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“I just want someone to know,” one of Andrea Reese’s subjects told her. Reese’s project ‘Urban Cave,’ captures the lives of New Yorkers who live in the margins of the city’s society, who dwell underground, or on the streets. ‘Urban Cave’ is one of the five photography series featured at the 3rd annual FotoEvidence Book Awards.

This year’s winner, Robin Hammond, was also in attendance signing copies of his book, ‘Condemned,’ a striking account of mental illness in East Africa. “Robin’s work is giving voice to some of the most powerless on the planet,” FotoEvidence Editorial Director, David Stuart, stated. Hammond himself later said ‘Condemned’ should be used as a protest, to give a voice to the people who are denied one.

Whether it be the image Hammond captured of a mentally ill boy, chained at the ankle for over six years and beaten by his mother, or the reflection of the Syrian rebel fighter captured in the mirror he uses as a lookout, photographed by Fabio Bucciarelli, the images selected at this year’s awards remind us of “the suffering many are enduring while we live our lives,” as Stuart so eloquently put it.

The FotoEvidence Book Awards celebrate the people who show us what we miss while living these lives of ours. Rushing from home to work, faces down, phone screens up, ear buds in, ignoring the uncomfortable details. Or for New Yorkers, quite literally the subjects of Reese’s project.

“Sometimes I wished I did more,” Hammond confessed, reflecting on his time with the patients, who most often are treated as inmates. His work, though, acts as the first step on the road to do more. ‘Condemned’ is the protest he’s leading, and FotoEvidence the first to join him.

Written by Claire Matern. Images courtesy of FotoEvidence with special thanks to Svetlana Bachevanova.

The FotoEvidence Book Awards exhibition is unfit of any review, because the challenge it poses to write anything to encompass the weight of the images is far too great.

The clean white walls of the FotoEvidence Book Awards were a startling contrast to the images that hung upon them. The intimate reception, attended by the photographers, friends, peers, and the odd journalist like myself, was the ideal way to appreciate the photographs featured by the winner and runners-up from the 2012 book contest.

Any occasion larger and you may miss the haunting look in a child’s eye, the shadow cast across the face of a migrant worker, or the detail of the note tied to the arm of a man who had died of tuberculosis. A note that simply says, “Soloviyov Gennadity died on the 12th of October at 08:30.”

The FotoEvidence Book Awards are not for the faint of heart, people who choose not to read the news, who switch the channel when something sad comes on. The photographs featured are raw, unapologetic, and thought provoking. They shake up your world, remind you that you’re sipping a glass of red wine in a multimillion dollar building in Brooklyn, and show you the realities of the injustices against women, children, immigrants, and even the incarcerated.

The awards applaud the dedication of the men and women who believe these injustices need to be brought to light, that Enrique, a boy working in the charcoal fields of Ulingan deserves to be seen. Or the tears of Doring Kande who lost her baby after being brutally beaten in Papua New Guinea.

Speaking with Vlad Sokhin, whose project is entitled Crying Meri: Violence Against Women in Papua New Guinea, or the winner of this year’s award for his photographs of the on-going aftermath of the Bhopal disaster, Alex Masi, it is clear that the passion for their projects is overwhelming.

They are not simply photographers, snapping away behind a lens. The pictures they take capture more than one moment in time. They capture a human connection made between the photographer and the human being in the lens. A human connection that FotoEvidence reminds us can exist between, not just a subject and photographer, but all of us.

Written by Claire Matern. Photography © Kevin Downs.

www.fotoevidence.com

Being from Brooklyn I have often been asked, with naïve curiosity, if I have “ever been shot at?” But with more and more news stories of shootings happening in America’s seemingly idyllic suburbs, I find myself holding my tongue from saying that I feel safer in New York City than out in the heartland of my country.

One of the more recent examples of this is the shooting of movie goers at a midnight screening of ’Dark Knight Rises’ in Aurora last month. It happened a mere ten miles from Columbine High School where thirteen years ago, twelve students and one teacher were murdered.

Since the Dark Knight shooting I have been in the presence of many who have simply asked, “What is wrong with Colorado?” That question, though rhetorical, is valid. Has the US become a place where going to school, shopping, or even the cinema means there’s a chance you’re putting yourself in the line of a bullet?

The right to bear arms is the second amendment of the United States’ Constitution, and is one of the hottest topics of this year’s election season. (Thankfully freedom of speech trumps its rank as the first amendment, though that is also up for debate… but that is a topic of another article altogether.)

The popular opinion is that carrying a concealed weapon can come in handy in many a situation. For example, had someone in that movie theatre been armed, they could have retaliated against the gunman, James Holmes, defending themselves and hundreds of others.

They would have also taken the risk of challenging an increasingly more agitated and violet assailant, creating more panic, killing dozens more in the crossfire, or turning themselves from ’victim’ to ’suspect’ in the eyes of the responding police.

Not to mention the fact that a study by the University of Pennsylvania states that gun carriers are 4.5 times more likely to get shot than citizens who are unarmed…

Despite this, Colorado saw a 43% increase in firearm sales in the following four days after the massacre: A clear example that the lax approach to gun control across the United States has created a country of paranoid, fearful, gun-totting citizens.

But with gun control laws differing state to state and family days at the shooting range common outings, the road to reform will be a long one.

Nevertheless, when in the midst of writing a piece on the gun control issue in the United States, and up pops a breaking news alert informing you of a shooting that has just occurred in a Wisconsin community, it certainly causes one to pause.

Written by Claire Matern. Photography © Peter Wallace.

Twitter: @ClaireMatern