From violent protests in Egypt and smugglers tunnels in Gaza to The Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy and the “Black Marble” Earth photographed at night from space, TIME presents the best images of the week.
Like many photojournalists,Ive beenshooting with myiPhone for a while.Using a mobile phone allowsme to be somewhat invisible asa professional photographer;people see me as just anotherperson in the crowd.Invisibility is particularly usefulin the eastern part of the DemocraticRepublic of Congo, wherea potpourri of armed groups andgovernments have used conflictminerals as the latest way to helpfund the warfare, atrocities andrepression that have afflicted thearea for more than a century.
The electronics industry isone of the main destinations forthese minerals, which include tourmaline,cassiterite and coltan.They are used to make criticalcomponents of mobile phones,laptops and other gadgets. So it isfittingif ironicthat I shot thisentire essay with my iPhone.I arrived in Congo in earlyAugust to document some of themines in an attempt to highlighthow the minerals travel out of thecountryand the trades effecton the lives of the workers whohandle them along the way. At acamp for internally displacedpeople in Kibati, the phonehelped me shoot scenes unobtrusively.Taking photographswith a phone also raises myawareness as a photographer. Insteadof concentrating on camerasettings and a large piece ofequipment, I am better able tofocus on the situation beforeme. It becomes more about howI feel and what I see.
In Congo, the effects of themineral trade on every personslifeeven the lives ofpeople who arent working atthe minesare palpable. At aHeal Africa clinic in Goma, Imet an emaciated teenage girlwho had been gang-raped bythree Hutu militiamen allegedly funded by profits fromthe mines.Im not advocating givingup our gadgets. The causes ofproblems in Congo are far morecomplex. There are industry sponsored programslike Solutions for Hope, whichtries to monitor coltan. Butauditing the origins of theseminerals is complicated by inaccessibilityand danger. Id likepeople to pause when they lookat these photographs, takingtime to think about where thematerial for modern technology comes fromand what lives are affected before they get into thephones in our hands.
Of the millions of photographs moving through the news services—known as “the wires”—this year, the work of Associated Press freelancer Pete Muller, 29, stood out. His exceptional photographs—focused on Africa and particularly Sudan—take an individual approach to storytelling, one that combines a distinctive aesthetic with journalistic integrity.
The U.S.-born photographer moved to Sudan in 2009 knowing that the country was at a critical point in its history. Sudan had been devastated by decades of brutal civil war between the Arab-Islamic north and largely Christian south and was on the cusp of formal division. This July, southern Sudan became the world’s 193rd country, and Muller knew that very few journalists were in the region covering the story. “I thought that spending a few years documenting southern Sudan’s transition to independence would be of value to the historical record and might shed light on an underreported but geopolitically significant story,” he says.
Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography says Muller’s work showcases “a distinctiveness of voice combined with a fairly unique access.” Muller has found subject matter that balances the AP’s desire for news with a personal passion for more in-depth story telling. “I hope that, when appropriately paired with words, it contributes to the record of South Sudan at its long-awaited birth,” the photographer says of his work. “In an intellectual sense, I hope that it underscores the challenges of national identity and nation-states that exists in countless countries across the world and has, for centuries, been the source of immense bloodshed.” Internationally, where the majority of AP’s photo content is staff-produced, Muller is a rarity. He has been working for the AP since April 2010 and is one of a handful of freelancers the wire service works with, in part because of his location in Africa. In addition to his long-term work in Sudan, Muller has shot several stand-alone portrait stories, including one about rape victims in the Congo, in the last year.
Along with the work of a select group of established staff photographers—sprinkled across the bigger news agencies—Muller’s work diversifies the output from the wires to include work that differentiates itself from the standard news assignment fare. Other wire photographers who’ve also succeeded in adding their personal touch to their reportage work this year include Reuters photographer Finbarr O’Reilly, who produced a topographic series from Afghanistan and Libya, the AP’s Kevin Frayer, who shot an essay offering a different perspective on Afghanistan, the AP’s David Guttenfelder’s, notable for his series in North Korea and Japan, and the AP’s Rodrigo Abd, who used a box camera that developed the film inside the camera to make portraits of indigenous Guatemalan women. Getty’s John Moore deserves special mention for his work in Somalia, which was sandwiched among his coverage of some of theyear’s biggest news stories, including the revolution in Libya and the Occupy protests.
