DRC: Conflict Zones through the Lens of Marcus Bleasdale

“This is an exciting time for digital storytellers.”

Truer words have never been spoken. But in the spirit of the commencement of this year’s Social Good Summit, it should be noted that these storytellers also hold a great responsibility to the masses. As a distinguished photographer, Marcus Bleasdale embodies this sense of responsibility in his coverage of conflict areas around the world through the medium of his trusted camera lens. Over the past 15 years, the region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has captured his steady attention.

Throughout his time working within the DRC, Bleasdale has gained a first-hand perspective into a nation that, while rich in minerals, has been coerced into a haunting reality of violence, disease, poverty and profound injustice. Children are stripped of their adolescence, forced into militant lives plagued by mindless violence at the behest of their devious superiors. Families are torn apart, displaced, and involuntary bare witness to the perils of life within the misleading comfort of their own backyards. 

As the conflict within the borders has continued to run its rampant course over the past 15+ years, 2 million Congolese natives have been displaced, 40,000 women fall victim of sexual violence annually, and over 5.5 million deaths have been recorded as a result of rampant disease, and violence throughout the region. In his Keynote adderess to the Social Good audience, Bleasdale stressed that these are simply the statistics; his images however, are what interpret the reality.

An important distinction however, is how Bleasdale goes about creating a narrative of an area so riddled by conflict for decades. He goes into depth about how he works to construct such a narrative in saying:

“For me, I’m trying to engage in order to enhance the narrative that I’m trying to tell. There are many different aspects of the story to engage with - the mind, the child soldiers, the sexual violence, displacement, horrific health issues that have spread through the DRC. I have to touch on each one of those in each unique situation to try and engage with a subject in a way that will truly hone the message that this should stop.”

He delves deeper in his philosophy toward photojournalism in conflict areas, stating, “Every image cannot be misery, and should not be so difficult to look at that you want to turn away. You have to also try to look for the beauty, and the hope, to show the opportunity that is available that has not necessarily been seized.”

Having covered the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 15 years now, Bleasdale’s knowledge and wisdom towards his craft should be respected. As for his advice for the brave soul aspiring to photojournalism of this nature; one word came to mind, patience.

“Everything takes time, especially when working within the areas I have. In relation to my work in the DRC, you can’t tell that story in a week, a month. I’ve been telling that story for 15 years now and still I don’t think it’s finished, because it’s still going on.“

An award-winning photographer who has been heralded by the US House of Representatives, The United Nations and the House of Parliament in the UK, Bleasedale will undoubtedly continue to be a respected voice within the realm of photography, specifically within regions of conflict.

He can be followed on twitter @marcusbleasedale.

ANDREW BRIDGE (text) @Bridgin_TheGap Andrew is Editor-in-Chief of CATALYST's Social Good Summit Daily, and Managing Editor of CATALYST. He is a global enthusiast with a passion for the road less traveled. As a frequent collaborator with World Hip Hop Market and Nomadic Wax, Andrew has worked with numerous socially conscious artists from around the world in the pursuit of inspiring cultural understanding and exchange through entertainment. This fascination with the world at large has taken him to over 20 countries (so far) through studying, volunteering, and writing about his travels, with no signs of slowing.