Photog Using the Power of Photography to Help Stop Exploitation & War in Congo

We hope you never get sick of hearing about stories that show the true power of photography to affect change, because I doubt we’ll ever get sick of finding and sharing them. The most recent such story we’ve stumbled across is told by photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale, whose work has already helped curtail the efforts of warlords in Africa who are exploiting children in their attempt to rule Congo.

Bleasdale’s work in the Congo began in the early 2000s as a photographer for the organization Human Rights Watch. Between 2003 and 2004, he documented the horrible realities of gold mining in Congo, bringing back photos of children given two choices: toil away in a mine to help fund a warlord, of carry around a Kalashnikov and fight for him.

Thankfully, those photos had an immediate and powerful impact. A Swiss gold mining company that was helping to extract and purchasing gold from Eastern Congo was forced to pull out, stopping $150 million worth of gold purchasing overnight. As Bleasdale so succinctly puts it: “That’s the power of photography.”


But his work is far from finished. This war isn’t over. Gold, Tin and other metals are still being mined by children in Eastern Congo and exported to factories that, ultimately, create the electronics that we all use.

“We are complicit in this conflict more than anyone,” says Bleasdale. “We have a responsibility more than anyone to engage and increase our knowledge about this conflict so that it stops.”

With help from National Geographic, Bleasdale hopes to be a source of knowledge, sharing the harsh realities of this conflict with the masses through the undeniable in-your-face power of photography, so that “maybe, one day, we can actually buy a smartphone, or a computer, or a camera, or a television that is stamped ‘conflict free.'”

Check out the video at the top to see the full, powerful presentation. And if you’d like to learn more about Bleasdale and the work he is doing, head over to his website by clicking here.

(via Fstoppers)

  • Jeremy Madore

    While I admire this photog’s coverage of the issue and his sharing it while the world watches, the problem won’t go away if the purchasing of the metals stops. The warlords will continue to find avenues of finance upon the backs of innocent children.

    Remove the warlords = fix the problem. Don’t shut down the mines – turn them into legitimate businesses where adults can labor and gain income for their impoverished families! Don’t stop the purchase of metals – adapt the operation to meet world standards.

  • DLCade

    Great point @jeremymadore:disqus! I think that’s his goal too actually. At the end of the presentation he says that he doesn’t want people to stop buying these electronics, but to force the businesses into becoming legitimate operations that benefit the Congolese instead of exploiting them.

  • Carl Meyer

    Removing warlords is not going to fix anything as the new legal owners presumably are going to continue with the same practices and maybe worse if they want to recover the investment needed to meet world standards.