Rape and Conflict Minerals: Photographer takes on the technology industry through art

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fretwell photo

credit: Sarah Fretwell

How did you decide to overlay text onto your images?

After an especially devastating day of interviews where most of the girls were under 15 years old, I began to layer excerpts of testimony over portraits. I wanted to convey their humanity without fully revealing their identity. The impact was powerful. Suddenly the interaction was no longer passive. The person in the image was sharing an intimate detail with the viewer. I posted one of these first images on my blog, and someone working at the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian saw it and encouraged me to continue.

Around the same time, multiple magazines rejected my story pitch. They were interested, but had covered the story “earlier.” That afternoon we searched for someone to help respond to reports there were young teens being held as sex slaves in soldiers’ camps. I was baffled by the news media’s lackluster response, because to me the situation was extremely urgent.

Frustrated, I decided “If this is not news, I am going to make it art.” Suddenly the project was clarified for me. I wanted to engage consumers of technology through art. Now the project is getting huge exposure and touches people in a way a news story never could.

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