Documentary Photography

Documentary photography is a vital tool to communicate an injustice, a social problem, or other current issues.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lisa Shannon "Run for Congo Women"

                                  Lisa Shannon

A woman of hope and inspiration for the Women of the Congo.  
In 2005 Lisa Shannon founded "Run for Congo Women" an event that would grow into a movement and help thousands of Congolese women rebuild their lives. This all began when Lisa started sponsoring a women through Women for Women International. Lisa is a rush of energy, and really cares about her sisters in the Congo.
She has written a book that will come out in April 2010 called "A Thousand Sisters".  This book is Lisa's experiences in the Congo and the stories of the women she sponsors.  It is a MUST read by all women and men.  As it will enlightened you on the situation of the women of the Congo.
    Florencia in Lisa's Book
Xaverine in Lisa's Book
Lisa left her career in a stock photography business. She followed her dream to be a voice of the women of the Congo.  She is another great example of following your dream, and it becoming your reality.  I have spent a lot of time with Lisa and watched her with her sisters, they love her and she in return loves them.  Lisa's sisters have great trust in her.

I watched her sister's being interviewed, she held their hand during the interviews.
Many of these women still live in fear and uncertainty.  Many of the women interviewed expressed,  being stronger women and that the militia groups MUST be dealt with.  These women have been raped, gotten pregnant from the rapes, lost limbs. Generose ran with one leg,  she did it to support the women of the Congo and the atrocities they have been through.
                                                             Generose in Lisa's Book
Lisa's enthusiasm in making a difference in the lives of the women in the Congo is strong and empowering.  Their year in the Women for Women program, then continuing with Lisa empowers them even more, after their graduation.  These women light up when they see Lisa coming.  They all yell "Lisa, Lisa, Lisa".
So on Feb. 28, 2010, Lisa organized with the help of Christine Karumba, the Country Director of Women for Women  International and the entire staff at Women for Women International for the Congo, "Run for Congo Women."  This is Lisa's first time doing a run in the Congo.
                                           Christine Karumba
Several of Lisa's sisters came from villages very far away. They were not going to miss this chance, to break the silence of the horrors they have endured in their villages and to support their sisters in their villages and country.
Lisa has done this run many times in the USA.  But this was special it was with her sisters in the Congo.  Christine Karumba, arranged all police be women, women soldiers
  Lisa greeting the Mayor of Bukavu Nzita Kavungirwa

 The Deputy Provinciale, Beatrice Kinja Mwendanga, of South Kivu attended another woman.

And the US Ambassador of the Congo Joshua Reitz, a man, supporting Lisa and the women of the Congo. There were also American women living in the Congo that ran to support the women.
The event was also attended by Jeff (freelance videographer for Women for Women International, Michelle (writer for Runner's Women's Magazine) and Imma (writer for Wired Tech magazine in Italy).
It was a great honor and joyous day to photograph and run with these amazing women.  It began raining as we began the 1 mile run. But we ran, walked, danced and the women were singing in the rain.  Nothing was going to stop this event, nothing..........................

After the run the women had food, Fanta, which they loved.  As many have never had a soda.
                            Me and the Women of the Congo.
This run was not only in the Congo, it was world wide.  Lisa had her Blackberry reading messages from people, in Mexico, India, Hawaii, Japan, Scotland, Denmark, Ugnada, Canada,  USA, Oregon, Washington State, New York they ran at midnight in the freezing snow, to be running at the same time we were.

To hear about these women's stories, that will inspire you to want to take ACTION.
"A Thousand Sisters" by Lisa Shannon coming out in April.  It will change YOUR life, and others.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Return to Congo

Poverty, rape, torture, villages burned, children taken by militia groups to be used as child soldiers, or work the gold mines, this is life in the Congo. My heart tells me people are inherently good, but what I have experienced and witnessed suggest otherwise.

  Rwanda on left-Congo on right

Thousands of people are trying and hoping to get out of the Congo!!!
I was trying desperately to get into the Congo!!!

After 1 1/2 days at the border, I was allowed in.
First, visa issues, then being a photographer, what I was doing there and everyone wanted money, lots of money.

The CID (Central Intelligence Department) arrived at my hotel at 7:30 am asking questions and wanting to search my camera bag, then I had to get authorization from the government.  Then another visit to the CID, passport photographs, calling my hotel to ask if I was there.

Many thanks to Women for Women International, Christine, Pierre, and Gertrude who got me authorization letters, photography permits, a one month visa for Bukavu and then another for Goma.  It was not like this the last time I came.  This country gets more and more greedy, not the people the government, it's organizations, and many departments.


Does this country have something to hide, that being a photographer is a threat?  The answer is yes, and what is hidden here must be exposed. I listed them above in the first sentence.
When the authorities should be out catching the thieves, and helping it's people, no they want to hassle a woman photographer that is here, trying to help the women, children and men have a safer, healthier, peaceful life. Well that's nothing new.

 Streets of Bukavu
This country is so beautiful, like a garden of Eden.



The Congo donated $2,000,000 USD to Haiti.  A generous amount for a country that has so much poverty.  I know Haiti needs help and donations, but I think the Congo could have used at least half of that to deal with it's own problems.  A few militia groups could have been wiped out with the money.  Schools could have been built, health care is a major issue here, and the poverty matches Haiti.

History: King Leopold II
The Belgium were the first to chop off limbs in Africa.  King Leopold took one hand for every 100 slaves, this included children, to keep them in line.

After a number of unsuccessful schemes for colonies in Africa or Asia, in 1876 he organized a private holding company, disguised as an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society.

In 1878, under the auspices of the holding company, he hired the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley to establish a colony in the Congo region.  Much diplomatic maneuvering resulted in the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, at which representatives of fourteen European countries and the United States recognized Leopold as sovereign of most of the area he and Stanley had laid claim to. On February 5th 1885, the result was the Congo Free State (later becoming, successively, the Belgian Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Zaire, and now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC — not to be confused with Republic of the Congo formerly owned by France), an area 76 times larger than Belgium, which Leopold was free to rule as a personal domain through his private army, the Force Publique.

Forced labor was extorted from the natives. The abuses suffered were horrific not only in the rubber industry, including enslavement and mutilation of the native population. Missionary John Harris of Baringa, for example, was so shocked by what he had come across that he wrote to Leopold's chief agent in the Congo saying: "I have just returned from a journey inland to the village of Insongo Mboyo. The abject misery and utter abandon is positively indescribable. I was so moved, Your Excellency, by the people's stories that I took the liberty of promising them that in future you will only kill them for crimes they commit." Estimates of the death toll range from two to fifteen million. Determining precisely how many people died is next to impossible as accurate records were not kept.

It's people are hungry, many illiterate, they are living in constant fear of militia attacks, and war.
It has been many years of conflict and crisis in the Congo.
They say the red Earth comes from all the blood that has been shed.
When will the Congo get International attention and help, as it desperately needs it, NOW!!!