven

  • Marcus,

    Thanks for your answer although I slightly disagree with your ideas about advocacy.

    Programmes like Panorama and File on Four in the UK consistently have effects on policy. Mike Thompson from the BBC won the Amnesty International award for media for his reporting on The Congo, heard by seven million people, amongst them the majority of the British cabinet. The UK Foreign Office invests over two hundred million pounds in the BBC World Service partly because it is so influential amongst diplomats.

    When people, when the public care about issues governments feel pressure to change. Most recently Joanna Lumley has had the law on changed on allowing Ghurka soldiers to settle in this country, almost certainly because of the exposure the case received on the BBC. Then there’s events like Live Aid, prompted by the work of the African photograper Mohamed Amin. The list goes on and on. It’s why many governments try to cripple the mass media, because public opinion is what they fear most.

    I also think its a shame that more people are aware of Rankin’s pictures for Oxfam from the Congo than your own. Oxfam are of the belief that you need to lobby hard both politicians and the public, which is why Rankin’s images (taken in a day) were printed up large and exhibited in front of parliament (and on the BBC website and Today programme). The work lacks the depth or commitment of your own, but for impact it was so successful I’m told by the head of media they hope to repeat the work.

    That is not to dare to suggest what you should or shouldn’t do with your work, its just that I’m always surprised by the photographers (usually in art circles) who don’t feel it’s important as wide as audience as possible experiences their work. As a programme maker I think we honor people, their struggles and hardships, when we bring their stories to as wide an audience as possible.

    I also would encourage people to seek out a balanced viewpoint of some of the more extreme claims by well intentioned organizations like the ENOUGH project that you are involved with. They claim in relation to The Congo ‘rape and murder are funded by cell phones’. Its a fantastic way to grab the headlines but as yet there’s no data showing that the mineral trade is the primary cause of violence in Eastern Congo.

    In South Africa in a survey 25% of men admitted to having a raped a woman. In Ethiopia where I ran a project centred around sexual health the issue of sexual violence against women was overwhelming. Its a cultural issue in some parts of Africa and many parts of the world, but to suggest emphatically its linked to the use of my mobile phone is crude. It’s also an excuse to shift more trade out of Africa which is just another was of screwing people that as Ian points out we’ve already screwed.

    For a different point of view on all of this people can read the following article. http://texasinafrica.blogspot.com/2009/12/show-me-data.html

    Once again congratulations for such unswerving commitment to such an important story, of which the world should be ashamed.

  • Mr Duckrabbit,

    I said BBC do it very well on their own. You seem to agree. Why duplicate this energy? Why not create an alternative voice, a more direct one? Your example with Joanna Lumley is a perfect example of how direct advocacy can work. Her approach is EXACTLY how HRW and I have been working for the last 10 years with DRC. It is exactly how we worked with Metalor Technologies and Anglo Gold Ashanti in Switzerland and in New York. It was not the BBC that helped with Lumley and Nepal so much, but her court action and the British legal system. The British judges were not influenced by the BBC, but the law. The BBC simply reported on events.

    Rankins pictures have indeed had impact. If people are “more aware” of one body of work than another in London or New York or Washington is actually irrelevant, we are trying to achieve the same end and his and the approach of Oxfam – yet again is very similar to our own. Maybe you did not read the post above but the work has been exhibited at the US Senate, The UN in New York, the UN in Geneva, it will be exhibited inside the houses of parliament in May. We have exhibited at 22 venues across the US and Europe but collectively around policy debates – therefore targeted. The book we produced I do not view as a photo book as such but a policy document, small enough to sit happily on the desks on politicians and red enough to be seen on said desk and indeed it as been sent to over 600 of the desks in Washington, London, New York and Brussels.

    Your link is a good one, but you mention it was a different point of view. They have exactly the same view as I do. As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I do not want people to close down mines or stop buying gold or electrical products, I simply want people and governments to be more aware of where they come from and make decisions about purchases based on that knowledge. Also, I want Government funding to be linked to military behavior and political will.

    The only thing I would debate with her is the causal effect. What finances the continuation of this conflict? Minerals. There is certainly data on that. Plenty of it. Two UN reports in fact. This conflict creates insecurity in the region and lack of control and lack of law and therefore impunity for crimes committed.

    Impunity is a dangerous thing. It means soldiers feel they can get away with pillage and rape and murder. The pictures above are a testament to that, see the first picture? Those 3 lines of men working in the mine? They are all soldiers. In the village next to this mine I interviewed more than 100 women, 90% of them had been raped. There was no law in this village, just military who quite literally got away with rape and murder.

    I asked also if rape was a problem before the soldiers came and they said yes it was, but the perpetrators were normally caught, tried by the village leaders, had to pay compensation or marry the woman they had raped. I asked how often this happened and they said maybe twice a year, in percentage terms, less that 5%.

    In DRC Rape is also being used as a weapon to destroy society. As a deliberate policy. Women are the corner stone of any village, they do the work, they do the cooking, they provide the children. Men do very little. When a women is raped she is normally thrown out of her home and also feels she must leave the village. If the whole village female population is raped they destroy the infrastructure of that village, therefore destroying the society of their enemies.

    According to CARE International, the ongoing conflict in DRC has created one of the most appalling wars on women in recent history. “Rape has become a tool of war, spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” the organizations says on its website. “Rape is used to destroy families and traumatize the women who are attacked, and their children who are often witness to this violence or are attacked themselves.” Some women, decide to speak out about what happened to them. Lumo Furaha is one of them. Her testimony, which can be found on the UN’s website, leaves nothing to the imagination. “…. Over 50 armed men took me and another woman to the bush where they raped us over and over again,” she is quoted. ” After, they pulled us like goats to the main road where they left us abandoned. Luckily, we were found by some men and eventually I was taken to the Goma hospital where I have had nine surgeries, but yet to be fixed. Now, despite not having recovered I am hoping for a brighter future. I hope telling my story will help give me that brighter future.”

    In 2006, total worldwide tin mine production was 321,000 tons. Approx 15,500 tons of that came from Congo or about 5% of global production. Tin prices reached around $14,000 per ton that equates to $217 million a year. Those are the numbers fueling this conflict. Now whilst Rwanda will take some of that, suppliers will take some, transport will take some. A significant %age will be passed down to make sure the mines are secured so mining can continue. That means weapons. That means insecurity and impunity, that means war, pillage and rape.

    So it is reasonable to assume that whilst DRC is not the largest producer of tin, it is significant and some of that Congolese tin ends up in solder. In 2008, the categories of tin global use were solder (52%), tinplate (16%), chemicals (13%), brass and bronze (5.5%), glass (2%), and variety of other applications (11%). Solder is only used in electrical products. So again not outrageous to say Congolese tin is in our electrical products.

    If there were no minerals in this region there would be no long term funding for the conflict. If there was no funding then there would be no weapons, no weapons, no war.

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