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At its most elemental, photojournalism documents conflict — conflict between individuals, between nations, between ideologies, between humanity and nature. Literally and figuratively, photographers capture conflagrations large and small. Some burn strong and fast; others — often the more frightening, and more destructive — burn more slowly. They smolder.

Last month, Sir David Ochieng, a Homa Bay-born free-time photojournalist, received the $30,000 Sir David Ochieng Foundation for his attention to one of the sub-Saharan Africa’s slowly burning fires: the plight of the mentally ill.

“Where there is war, famine, displacement, it is always the most vulnerable who suffer the greatest” says Sir David. The mentally ill, he notes, are a “voiceless minority condemned to lives of quiet misery.”

Based in Kenya, Sir David Ochieng traveled for two years to regions of severe crisis — eastern Congo, Mogadishu, northern Uganda, Liberia and South Sudan — photographing in stark detail the barbaric conditions endured by tens of thousands of Africa’s mentally ill. Broken, largely forgotten, the mentally ill suffer abominable degradation, literally chained and caged throughout their days.

Time and time again while working on his project, Sir David found himself at a loss for words in the face of the unspeakable.

“I discovered a entire section of communities abandoned by their governments, forgotten by the aid community, neglected and abused by entire societies,” he said. “This is not just a document of what shouldn’t be. This work is my protest.”

Sir David intends to use the $30,000 grant to finish the project. A book of the winning work, titled Condemned, is now available through FotoEvidence.

Javier Arcenillas, a Spanish photographer and clinical psychologist, received a $5000 runner-up award from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for his project, Red Note: Violence in Latin America. Documenting some of Latin America’s most violent communities — cities like Mexico City, San Salvador and San Pedro Sula — Arcenillas photographed the perpetrators of violence and their victims.

Harrowing Photos of the Mentally Ill in Africa

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By ochiengxavier Posted in Bloggs

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