Worth a read: Journalist recounts her sexual assault by a colleague on her first night in Ukraine

“I was halfway through talking about the political situation in Britain when the Very Respected Journalist called me ‘baby’ (really, people can say that without irony?) and shoved his beer-and-whisky-churned-together tongue down my throat. After unironically ‘baby’-ing me a few more times, the Very Respected Journalist pushed me towards his bedroom…. This was the third country in which I’d cried in a shower and checked my body for bruises as a by-product of trying to become a journalist.” -anonymous, First Night in Kyiv

Last week, Balkanist magazine published an account by a young presumably-British journalist’s of her sexual assault by a colleague on the night of her arrival in Kyiv, Ukraine, to cover the political situation there. The piece is well worth a read, raising important points about what women face working in the male-dominated field of conflict journalism.

Sexual assaults against female journalists are rarely discussed. And while the public should not expect detailed accounts of such personal matters (for instance, Amanda Lindhout’s 460 days held captive in Somalia involved horrors and atrocities some of which she says she’ll never share), sexual violence against female journalists, such as the horrific attack against Lara Logan in Tahrir Square, is an important part of the discussion of dangers faced by reporters around the world.

Photojournalist Camille Lepage Killed in Central African Republic

Camille Lepage, a 26-year old French photojournalist, has died in Central African Republic. The Guardian reports that French President Hollande has said “all necessary means will be deployed to shine light on the circumstances of this assassination and find the killers of our compatriot.”

Camille Lepage leaving a fishing village on the Nile River near Terekeka, South Sudan in September 2012. Photo by Matt Lutton.

I don’t have much to say right now. So read Nicholas Kulish piece on the New York Times’ Lens Blog: “Bearing Witness, Losing Her Life”. He describes how he came to meet Lepage in Juba, South Sudan. I had a very similar experience, and we were both left impressed by this young journalist.

We at dvafoto have known Camille for a couple of years and have been following her work and career closely. We published an interview with her in March 2013, “Notes from the Field: Camille Lepage in South Sudan”. We talked about her decision to move to South Sudan straight from journalism school in England and her motivation to cover seemingly unknown conflicts and the struggles of trying to get those stories published. I urge you to have a look at this interview to learn more about Lepage and see a gallery of her work.

Camille was a hardworking and ambitious young journalist already producing quality stories that hadn’t yet found a wide audience. She was working to bring these stories to more people’s attention. Her future was very bright, and we at dvafoto are extremely saddened by this news.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

Worth a read: Before they resurrect the noble savage

Africa is a Country - Before They Resurrect the Noble Savage
Africa is a Country – Before They Resurrect the Noble Savage

The message found there is this: let us, the tainted citizens of modernity, bask in the beautiful simplicity and cultural purity of these exotic people of color before they become corrupted beyond redemption by the burdensome complexity of our lives. While you’re at it, make sure to take special note of the photographer’s unique ability to tame these mysterious and wonderful tribes with his inexhaustible charm. -Zachary Rosen, Before They Resurrect the Noble Savage

I’m disappointed I missed this post by Zachary Rosen at the excellent Africa is a Country blog when it was published in late 2013, just as photographer Jimmy Nelson’s Before They Pass Away project was getting a lot of press. The work shows members of tribes from around the world in unspoiled landscapes decked out in their traditional garb. CNN lamented the disappearance of “tribal beauty.” The Daily Mail was worried about people “disappearing forever.” Time Lightbox introduced the work with the odd phrase “Portraits of Authentics.” If those headlines don’t scream postcolonial gaze or white guy photography to you, the project website certainly will.

Rosen’s critique of the work, titled Before They Resurrect the Noble Savage, is a strong and well reasoned indictment of the project and its approach. Referencing the “noble savage” and salvage ethnogography, Rosen argues that the work doesn’t show the people of these tribes but rather the photographer’s (and the West’s) vision of what they should look like. The people are presented as exotic; they’re pure and uncorrupted by modernity. There’s an argument to be made for photographing all sorts of people and cultures around the world, but an unquestioned romanticizing of “the natives” is an approach long since written off as specious and condescending. Rosen also points out the breathless praise of Nelson’s work as it was published around the world late last year. It’s surprising that this idea of the exotic “other,” which seems to be the impetus for Before They Pass Away as presented by a photographer qua explorer and reality TV star, was so widely accepted and acclaimed.

By the way, keep your eye on Africa is a Country, the blog that is not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama, if you’re interested in a critical look at the way the African continent is represented in contemporary media and culture.