Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Photographer of the Week: John Vink

Photography cannot do much. It provides some level of information, yet it has no pretensions about changing the world."

John Vink studied photography at the fine arts school of La Cambre in Brussels, in 1968. He has been a freelance journalist since 1971. Since the mid-1980s, Vink has dedicated much time to long-term projects, the first of which was on Italy, between 1984 and 1988. He came to public attention in 1986 when he was awarded the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for Waters in Sahel, a two-year documentary project on water management involving migrant and sedentary populations of the Niger, Mali, Burkina-Faso and Senegal. Vink joined the Vu agency in Paris in 1986, then from 1987 to 1993 worked on Refugees in the World, an extensive statement about life in the refugee camps of India, Mexico, Thailand, Pakistan, Hungary, Iraq, Malawi, Bangladesh, Turkey, Sudan, Croatia, Honduras and Angola.

In 1993 there were 15 million uprooted people in the world, forced to leave their home or country and having to live in refugee camps because of war, violence, intolerance or repression. 15 million more or less assisted people, forced to live in precarious situations in an unfamiliar environment, waiting for an improvement of the situation in their country to go back or waiting for a third country willing to give them a more permanent safe haven. Today, in 2001, the UN High Commission for Refugees has registered 12 million people. John Vink started working on refugees back in 1986 and has over the years collected a substantial body of work on the situation of these uprooted people, covering some 17 different situations.


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