Marcus Bleasdale: Harnessing the Power of Photography in the Congo

Marcus Bleasdale talks about how photography has been instrumental in his quest to open the world’s eyes to Congo’s most devastating conflicts.

With the primary goal of photojournalism being to tell thought-provoking visual stories that explore today’s most pressing social issues, practitioners often find themselves faced with the mission to shoot photos that incite change. Such was the case for photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale, who told the poignant stories about his work in Africa during a 2013 talk for Nat Geo Live. If you’ve taken an interest to photojournalism and hope to do some compelling projects with it someday, let his story serve as inspiration for you.

Bleasdale talked about shooting in Congo in 2003 to 2004 for an article he was writing for Human Rights Watch. He was on assignment to cover the exploitation of natural resources in the eastern part of the country. While it turned out that the problems are more severe and far-reaching, photography proved to be powerful not only in bearing witness to the issues at hand, but also in inciting action to address it.

As he also stressed in his talk, the war brought about and funded by this exploitation isn’t over yet, as Congo continues to be marred by conflict. His photos are telling of the issues plaguing the country, and even the disturbing reality that the world is now complicit in keeping these going simply by purchasing products made through the exploited natural resources. Children working in mines, participating in wars, and becoming victims of abuse — these are the unsettling matters that photojournalists like Bleasdale are called to uncover.

“We have a responsibility more than anyone to engage and increase our knowledge about this conflict so that it stops,” Bleasdale speaks of the action that he hopes to bring through his work. “The hope is that this body of work, along with National Geographic and the engagement that they can bring, the power they can bring through photography to this argument, maybe one day we can actually buy a smartphone, or a computer, or a camera, or a television that is stamped conflict-free.”

Visit Marcus Blesdale’s website to see his work on this topic (The Price of Precious) as well as his other projects.


Screenshot image from the video by National Geographic