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Personalizing the World Health Crisis

Robert Semeniuk | Myanmar

Orthopaedic Centre, Wazir Hospital, Kabul, Afghanistan. Wazir Hammond, age nine, requires prosthesis refittings every six months. He rests against a wall of sandbags that protect the hospital against rockets, shelling, and bombs. An estimated 10 million landmines pollute nearly 500 square kilometres of land in Afghanistan.

 “Personalizing the World Health Crisis”

Fourteen million people die each year from treatable diseases; another 2 billion are infected, and 1.3 billion people lack clean water, and 2.6 billion lack sanitation. Yet, the amount spent on world health is less 2% of the global military budget.
In addition to Aids and Malaria, there are numerous little known diseases like sleeping sickness, river blindness, rotavirus, and trachoma, all of which shatter families; jolt economies and destabilize security and food supplies.
By living among, and forming intimate friendships with the diseased and disenfranchised people whose stories Robert Semeniuk documents, this project aims to give a voice, hope and dignity to the victims, humanize the crisis by putting faces and personalities on the overwhelming statistics, and educative, inform and galvanize Westerners to pressure their governments to act.
A long term project, and includes:

  • Aids & Dislocation Among the San: The Kalahari
  • Trachoma in Ethiopia
  • Malaria Among Refugees on the Thai/Burmese border
  • Current legs of this project are aimed at reducing stigma around mental illness, and the current effects of Climate Change on Food Security.

 I have actually been working on this project "Personalizing the World Health Crisis"  for many more than 10 years.  Before this project I spent 5 years working on the Global Landmine issue, and before that, for nearly ten years, I documented topics around "War Affected Children".

Documentary photography for me has always been a means to an end, a great way to tell a story. It involves paying attention, inside and out, and getting as close as I can. There is no magic to this. I simply spend a lot of time with the people I’m photographing, and I usually end up photographing my friends.

Good photography moves people not through misrepresenting, but through representing a moment of looking more deeply at the subject than the viewer had previously experienced.

As a documentary photographer my worst nightmare is to take advantage of someone’s suffering. When empathy is overshadowed by the ego all is lost. I am always humbled by my subjects and learn much more about myself than I do about them. Photography is practice in following my heart, and re-specting others”.






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