The present exhibition in Geneva lifts the veil on an exceptional heritage. It questions the humanitarian image and how it tells us about the world around us. It consists of over 600 images taken from 1850 to the present day.
The International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (MICR) reclaims unique and little-known photographic heritage to explore how humanitarian imagery is and should be perceived. These photographs are chosen from a collection in the collection of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An open house was held for this occasion on Saturday, November 20 to allow as many people as possible to view the exhibition. The exhibition lifts the veil on the extensive photo collections held by the international red cross.
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Humanitarian images entered people’s daily lives more than a century ago and are now a fixture in today’s news. These images often convey a sense of immediacy and certainty, creating a scene that allows for only one interpretation. Viewers think they fully understand the event at hand without considering what lies just outside the frame. But reality on the ground is always more complex than its representation, which is by nature only a fragment.
Today we have the honour of interviewing a woman who has decades of experience in the humanitarian field. She gave us her opinion about the selected photos. Thank you so much!
Welcome Gabriella, thank you for accepting this collaboration with Jugaad Magazine. Let’s start now with the first question. The photographs in the exhibition have been selected from both private and public collections. What do you thin is the message conveyed by the chosen photos?
I believe the chosen photos are aimed at informing the audience by showing the consequences of conflicts on the population and, at the same time, the positive impact of humanitarian action.
Do you consider the choice of images covering more than a century of history to underline the evolution of the world on social – environmental issues?
According to my opinion, the photographs – taken by professional photographers or humanitarian workers in the field – depict scenes related to armed conflicts. The focus is on people, not places. It does not depend on whether we are in sub-Saharan Africa or South East Asia. The focus is on the victims of the conflicts and the aid workers, and their roles are clearly identified in the shot. These photos show the humanitarian effort since the 20th century and want to engage the viewer by showing the importance of humanitarian action.
According to your opinion, has photography been fundamental in discovering and disseminating various situations in the world, such as the Sahara situation in Africa?
Yes, photography has made it possible to tell stories and show what was happening in places far away from us. Even with the advent of modern technology, the visual impact of a photo makes it possible to convey a message and information in a very strong and instantaneous way.
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In the selected photos, we see some shots belonging to Lewis Hine, a well-known American photographer and sociologist. In your opinion, what is the main message he wants to convey to us with photos?
This photographer and sociologist realized how a picture is worth a thousand words and was an effective way of exposing child exploitation in the early 20th century, shaping American history. Late, during the First World War, Hine decided to follow the American Red Cross’ interventions in Europe, focusing in particular on children who had lost their parents during the conflict.
Our society is defined as massive, affected by infodemics. How do you think this impacts on a global context?
Today, access to information is global and instantaneous. In some ways, it is a great privilege: anyone can have total access to and form their own opinion about what is happening in the world. At the same time, we are bombarded with information and everyone can produce it. You need to have the right tools and skills to be able to unravel this complexity and recognise the sources.
Comparing the various pictures with those of today, do you believe there has been an evolution or an involution on the part of human beings? Why?
I believe the human nature has never changed. Our knowledge has increased, our technological capacity has grown exponentially, but the motivations that drive human beings to conflict unfortunately remain the same, linked to economic and power dynamics.
Many thanks Gabriella for your answers, we hope to see you again soon!
Exhibition title: Un Monde à Guérir
A project by: Pascal Hufschmid, directeur général du Musée international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge.
Place: International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Av. de la Paix 17
Open to the public: from 18 September 2021 to 6 January 2022
Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (last ticket sold one hour before closing).