Toronto Star Profiles Canadian Photography Collective Photosensitive, Project on HIV/AIDS in Rwanda
The Toronto Star on Sunday featured an article by Christopher Maughan, an intern with the journalism partnership Rwanda Initiative, about the Canadian photography collective PhotoSensitive and its efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. PhotoSensitive, which was formed in 1990 by former Star photographer Andrew Stawicki and former Star graphics editor Peter Robertson, features social documentary projects, such as exhibits on homelessness, child poverty and literacy.
PhotoSensitive's current project in Rwanda is its third on HIV/AIDS and is part of an effort to teach the Rwandan and Canadian public about the disease, according to Maughan. Seven journalists visited Rwanda for the project to document the social impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The photographers took pictures of HIV-positive commercial sex workers on the streets of Rwanda's capital, Kigali, and of women who contracted HIV as a result of being raped during the 1994 genocide. Other photographers went to antiretroviral and circumcision clinics and chronicled efforts to prevent and treat the virus.
According to Stawicki, this year's project is unique because it is the first time that PhotoSensitive is contributing to the development of photographers overseas. Over the course of the project, each of the Canadian photographers was paired with a local photographer. The Rwandan photographers in the program learned how to use modern, professional cameras to take images that "go beyond traditional news pictures in their depth, quality and resonance," Maughan writes. The images will be published together as photo essays in Rwanda's major newspapers.
Stawicki said that PhotoSensitive's work not only educates and informs but that it has the potential to make people angry. "If they're angry, maybe they'll do something," he said. Local photographer Shyaka Anastase, who participated in the program, said, "A lot of people died or left the country during the genocide, and for that reason we don't have any great photographers here in Rwanda." He said that because of the media's role during the genocide, many potential journalists have been reluctant to continue in the profession. This has left the country's few remaining reporters to write articles and take pictures, according to Anastase.
The PhotoSensitive project will be exhibited at the National University of Rwanda in Butare. Peter Bregg, photo editor at Hello! magazine in Canada and member of the collective, said, "Whenever we bring AIDS to the front in Canada, it helps remind people the problem is still there. And it's not insurmountable. A lot of our pictures will illustrate despair, but a lot will also illustrate hope" (Maughan, Toronto Star, 1/6).