Unreported Stories: Photos That Changed Lives

Posted by Anna Husted on 6.19.2012

Gang rapes, beatings, mass graves, violent working conditions, these are the atrocities behind the photography exhibit "Unreported Stories." The photos document these tragedies by revealing the strength, beauty and scars of survivors through the brilliant lens of award-winning South African photographer Brent Stirton.

Traveling to the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea’s central highlands and Mt. Elgon in Kenya, Stirton and Human Rights Watch investigators uncovered two devastating human rights violations.

A Papua New Guinea gold mine, owned by Canadian corporation Barrick Gold, was the site of gang rapes, beatings and other violent abuses by the mine’s security personnel. Barrick Gold denied these rumors for years, but due to the work of Stirton and Human Rights Watch, the company is now taking steps to end these horrific acts by first acknowledging that they took place and then firing those responsible.

At Mt. Elgon in Kenya’s Rift Valley a group of widows have been fighting for justice and seeking answers to what happened to their husbands, all of whom disappeared or were killed between 2006 and 2008, during the clashes between Sabaot Land Defence Force and the Kenyan government. After documenting the widow’s testimonies and mass graves scattered throughout the lush Kenyan countryside, Human Rights Watch sent their findings to the U.S. Senate in October 2011. In November, the senate passed a bill placing conditions on the military assistance given to Kenya until a thorough and credible investigation of the crimes is established.

The faces and brutal scars of these stories are portraits calling for justice. Stirton’s evidentiary photography excel in composition, detail and vibrant colors, capturing the resilience of the hard-working miners and irrepressible widows and aiding in telling the stories of those that would otherwise be forgotten.

Stirton is the senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images. Stirton and Human Rights Watch's work in the Porgera gold mine resulted in the multimedia report "Gold’s Costly Dividend," winning a Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media in April 2012.

"Unreported Stories" and "Gold's Costly Dividend" will be on display from June 14 – 28 in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery, across the lobby from the Walter Reade Theater, in conjunction with this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

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