In July 2014, I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was going to take photos for Focus Congo and expected to be shocked by what I would see. I had researched and heard the stories. The statistics are truly horrific. I imagined what the devastated faces of these statistics would look like. To my surprise, the people I met totally contradicted my expectations. I met fathers, mothers, children… all getting on with life. I saw smiles and heard jokes responded to with genuine laughter. I realized they are not just existing. These people didn’t see themselves as victims – despite having every right to – but rather saw themselves as ordinary human beings, the same as anyone else. The same as you, the same as me.
Focus Congo exist to bring focus to the complex issues for which the DRC is known. By utilizing strategic media tools and by targeting key areas for societal development, Focus Congo confronts the needs of the Congolese people with clear solutions and a commitment to hope.
Thanks to modern media we (the Western world) are literally saturated with images of disasters, tragedy, and conflict. As a result, we quickly flip from being overwhelmed to anaesthetised to traditional pictures of disaster zones. This time Focus Congo, in partnership with myself, wanted to show the people. Capture a moment of their life. Get them to share a piece of who they are. Capture the expressions in their eyes and faces. To somehow create a photographic platform where people from any culture can relate to their humanity and glimpse our common ties in this beautiful journey of life.
The resilience of the Congolese people is one thing I will take away from my time. There is no self-pity about their situation and circumstances, instead the people of the Congo always seem to have a song and dance!
I hope that my photographs will do this: promote change and understanding for the Congo. The photographs are neither confronting images of conflict and brutality, nor are they overtly sentimental pictures of human suffering. The world has enough of that. I hope they don’t encourage pity and helplessness. My desire is that my images will promote empathy, clarity, understanding and ultimately action.