Marcus Bleasdale Wins Robert Capa Gold Medal
In late 2012 a group in the Central African Republic began taking over towns and regions in an attempt to steal power away from the central government. The take-overs devolved into a terror campaign as the Séléka continued all around the country in a method that could only be described as madness. Marcus Bleasdale was there to cover the events with Human Rights Watch. When the issue of Human Magazine containing Marcus’ story, “Unseen War,” was released almost a year ago, we brought you the powerful images and the tale that Marcus brought back with him. “It’s probably the wrong term but they kind of went psychotic,” said Marcus upon his return. “The whole society was psychotic for a period of three months… People that killed would never have killed before, and would never kill again. But at that moment they thought it was quite right to kill. And there’s no reasoning behind why people reach that point of anger, of hate, of thoughtlessness.” It was an altered state and something that Marcus was able to capture for the magazine in their breathtaking report. The question that remained was, What would it mean?
In February, Human Rights Watch and Marcus Bleasdale put together a show at Christie’s in London entitled “IMPACT” to display how their collaborations over the last 14 years have affected policy all over the world. “Increasingly we’re learning, we’ve been learning, about how to do this,” said Marcus, discussing the discovery that their pieces could create a real impact. The starkest example was the war that had arrested Eastern Congo in the early part of the last decade. The conflict was being financed by illegal gold sales by the warlords to AngloGold Ashanti and Metalor Technologies. In a well-placed exhibition, Marcus and HRW hung “The Curse of Gold,” photographs and stories from the conflict, on the walls of UBS Bank in Geneva. This high profile act put pressure on the financiers of AngloGold Ashanti and Metalor Technologies, forcing them to stop buying the illegal gold. It pulled the money out of the conflict in Eastern Congo and effectively ended the war. They literally saved lives.
Marcus has been doing this work for nearly two decades, but it was yesterday that the world took notice when it was announced he received the Robert Capa Gold Medal. Named after the famed Hungarian war photographer whose body of work included covering five different wars, the medal was created to celebrate the "best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise." The honor is not lost on Marcus who, in conversation with The New York Times, responded by saying “I’m still shellshocked.”
Perhaps the most remarkable point that Marcus made in conversation with The New York Times is how to use your power most effectively. He explains that it’s not so much how many eyes you get on your challenging work, but whose eyes you get on it. “Sometimes the most effective thing is to be on the front page of The New York Times, and sometimes the most effective thing is to put several photographs in front of three people in the world,” he explains. “You just have to choose those three people and put your case to those three people, and that can be a lot more effective than putting it on the front cover of The New York Times.”
Congratulations to Marcus Bleasdale for this distinct honor.