“There’s something wrong with human nature” (Gary Clail 1991), but judging by the entries to this year’s AnthropoGraphia awards, there’s nothing wrong with the state of human rights photography. With stories from every corner of the globe we should be thankful so many photographers are willing to devote their time and energy to reporting human rights abuses wherever they are. In turn, AnthropoGraphia should be praised for providing a much-needed platform for their work.
In a chance symmetry, AnthropoGraphia’s two winners – Liu Jie and Francois Pesant – shine a light on stories from the world’s two superpowers, China and the USA. In Liu Jie’s case, he takes a familiar issue and presents it in a powerful and original way that makes us feel as if we are seeing the story for the first time. The missing chairs in his photographs bring home to us the human impact of urban migration in a simple but effective way. On the other hand, François Pesant tells a story that very few of us know. He spent months gaining the trust of sexually abused women – abuse suffered while serving their country, a country that didn’t want to hear their voices.
It is never easy. But we would never have it any other way. Great images, but has the story been well told? Beautiful soundtrack, but is it appropriate? Does the slick camerawork gloss over a weak storyline? That is the easy part.