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by fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders Saturday, Apr. 08, 2006 at 8:24 PM
323.937.5525 Stephen Cohen Gallery, 7358 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

An exhibition of photographs by world-renowned VII Photo Agency photographers who recently traveled with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to shed light on the suffering of the Congolese people as . . .

485105.jpg, image/jpeg, 390x270

PRESS RELEASE--An exhibition of photographs by world-renowned VII Photo Agency photographers who recently traveled with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to shed light on the suffering of the Congolese people as they struggle to survive through a war that remains virtually invisible to the outside world.

March 16 – May 6, 2006

Stephen Cohen Gallery,

7358 Beverly Boulevard,

Los Angeles, CA 90036

When the Unacceptable Becomes Normal

In August of 2004, I found myself in a small, quiet village in North Kivu talking to a group of Congolese women. Thousands of people, little by little, had been fleeing from this area of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in recent weeks, and I was part of a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team sent to try and find out why. As we huddled in the dark room of a tin roof shack, the women told me how armed men frequently sexually assaulted them in their fields and plundered their crops. How the health center had been looted. How they didn't want to abandon their homes, but would if only they had some money and could get past the soldiers at the checkpoint. Then suddenly, they each said goodbye and slipped off into the forest, hoping to find safety from the nighttime raids, as they had been doing for the past several months.

What struck me most about this conversation was that the unbearable situation of these women was virtually invisible to the outside world. To be sure, their plight was not a massive emergency characterized by large-scale massacres, hundreds of thousands of displaced, or catastrophic epidemic outbreaks, all of which have occurred in the Great Lakes region in the past decade. Instead it was the grim reality of life that has become commonplace in many areas of the DRC, a kind of normalization of the unacceptable.

As a medical humanitarian organization, MSF seeks to help people most in need, and for years the DRC has been at, or near, the top of our list. The longstanding war and the collapse of the public health system have resulted in widespread acute medical needs. MSF teams, composed of international and Congolese aid workers, are active in all corners of this huge country striving to reach those most at risk. There are few places where the immediate impact of MSF's medical work is more visible, whether teams are treating victims of sexual violence in Bunia, responding to a cholera outbreak in a remote area like Walikale, rehabilitating malnourished children in Kayna or providing anti-retroviral therapy to people with HIV/AIDS in Bukavu.

Yet there are also few places where the limits of humanitarian work are clearer. There is so much need that it is a struggle to do anything other than respond to the most serious emergencies. The complex and diverse nature of the violence, neglect, and discrimination in the DRC challenges any notion of simple, blanket solutions to redress even the immediate causes of so much death and suffering. While MSF does not purport to provide a solution, we want to draw attention to what the Congolese people are enduring and the obstacles we face in trying to assist them.

In this struggle against indifference, where only the gravest of crises receives superficial and short-lived media coverage, pictures can help, and, thanks to the skill of the photographers at VII, the pictures in this book do. Their essential quality is to go behind the headlines and to offer glimpses of ordinary people's lives – reminding us, and the world at large, that we must refuse to let the unacceptable become normal.

Nicolas de Torrenté

Executive Director

Doctors Without Borders//Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) USA

New York, July 2005

About the Photographers

ron haviv

Ron Haviv has produced some of the most important images of conflict and other humanitarian crises that have made headlines from around the world since the end of the cold war with a special focus on exposing human rights violations, he has covered conflict and humanitarian crises in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Russia and the Balkans. A co-founder of the photo agency VII, his work is published by top magazines worldwide. He has also published two critically acclaimed collections of his photography: Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal, and Afghanistan: On the Road to Kabul. His work has received some of the highest accolades in photography. He regularly lectures at universities and seminars, and numerous museums and galleries have featured his work.

"Over the past seven years, the world has changed many times over. Throughout all the events most people remember, the one that has affected the most people and taken the most lives has been one almost no one has heard of. The situation in the DRC has been and continues today to be intolerable. Although we are very late in our small attempt to tell the world what is happening – every moment counts – and we need to do something."

–Ron Haviv

gary knight

Gary Knight began working as a photographer in South East Asia in the late 1980s and moved to the former Yugoslavia in 1993. Documenting war and crimes against humanity has remained the core theme of his work ever since. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous magazines and is displayed in museums and galleries. A contract photographer for Newsweek, Knight co-founded VII photo agency. His book, Evidence, documents war crimes in the Kosovo war.

"Congo is trapped in a cycle of poverty, corruption, war, corporate avarice, and environmental destruction. There is a total breakdown of law and order, a grotesque primary health-care system and a scale of mortality amongst the civilian population that a century ago outraged world opinion and led to the removal of King Leopold as its sole proprietor. Today, beset with the same problems and described by senior UN personnel as the worst humanitarian crisis of the day, we have the means to do something. Yet, millions have died in little more than seven years while we caress the cat and fret over which disaster to watch on television."

–Gary Knight

antonin kratochvil

Antonin Kratochvil is an internationally renowned photographer. During a thirty-year career, Kratochvil has been consistently published the world over in every major editorial publication bar none. He is the author of four acclaimed books: Broken Dream, Sopravvivere, Incognito, and Vanishing. Kratochvil's honors are many and varied. Among those he is most proud are his Infinity Award given by the International Center of Photography for photojournalism in 1992; his Leica Medal of Excellence for his outstanding achievements in photojournalism in 1994; his Ernst Hass Award and his Dorothea Lange Prize from the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, both given in 1995; his Alfred Eisenstadt award presented by LIFE magazine and the Columbia School of Journalism in 1998; and his 2003 first prize World Press Photo Award in the nature and environment category. This honor is one of many World Press Photo awards Kratochvil holds, but the one of which he is most proud. Antonin Kratochvil is a founding member of the photo agency VII.

"Photographing in this tragic place, I found extraordinary dignity as well as an uncommon sense of humor among all the people I encountered."

–Antonin Kratochvil

joachim ladefoged

Joachim Ladefoged's dream of becoming a soccer player was shattered in 1987, when he was almost crippled by rheumatism. A year later he obtained his first camera in the hope that photography would bring him closer to the activities from which his illness excluded him. Soon he joined a small regional newspaper in Denmark, shooting up to six assignments a day. In 1995, he moved on to become a staff photographer at the national newspaper, Politiken. In 2000, he published his book Albanians about the turbulent life in Albania in the period from 1997-1999. He has worked in more than 30 countries, winning international recognition for covering war, conflict and ordinary life around the world. Through the years, Visa d'Or, World Press Photo, LIFE magazine, and Denmark's "Picture of the Year" are among the organizations that have seen fit to award Joachim for his work. Joachim lives in Denmark with his wife and their two boys.

"In Kinshasa, sex workers live and work in a room, the size of a twin bed. MSF's clinic is the life preserver for these lost women."

–Joachim Ladefoged

james nachtwey

James Nachtwey grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College. Images from the Vietnam War and the American civil rights movement had a powerful effect on him and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer. He worked aboard ships in the merchant marine, and while teaching himself photography, was an apprentice news film editor and a truck driver. In 1976, he started work as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, and in 1980 moved to New York to begin a career as a freelance magazine photographer. He has worked on extensive photographic essays around the world and has been a contract photographer with TIME magazine since 1984. He has been the recipient of almost every major magazine photographic award. In 2001, he became one of the founding members of the photo agency VII.

"The tragedy of the Congo is a study in anarchy, greed, violence, and misery on a monumental scale. That world powers have ignored it is unacceptable. Without the work of nongovernmental organizations, the level of human suffering would be inconceivable."

–James Nachtwey

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