The pictures tell a different story

  • 2009-12-09
  • By Ella Karapetyan

TALLINN - Journalists are always seen carrying cameras, snapping away at interesting events and personalities, building their stories using the photos, captured as evidence. One form of photography that brings together the characteristics of photography and journalism is photojournalism. Photojournalism involves telling a story to an audience or reader through a series of photos that speak about what is happening, so words are not necessary to provide an understanding about the going-ons of this event. Actually, a photojournalist is a visual reporter of facts. He makes images that make his readers feel the grief or sorrow of others.

Many photojournalists risk their lives to get the best shots. Under the most difficult circumstances. They put themselves at very high risk as they have to put themselves before the event to shoot it and tell the story.
A great photo happens when a photographer sees a situation unfolding in front of them that evokes an emotion that the photographer feels deep down, and he always knows that he has captured something that will leave a mark and be etched in people’s memories for a long time.

Photojournalism destroys almost all barriers and tells a story in a way that inspires people to want to get involved.
From Nov. 30 to Dec. 13, Tallinn is hosting the well-known photo exhibition called “Forsaken,” by the award-winning Canadian photographer Lana Slezic. Forsaken is on exhibit at Solaris center with free admission. The images presented in the exhibition are drawn from Slezic’s book, called Forsaken, which portrays the sometimes harsh realities of the daily lives of Afghan girls and women.

In March 2004, when Slezic went on assignment to Afghanistan, from her native Canada, she never thought she would stay there for two years. At the time she believed that, since the ousting of the suffocating Taliban in 2001, Afghan women and girls would be living under considerably less oppressive conditions.

Forsaken is a collection of photographs and vignettes which document Lana’s journey over the two-year period during which she lived and worked in Afghanistan. She also learned that Afghan women are still living in a harrowingly oppressive society where forced marriage, domestic violence, honor killings and an unpalatable lack of freedom still exist.
Slezic has exhibited in Canada, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, U.S., Germany, Spain, Croatia, France and Turkey and her work has been featured in such publications as National Geographic, The New York Times, Time magazine and many others.
In 2007, she spoke of her experiences in Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and Forsaken was chosen as one of the “Top Ten Books of the Year” by American Photo Magazine. Most recently she received the World Press Photo Award for her portrait series on Afghan women.

The exhibition was first presented in London in 2008, and is now touring major European cities.
With its searing stories and heart-stopping, full-color images, Forsaken allows some of these women to speak directly to us, and in the process attempts to redress the imbalance in the conversation.
“The world declared Afghan women saved, and dropped [the issue],” says Slezic. “I learned quickly that things hadn’t changed at all - or not enough. This project overtook me. I hired a young Afghan woman as my translator and traveled all over the country pursuing stories.”

Slezic shot everything digitally in color and says that with all the organizing and editing, shooting film there would have been almost impossible. “Afghanistan is quite bleak, with browns and earth tones, but the women are almost the polar opposite,” she relates. “Once the burka came off, I was always so amazed by the beauty, the cosmetics, the jewelry and incredible femininity.”

“I think the most important thing for me was the ability to connect and learn about the lives of Afghan women on a very intimate level. It’s all about communicating these stories and doing it in a way that is accessible to people so they look at the photograph and want to know what it’s about,” artist explains.

“This body of work represents a very emotional journey that has allowed me to learn about Afghan women’s lives in an intimate setting. At the worst of times the stories are horrific and at best they are consistent. It is my hope that the collection of photographs will communicate, influence and inspire others to learn more about the plight of Afghan women. Most Afghan women and girls understand all too well the concept of fear and subservience. As human beings it is our responsibility to not only see and hear, but to listen and act. Every human being deserves to be treated with respect and dignity,” says Slezic.