Field Notes

Field Notes

Field Notes: August 2013


Inside PROOF

  • Celebrating the New Documentarians of Social Justice
  • “Legacy of Rape” Exhibit: Colombia, DRC
  • Reaching Out With New Educational Initiatives
  • Traveling with PROOF to Sienna

In the News

  • One Girl’s Stand Against Fanaticism
  • UN Reports Syrian Groups Recruit Child Soldiers
  • Perspectives From Our Blog

Photo: Opening night at PROOF's 
Emerging Photographer's Award Exhibitions. Pictured are (from right to 
left) winner Allyse Pulliam, and Honourable mention finalists Matthieu 
Zellweger (center) and Michelle Gerster. 
Photo: Juliana Echavirra.

Photo: Opening night at PROOF's Emerging Photographer's Award Exhibitions. Pictured are (from right to left) winner Allyse Pulliam, and Honourable mention finalists Matthieu Zellweger (center) and Michelle Gerster.
Photo: Juliana Echavirra.

Friends and Colleagues

While the temperature sizzles, some are turning up the heat. At the end of June, President Obama headed to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania where he talked about building the foundations of human rights.

Launching the trip with a meeting with regional judicial leaders, he put the onus on states.

“Strong democracies depend on strong institutions.” he said. “Rule of law is what upholds universal human rights."

Many locals agree. Last month, Nigerian rights activists took a stand against impunity. Their pressure forced Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir—accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of overseeing genocide, torture, and rape—out of Nigeria where he had planned to attend a health summit.

Let’s support these voices calling for improved human rights in Africa, including areas where seemingly endless cycles of armed conflict eviscerate states and their institutions.
A good example is the Great Lakes region of eastern DR Congo, where our “Legacy of Rape” exhibit is now traveling. The civilian population—including the very faces peering out from our exhibit’s panels—is again at risk of suffering atrocities with the recent flare up of fighting.
As we at PROOF continue our work, we hope you'll join us in honoring those who are fighting the good fight.
We begin this newsletter issue by celebrating young photojournalists who have shown their commitment to the cause and willingness to take personal risks to document human rights abuses across the globe.

Inside PROOF

Celebrating the New Documentarians of Social Justice

On July 25, PROOF honored the winners of its 2013 Emerging Photojournalist's Award with an exhibit of their work, which remains open to the public until August 30.

Hosted by photographer Ed Kashi, the soirée took place at the photography agency VII Gallery.  About 75 people were inspired by the powerful photographs of reproductive health issues in Burma, deportation from the US to Mexico, and the social stigma of asthma in Benin.

Kashi congratulated the three finalists, asking winner Allyse Pulliam how she was going to take advantage of her six-months of mentoring by him. Her answer: looking forward to continuing her photographic journey by further studying medical issues on the Burma-Thailand border. 
Kudos to All
She and the two honorable mentions, Michelle Gerster and Matthieu Zellweger, were thrilled to have their images shown at a prestigious gallery such as VII's and to get such warm kudos from the crowd.

Delighted by the strong turnout, PROOF Executive Director Leora Kahn underscored the need to cultivate new people in the field, affirming, "We are proud to be able to encourage the work of these new voices."

PROOF received dozens of submissions from photojournalists in six continents whose work explored social justice issues, often in challenging circumstances. The topic generated buzz on the social networks: our Facebook traffic was up 79 percent the week we announced the winners.

Winners were selected by a jury comprising Ed Kashi, photographer and member of VII Photo Agency; Amy Yenkin, director of the Open Society Documentary Photography Project; Steven Mays, Steven Mays photography, and our own Leora Kahn.

PDN PhotoPlus 2013 Conference
Some aspiring photojournalists are showing the world how they would change it even while they are still in school. A youthful organization, called Photography Beyond Borders, displays the talents of its members here.
In October, Photography Beyond Borders is sponsoring the PDN PhotoPlus 2013 Conference. It features a seminar “Photography and the Struggle for a Better World,” with a panel that includes Ed Kashi and Amy Yenkin, who were on our Emerging Photojournalist Award jury, as well as Michelle Bogre and Ron Haviv. Read more here.


 “Legacy of Rape” Exhibit: Colombia, DRC

Our “Legacy of Rape” exhibit helps bring solace and justice to those who have suffered armed sexual violence. Here’s some of the latest news on our newest exhibition.

Colombia, a Promise Kept
Last year, we promised the women of Santa Marta, Colombia, we would bring the “Legacy of Rape” to their town. After coming to terms with their wrenching experiences, the women felt it was critical that their fellow townspeople grasp the enormity of the abuse suffered, in part, so such atrocities would never happen again.

It took us time to find a partner in Colombia, but at last we did. We are now working with the University of Los Andes to develop a multifaceted community program around our exhibit in Santa Marta and other towns and cities. We will fill you in with more information as plans become final.

Civilians Again at Risk in DRC
You may recall the difficulty we had getting our “Legacy of Rape” exhibit into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last December due to hostilities there.

