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“Congo in Conversation” – 35 reports, 15 photographers, 6 months


The 11th Carmignac Photojournalism Award—which, this year, focuses on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—was awarded to British-Canadian photographer Finbarr O’Reilly. His reportage started in January 2020, before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the swiftly worsening global health situation and the gradual closing of international borders, finding a different way of working became essential. Finbarr O’Reilly and the Award team—in close collaboration with the jury of the 11th edition—reframed their approach to this work. One laureate’s project turned into “Congo in Conversation”, a collaborative reportage with eleven Congolese photographers and journalists, who documented for six months the human, social and ecological challenges that the Congo faces today, within the context of the current global health crisis. First published on a dedicated website and social networks, “Congo in Conversation” provided an uninterrupted and unprecedented stream of articles, photo reportages and videos, which visitors can consult by theme or by contributor.

The collaborative reportage is now presented in Congo in Conversation, a bilingual monograph co-published by Reliefs Editions and Fondation Carmignac. The images are accompanied by a conversation with Mark Sealy, curator and Director of Autograph ABP in London, who is interested in the relationship between photography, race and human rights, Finbarr O’Reilly, and Emeric Glayse, Director of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award.

‘By framing the 11th edition of the Carmignac Photojournalism Award as a conversation about the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Fondation Carmignac has created a platform for Congolese visual journalists to engage in a global discourse. Historically, it’s a discourse from which their ideas, their perspectives and their voices have too often been excluded. (…) Congo in Conversation was initially published online, marking the first time that the Carmignac Award showcased local photographers and produced a digital body of work as events unfolded. (…) By reconfiguring Congo in Conversation into a collective book and exhibition, we move it from the ether to the page and to the wall, where audiences can take the time required to engage not only with the work but also the historical and political forces shaping it.’ 
– Finbarr O’Reilly, from the monograph Congo in Conversation


“Allowing different voices to articulate what Congo went through, especially local voices, is really important. Only then do we get access to different narratives and histories. (…) If we say photography is around 180 years old, then we’re going to need another sense of photography. Its present unpicking will help push back some of the debasing historical images of the Black subject. (…) If you look in the archive, it’s full of broken Black bodies, especially around conflict. When there are internal European conflicts, the body often gets treated very differently. It’s evident in the work and in the public’s emotional responses to those images. When you’re looking at subjects, whose lives do we value? If we can get to a place where the value of an African person or a Black person caught up in conflict is treated with care and compassion, then we can begin to make some progress.” 
– Mark Sealy, curator and Director of Autograph ABP in London, from the monograph Congo in Conversation


Congo in Conversation will be exhibited in a collective outdoor exhibition in Paris from January 6-27, 2021.


“Congo In Conversation” is presented in a bilingual French-English monograph, co-published by Fondation Carmignac and Reliefs Editions, and available on Reliefs’ e-shop.

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