Human Rights Human Wrongs: the images' impact

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
Outside the Photographers' Gallery
Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
Silence invade the gallery while visitors pass by the more than 250 original photos of injustices, violations of human rights, and discriminatory acts.

The Photographers’Gallery, near Oxford Circus, presents the exhibition Human Rights Human Wrongs from the 6th of February until the 6th of April.
Pictures by photojournalists around the world, over the worst wars that marked our century, hang to the walls of two floors.

A board with Human Rights’ articles welcome the visitors at each level.
Further material – timelines and original videos – are available to consult in side rooms.
Among the pictures, there are also some portraits of Nobel Prize winners.

Article Six of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the starting point of the exhibition, as the curator, Mark Sealy, said in an interview for the Photographers’ Gallery.

The article reads: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”
The sentence is also written up the wall at the second floor, rimmed in gold against a purple background.
In other words: equal rights, even in trials for everyone.
Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti

Two are the focuses, bound together, of the gallery.

Firstly, the subjects.
Children crying, old people lying on the pavement, black men held by the police force, are at the centre of the photographer’ lenses. The protagonists may be the victims as well as the invading soldiers.
What make these pictures different is the attempt to get rid of the stereotypes: the black may not be begging, as the white is not always the charitable saviour.

The labels down the frames report the photographer’s name, with a bit of his bio – in the rare case this is available –, and possible notes found on the reverse of the print.

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
Secondly, the photographs.
The event brings to the viewers’ attention the chain that connect all the events depicted: human injustice and contempt, privations, sufferings caused by rights violation.

Images are powerful: they may touch the audience in a more sensitive way than other media. In this case, the pictures display scenes we would hardly find in history books.
They are the magazines’ covers, illustrations for newspapers’ reports, therefore they are what ordinary people saw regarding those conflicts.

Mark Sealy gave a presentation at Human Rights HumanWrongs at Ryerson Image Centre (Canada in 2013). In that occasion, he said, “So much of the world, in terms of how we understand it, and specifically in terms of the imagery we are presented with, is conceived from a very particular tradition of Eurocentric concerns.”

The products of photo reporters are subject also to implicit terms of where and when the publication is due.

The process of “recognition” is not straight. Injustice should be first recognised, secondly eradicate. Images partially determine this process.
The impact of this collection was so intense, that the visitors, though in a large number, were very silent when I came in.
Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti