Abandoned by their governments, forgotten by the aid community, neglected and abused by entire societies: A voiceless minority resigned to the dark forgotten corners of churches, chained to rusted hospital beds, living out their lives behind the bars of filthy prisons - Lives condemned to quiet misery...These are the mentally disabled living in Africa's regions in crisis. Severely mentally disabled men and women are shackled and locked away in Juba Central Prison for years on end. The new nation of South Sudan faces a tremendous challenge to build a modern country capable of caring for all of its citizens. Juba, Sudan. January 2011. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos
Produced over two years, Condemned features images taken in seven African countries including Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. It was previously exhibited at Visa pour l'Image in September 2012.
In the project, Paris-based Hammond, who has been part of the photo agency Panos Pictures since 2007 and contributes to National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, The Sunday Times Magazine and The New York Times, explores the systematic violation of the human rights of mentally ill people who are often confined to prisons or hospitals, abused and forgotten about by society.
The black-and-white images record the desperate conditions these people endure and provide a window into their world. Hammond's intention was to alert the world to the extreme injustice of the treatment of these people "so ignorance will no longer be able to be used as an excuse", he says.
"Not only was the severity of the cases of abuse and neglect great but I was overwhelmed by the scale," adds Hammond. "Over and over again I saw people denied their liberty. Restraining mentally disabled men, women, and children seemed the first and often only form of ‘treatment'. Everywhere I went I found an entire section of the society in chains."
Hammond, who has won four Amnesty International Media Awards for human rights journalism and the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award in 2011, beat four finalists – Andrea Star Reese, Fabio Bucciarelli, Jon Lowenstein and Massimo Berruti – to claim the award.
BJP acting deputy editor Olivier Laurent was on the jury, which also included photographer Maggie Steber, Visa pour L'Image director Jean-Francois Leroy, Time international desk photo editor Patrick Witty and Svetlana Bachevanova, publisher at FotoEvidence.
FotoEvidence jury member Maggie Steber comments: "Photographers are driven to cover these issues because they never go away. The challenge before us is to make people stop and think and realise that very fact: these issues do not go away. But photographers are eternal optimists; we just don't give up. Photographers may not be heroes but we can make heroic images and a heroic effort to make the world a better place."
Condemned will be published by FotoEvidence and launched alongside an exhibit of Hammond's work and that of the four finalists at New York's VII Photo Agency Gallery in October. The group show will include approximately 20 images from the winner and 10 to 15 from the finalists.
For more about the winning project and the finalists' work, visit the Book award galleries at www.FotoEvidence.com.
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