Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photogenic Goma

The war in eastern Congo may not be attracting the consideration it deserves from the media and the upper echelon of the international diplomatic community, but that doesn't mean no attention is being paid. In addition to the dozen or so journalists who are posting regularly from the Kivus, several photographers are documenting the conflicts there. Here are a few recently published photos that struck me.

1) This photo by Dominic Narh of Magnum of a young man mourning the death of his father seems to me to strike the right balance in depicting suffering without being overly intrusive. The man's face is largely hidden, protecting his dignity, even as his drawn-in body evokes the universal language of grief. Note the contrast between the bright red of his sweater and the dark shabby clothes of the people passing on the crumbling cement veranda behind him. The fact that some of the pedestrians are half-turned toward him, while others are simply walking past, provides a useful footnote to usual Auden/Breughel observation. But to me what gives this photo its precise measure of rightness is the caption, which provides the name and occasion for the man's grief, lifting it from the universal to the particular.

Mujinga Lokuli Grace (21) mourns after finding the body of his father who was a DRC
government military doctor who was killed the day before as rebels took the city of Goma.
 Dominic Narh. Magnum Photos. 11/18/12

2) The things they left behind. The Congolese army melted into the civilian population as Goma fell, abandoning their uniforms, weapons, and anything else that might give them away to the Rwandans. I'm wondering if these army boots ever had laces, or if the soldier who owned them took the laces for repurposing on civilian shoes. Yes, it's a little Van Gogh-y, but still.

Items left behind by soldiers who fled. Photos taken in the
neighborhoods of Volcans and Mabanga.
Alain Wandimoyi. France 24. 11/22/12

3) This photo by Phil Moore of AFP of Monusco blue helmets manning a protective barrier near Goma appears at first glance to show two soldiers doing their job under dangerous conditions. But something about their relaxed, almost casual demeanor provides a sardonic comment on Monusco's impotence in eastern Congo. By extension, it constitutes a sharp criticism of the international community's continuing indifference to the plight of eastern Congolese.

Uruguyan United Nations peacekeepers man a defensive position on the outskirts
of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Phil Moore. AFP/Getty. 11/20/12

4) The thrill of conquest. Another Phil Moore photograph, of M23 rebels entering Goma. Nothing as sweet as an easy, bloodless battlefield victory.

M23 rebels celebrate in the streets of Goma.
Phil Moore. AFT/Getty. 11/20/12
5) This photo, published by the Rwandan government-controlled New Times two days before the fall of Goma, depicts the border town of Gisenyi as a busy commercial hub in colorful, vibrant tones. What makes the photo for me are the street signs, which are (unintentionally?) ironic on all kinds of levels:

People doing business at Rwanda-Congo border of Goma.
T. Kisambira. The New Times. 11/20/12
6) The Displaced (Part i) Emily Lynch has a photographic essay over at Foreign Policy Magazine. Lynch is a communications officer and manager for a measles vaccine campaign being run by Medecins sans frontiers. Her photos are less topical, more focused on daily life in eastern Congo.
Above, a household in South Kivu that has taken in refugees from the violence. Along with the owners of the house, already a family of 10, the additional five families now total 33 people, not all of whom are pictured above. The families share a three-room home.
Emily Lynch. Foreign Policy Magazine. 11/22/12

7) The Displaced (Part ii) Carrying water buckets in the rain. And for the briefest of moments you can imagine yourself into the scene, and think, Christ how much it must suck to be a displaced person.

Children carrying water buckets run through a rainstorm at the Mugunga 3 camp west of Goma.
Jerome Delay. AP Photo. 11/26/12

8) The Displaced (Part iii) Candy Girl. Another by Phil Moore.

Thousands of civilians flee the town of Sake, 26km west of Goma, following fresh fighting there.
Phil Moore. AFP/Getty. 11/20/12

9) Manipulative, cheesy, and sentimental--but when you're this cute you can get away with it. Girls from the Georges Mailaka School in Kalebuka, DRC, hold up personal blackboards expressing what they want to see happen in Congo.

I second the emotion


  1. I’m with you in Rockland

  2. I'm robbing this Peace, Love in Bukavu, Sake, and Goma picture.