Human Rights Photography: Part II

poverty is a violation of human rights

Last night was another event for International Human Rights Day (Hari Internasional HAM), which is being held on December 10th this year. The event, sponsored by the Indonesian National Committee on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM), included the viewing of a documentary film, “War Photographer,” about an American photographer that uses his photos of poverty and conflict in a hope to raise peoples’ concern for Human Rights.

The theme of this year’s Human Rights day is, of course, Poverty – an issue that is so very important and so horrifically present here in Indonesia. For a third night in a row, students, artists, journalists, researchers and others gathered at Gedung dua8 in Kemand Utara to learn about and celebrate Human Rights, and to promote the urgency of action in Indonesia. The week of events is organized by students from the Jakarta school of Journalism, where my friend Muni is studying photojournalism.

As I talked with Muni, I could definitely relate to the passion she expressed about her goals of taking pictures that mean something, shaping the world by shaping the way people see it, what they see, so that they become more human and are moved to make their world a more humanitarian one. Many of her photographs that were displayed in the gallery there were of poverty, the old women that dig through trash behind the train station at Cawang, children knocking on car windows asking for money.

I asked her how hard it was to stand there, taking pictures of people that have so much less, seeing human suffering and interacting wtih it by photographing it. She replied that it was very hard, that sometimes she felt aweful – but that her pictures could, in a grander sense, change the world for people like that.

Then, as we watched the documentary about the war time photographer, as he walked through piles of rotting bodies in Kosovo, I leaned closer to her wide-eyed face and asked her whether she could do that. She raised her eyebrows, unsure, and let out a deep sigh. Indeed, talking about poverty, human rights, human suffering is one thing. Confronting it face to face and doing something is truly another.
Poverty as a human rights issue: from Kerry Collison webpage- an observer of Indonesia.

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