In an era of image saturation where it is more difficult than ever to differentiate one set of images from another, this more personal approach is finding support from the within the agencies. “We want photographers to have a voice and as long as that voice is journalistically sound and is as objective or impartial as it needs to be meet AP standards for fairness and accuracy,” Lyon says. “It is Important to have diverse group of photographers and it is important to let them express themselves—to let them to do something that, once upon a time, was not common and add even unheard of in the wire services.”
Although the lion’s share Muller’s work this past year went out through AP, he also worked directly for the New York Times, the Times of London, Foreign Policy and others publications. Muller has what Lyon describes as a triple threat: an accomplished lensman and writer who applies his skills within the rigors or art as well as journalism. “We’re not just about pretty pictures,“ Lyon says. “We want our pictures to say something, there’s a story there.” Muller’s work bares creative testament to this ethic. His photographs bring his stories more attention through his creative process, which balance a unique vision and aesthetic with journalistic integrity. And in this last year, Muller has been peerless in raising the bar for photography on the wires.
“Rape is horrifyingly widespread in conflicts all around the world,” writes The Economist, with a focus on Congo. Besieged is a collaborative project by photographers Ying Ang, Agnes Dherbeys, Sarah Elliott, and Benedicte Kurzen, intended to put a spotlight onto this situation. (more)
“This collaborative project is about RAPE being systematically used as a WEAPON OF WARFARE in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the large-scale persecution, damage and sexual violence to people in the DRC as a form of international blackmail and a brutal exercise of power. It is a call to attention and a way of bringing another voice to a wider social consciousness about the absolute and unacceptable violation of the human body, predatory behavior towards the vulnerable and bringing lower the already dispossessed and disenfranchised.
“There were 7,685 cases of sexual violence reported in total for the first 6 months of 2010 alone.
“We aim to add different dimensions to a plea that has been resoundingly heard, but largely unnoticed to an international audience. The idea is to emphasize the scale DESTRUCTION and to bring these violations closer to home. The value of a person’s right to live unmolested is the same, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or age. The fact that women, men and children in the DRC are being continually raped without consequence to the key perpetrators is a sign of total APATHY on the side of the international community. Political pressure must be applied to counter the framework that currently exists where widespread destruction of civilian life can lead to greater political power and legitimacy of rebel forces.
“Photographically, the intention is to create a large-scale PORTRAIT INSTALLATION of as many of the women, men and children raped over a 4-day period in Walikale of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as possible; over 300 people were reported to have been raped within that time frame, in late July, early August, 2010. The portraits will be a representation of the humanity of these people juxtaposed with the unacceptable crime committed against them in an effort to gain political leverage.
“In addition to the portraits, we will also produce a feature story with each of us investigating another aspect of the situation. Agnes Dherbeys will photograph what it means to live in DRC on a daily life basis providing background and contextualization to the war mongering in the DRC. Ying Ang plans to photograph a visual testimony on the physical damage that has been inflicted upon the victims of sexual violence, the scars that have been left behind. Sarah Elliott plans to explore the relationships between mothers and their children, who have been born of rape. Benedicte Kurzen intends to cross over from the rape victim’s testimonies to the perpetrators stories. She hopes to document court cases and Goma’s prison, to underline both the lack of commitment to prosecute rapists.
“All 4 female photographers have a personal vested interest in joining the visual discourse of the violations against women and thus humanity. Rape is a weapon that leaves scars far more complex psychologically and physically than many flesh wounds from firearms, and the legacy that is left behind in the torn fabric of the communities affected are often never repaired or reconciled. These Congolese are BESIEGED on the frontline, for the most part unarmed and unacknowledged. We hope to do something about it.” – Ying Ang/Agnes Dherbeys/Sarah Elliott/Benedicte Kurzen