Since its arrival, however, the exhibit has played an important role in the American Bar Association’s legal clinics, which help rape victims find justice in a place known as the rape capital of the world. But on July 14, fighting flared up again between the M23 rebel group and DRC army, threatening the welfare of civilians once more.

As the M23 approached Goma, capital of North Kivu province, alarm bells rang out as reports surfaced of massive population displacements, executions, rapes, and forced recruitment of men and boys.
As of the time of writing, ABA's office in Goma and its legal clinic at the Heal Africa Hospital are operating normally, and staff are hoping Goma will remain safe.

On July 30, the BBC reported that the UN deployed a new force of 3,000 to take on the M23 and other rebel groups. They made Goma a security zone, where only soldiers may carry weapons, and gave Goma residents 48 hours to disarm. Let us hope for the safety of our colleagues and other civilians who live and work in this troubled place.

Reaching Out With New Educational Initiatives

PROOF is collaborating with the Anne Frank Center in New York City to teach courses on human rights and journalism. The first course will cover the experiences of women correspondents in conflict zones.

Courses will begin in the fall at the Center. La Neice Collins, of the UN’s Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, will be one of the speakers.

Find more information on the Anne Frank Center’s website:


Traveling With PROOF to Sienna

On June 21, Leora presented a paper on “The Rescuers” exhibition at the 10th International Conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. She stressed the importance of rescuers in the aftermath of genocide and the effectiveness of positive images in visual storytelling.

“Photographic exhibits and educational programs that use positive narratives play key roles in deconstructing enemy images,” she asserted.

A vibrant discussion on moral courage ensued, and the audience agreed to the importance of showing PROOF’s materials around the world as an effective means of preventing genocide. 
R2P: a Foundation for Genocide Prevention
UN Special Advisor Adama Dieng gave the keynote speech, focusing on the concept of responsibility to protect (R2P), which he said represents the best framework for staving off genocide.

Grounded in international law, R2P is a set of principles that makes states responsible for preventing and halting four atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. We’ll delve more deeply into that subject in our next issue.

More on IAGS
Founded in 1994, the International Association of Genocide Scholars furthers research and teaching about genocide and genocide prevention policy, bringing together academics, activists, artists, survivors, journalists, jurists, and policy makers.
Membership is open to anyone. Read more here.
To learn more about the conference, go to the June 19 press release here

One Girl’s Stand Against Fanaticism

On July 12, a teenager from the Swat valley in Pakistan celebrated her 16th birthday in a most unusual way: she gave a speech at the UN.

But Malala Yousafzai is no ordinary girl. By age 15, she had written a book and a blog on her struggle to get an education as a girl living under the Taliban, and she had become the youngest Nobel peace prize nominee ever.
That fight nearly cost her life when, last October, the Taliban shot Malala in the head. But when she miraculously recovered, Malala went right back to work for her cause.

At the UN, she asked world leaders to ensure that children have access to free, compulsory education. “Let us her pick up our books and our pens,” she urged. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”

Malala’s story gives hope that voices of reason can, with our support, prevail. Let us wish Malala many happy birthdays to come and do all we can to help in this key area of human rights.

UN Reports Syrian Groups Recruit Child Soldiers

During a Middle-East tour, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, found evidence that some Syrian opposition groups are recruiting children as fighters and in support roles.

“I met teenagers who had joined armed opposition groups and others who wanted to return to the battleground,” she said. “Everything must be done to prevent them from compromising their future by taking up arms.” We wholeheartedly agree and will continue our work in this critical area.                        

Perspectives From Our Blog

Check out our blog posts published since our last newsletter:
  • Bradley Secker:
    LGBT Refugees in the Middle East: Jumping From the Pan to the Fire
  • Maya Hadar:
    Justice Comes to Rape Survivors One Case at a Time

Host an Event

From poker events to information nights, PROOF supporters have been finding fun ways to raise funds to support PROOF's projects.

If you would like to host any type of event, please email us at or call us at 212-213-2788.

Donate to PROOF

Every dollar you donate helps bring our projects to life. We use your donations to hire translators, photographers, researchers, drivers, and many other types of help and expertise.

We also need money to create our exhibitions and enable them to travel, particularly to areas where conflict persists.

Partner With PROOF

Over the past year, we have added three new partner organizations. We’re always interested in forming new partnerships. Email or call us to discuss possible avenues of collaboration with your organization.

August Gallery

Below are some of the photos by this year's Emerging Photojournalist Award winner and two honourable mentions. The exhibition will be on show in Brooklyn until August 30 at VII Gallery. More details can be found on our Emerging Photojournalist page.

Emerging Photojournalist Award 2013 winner, Allyse Pulliam's series documents the state of reproductive health for the women of Burma.

Matthieu Zellweger received an Honourable Mention in this year's PROOF Photojournalist Award for his series of photographs that show the reality of asthma in Cotonou and Porto-Novo (Benin).


Honourable Mention Michelle Gerster's series documented the struggle of Carlos Leon Mendizabal, a Mexican man who was deported from the US, and has had to leave behind his family.