With a Human Rights Lens
When FotoEvidence first exhibited the documentary photography project Crying Meri we had no idea how fast and deep would be its impact. Within months, the work was picked up by both the United Nations and Amnesty International for campaigns to expose the extraordinary violence against women in Papua New Guinea (PNG). International attention and a public outcry by concerned citizens brought a response by the government, which passed the nation's first law prohibiting domestic violence late last year. This is testimony to the power of art and creativity to expose, open eyes and enlighten. By backing the publication of the photobook Crying Meri in hardcover and for iPad you can be part of this creative process at the intersection of art and humanity.
A Shocking Situation Exposed
Papua New Guinea is a violent place and violence against women is seen as normal. The beauty and power of Vlad's photography has allowed people to see the normal in a new light.
Reliable statistics are hard to come by but in the only survey available, done more than twenty years ago, approximately half of women reported being raped. Qualitative studies done since suggest that nothing has changed. More than two thirds report being subjected to domestic violence. In one qualitative study in a highland region, done bay an advocacy group, almost all women reported being raped. In addition, traditional beliefs about sorcery often lead villagers, confronted with a death or unexpected misfortune, to accuse a woman of sorcery. The accused may be killed or brutalized and ostracized, leaving them injured and without community support. UN Women states that levels of violence against women in Papua New Guinea are getting worse and Medicins Sans Frontieres claims that they are dealing with levels of violence normally only experienced in war zones.
In many remote places in PNG the police are absent. If a rape or attack occurs, a woman is required to pay the cost of gasoline for the police to respond and investigate. This cost is often prohibitive. Most rapes and acts of violence go unreported.
Creativity, Consciousness and Society
The power in Vlad's photographs and the intimate accounts of his subjects suffering found eager eyes and ears among people concerned about the endemic of violence against women in PNG. The United Nations mounted a photographic exhibit of his work in the capital, Port Moresby and Amnesty International used Vlad's photographs and stories in a public education campaign. These developments reflect the power of the creative process to re-frame social phenomena, influence human consciousness and enlighten society.
By giving voice to the voiceless, Vlad's photographs and multimedia also demonstrate the power of the creative process to transcend the artist himself.
Christina Saunders, Human Rights Adviser to the United Nations in Papua New Guinea from 2009 to 2013 said, "Vlad Sokhin captures life with a human rights lens. He gets to the heart of the story by treating his subjects with great respect and dignity."
Kate Schuetze, Pacific Researcher for Amnesty International said, "Vlad Sokhin, by shining a light on these issues, has offered the women a voice to the outside world and has given them hope for change. Amnesty International used his photos to expose the failure to address the endemic violence against women and to campaign for legislative and institutional reform."
The creativity of Vlad's work has led other highly-regarded artists to seek collaboration with him. The multimedia production company DuckRabbit asked him to collaborate with them and the BBC World Service on a soon-to-be-released, documentary about the issues exposed by Crying Meri.
Crying Meri captures the astounding natural beauty of PNG and the irony of the human tragedy unfolding there. It brings together in one place Vlad’s work on domestic, sexual and sorcery violence shot over the last three years and his personal reflections on the creative process.
Vlad's dedication and assistance to his subjects has given him remarkable access, allowing us intimately into the lives of victims of abuse and sorcery violence. This intimate access is a core element of the creative process in documentary photography. Crying Meri will show how he did it using his “Crying Meri Diaries," field notes and Polaroid images that capture his personal experience and conversations with the people he photographed: victims and perpetrators alike.
Others are eager to collaborate with Vlad in this creation of Crying Meri. Andrei Polikanov, editor of Russian Reporter magazine, will serve as photo editor. Jo Chandler, an award winning Australian journalist, who has covered gender violence in PNG for years, will write an essay for the book. Christina Saunders, Human Rights Adviser to the United Nations in Papua New Guinea from 2009 to 2013 will contribute a foreword.
The book will be printed at Ofset Yapimavi in Istanbul on a four color press, in a stitch-bound, hardcover edition. An iPad version will also be produced. It will be published by FotoEvidence.
Crying Meri in the Press
Vlad Sokhin is a working photojournalist who has been widely exhibited and published. The full list of his exhibitions and a partial list of publications can be found in his bio at the right hand side of this page.
Risks and challenges
If we raise the money to publish "Crying Meri," we don't anticipate major challenges. Vlad is a working photojournalist, diligent about producing assignments and meeting deadlines. FotoEvidence has published several high-quality photo books without any problems. We have a team that has always delivered on time and within budget. We expect to meet our commitments to donors without difficulty.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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