When I decided to become a photographer, it was to be a war photographer. I was driven by the idea that an image that revealed the face of war could be a kind of intervention; a war photograph could become an anti-war photograph. I was not so interested in photography for its own sake, but in what it could accomplish by creating awareness about the inescapable human cost of war. Photography was the means to an end. I believed people would care if photographers showed them something to care about.

Eventually, the scope of my work expanded beyond war, to include many other circumstances; where social injustices were crying out to be corrected; humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters requiring immediate action; health issues in need of greater attention. It’s been said that journalism is the first draft of history. In a free society, that first rough draft becomes a resource for future generations. Still, also, the power of its immediacy can have a direct influence on the course of current events.

George Santayana warned us that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, yet so many decisions that drive history are made with obvious disregard for what has happened in the past. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that those decisions are not made out of ignorance or forgetfulness; they are purposeful, sometimes arrogant or reckless; often supported by deceitful manipulations of history devised to rationalise current political agendas. And in the gap between power and truth, between political ambition and wisdom, awaits tragedy.

Since its invention, photography has been a powerful means by which we do remember history. The expressions on people's faces, their physical condition, their body language, the gestures made by their hands, the clothes they wear, the scenes and the action into which they are inextricably bound, have a psychological impact in the minds of viewers that make the images indelible. Photographs have become emblematic of specific historical events and part of our collective memory.

Documentary photography can put a human face on issues that might otherwise appear abstract or ideological, or a matter of statistics. It can interpret events through human experience, not through the mechanisms of political contrivance. Photographs are a form of testimony that holds policymakers accountable for decisions affecting untold numbers of individual lives.

Images can help us recognise the things we all have in common regardless of our differences, creating a bridge of understanding and compassion. They can show the human cost of political policies, and in the face of injustice and cruelty, they can become a plea for decency. Before problems can be solved, they must be identified; a task that images have a unique ability to accomplish from a human perspective. Public opinion is a powerful, latent force. Change becomes possible when mass consciousness evolves into a shared sense of conscience that eventually galvanises a call to action.

For me, photography is not a way to impose on reality what I think I already know. It's an exploration - one pair of eyes, one mind, one heart, moving through the real world in real-time, trying to tell the stories of what happens to people, one-by-one, at the sharp end of history; stories that society needs to function properly; to assess contemporary events to make well-informed decisions and to learn about ourselves continually.

The images are records of single moments. They are moments in history, but they are also human moments. Together, these shards of time form a fragmented narrative, a mosaic of a journey of discovery, from which emerge ideas and questions about both history and human nature.

Documenting contemporary history will not change human nature and its capacity for conflict and violence, but it can have a significant influence over a given situation. It might not be able to end war itself, but it can help end a specific war or a specific injustice. Inevitably others will occur, and we have to keep trying to put an end to those. Indifference and despair will solve nothing. Turning our backs is a form of acceptance.

Many of the people I have photographed were exploited, assaulted, victimised. The powers-that-be tried to silence them, render them invisible. When a photographer tries to focus attention on their story, people often see it as a way to reach out to the rest of the world, even in moments of profound personal loss and sadness - as if to say that this cruelty, this suffering, this injustice happened here, in this place, to us.

In creating a basis for understanding from a human point of view, images can provoke both sympathy and outrage. If a substantial enough constituency is moved by what it sees and refuses to accept the unacceptable, a difference might be made.

I’m a witness, and my photographs are my testimony. I want it to be powerful and eloquent; to be honest and uncensored; to reflect the experience of the people I’m photographing.

If people are suffering, it doesn't mean they don’t have dignity. Enduring suffering can entail a higher form of dignity. If people are afraid, it does not mean, they lack courage. Overcoming fear is the definition of courage. Hope is not wishful thinking that exists without effort. As much as it is often founded on deeply held faith, it is also based on trying to see what might be possible; on struggle and perseverance. If our most basic instinct is for survival, it might be, that refined to the most elemental level, survival and hope are inseparable.

Once, during a famine, I saw a man so badly weakened by starvation he could not walk; so he crawled on his hands and knees. He literally had nothing left, except his will to live. As frail and emaciated as he was, he summoned the determination to keep moving. He refused to surrender life; even in the face of all the tragedy and loss, he must have suffered from having arrived at that moment. He had not given up hope. Why should anyone else give up hope for him?

Each photograph in this exhibition is a fragment of memory, captured within the continuum of the history I experienced. Each image was intended to reach a mass audience at the time the events were taking place, as a way of raising public consciousness; one element among many in the process of change. Now, as that same continuum moves relentlessly forward, and the events themselves recede in time, I hope these pictures will stand as a remembrance of the people in them, of the conditions they endured and of how those conditions came to be. As we share these memories, we bear witness together.

Let us not forget.

West Germany, Berlin, 1989POS JN 174 01
West Bank, Jenin, 2002POS JN 174 02
Nicaragua, San Juan del Norte, 1984POS JN 174 03
Uganda, Karamoja, 1986POS JN 174 04
Afghanistan, Kunar Valley, 1986POS JN 174 05
West Bank, Ramallah, 2000POS JN 174 06
Guatemala, Guatemala City, 1983POS JN 174 07
El Salvador, San Luis de la Reina, 1984 POS JN 174 08
El Salvador, San Miguel Province, 1984POS JN 174 09
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar, 1993POS JN 174 10
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Gornji Vakuf, 1993POS JN 174 11
Kosovo, Djakovica, 1999POS JN 174 12
Kosovo, Kijevo, 1999POS JN 174 13
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar, 1993POS JN 174 14
Greece, Idomeni, 2016POS JN 174 15
Croatia, Tovarnik, 2015 POS JN 174 16
Greece, Lesbos, 2016POS JN 174 17
Greece, Lesbos, 2016POS JN 174 18
Greece, Idomeni, 2015POS JN 174 19
Southern Sudan, Ayod, 1993POS JN 174 20
Sudan, Darfur, 2004POS JN 174 21
Rwanda, Nyanza, 1994POS JN 174 22
India, Mumbai, 2012POS JN 174 23
Pakistan, Karachi, 2001POS JN 174 24
Haiti, Port-au-Prince, 2010POS JN 174 25
Haiti, Port-au-Prince, 2010POS JN 174 26
Nepal, Gumda, 2015POS JN 174 27
Nepal, 2015POS JN 174 28
USA, New York City, 2001POS JN 174 29
USA, New York City, 2001POS JN 174 30
USA, New York City, 2001POS JN 174 31
USA, New York City, 2001POS JN 174 32
Iraq, Karbala, 2003POS JN 174 33
Afghanistan, Kabul, 1996POS JN 174 34
Afghanistan, Kabul, 1996POS JN 174 35
Afghanistan, Kabul, 1996POS JN 174 36
Afghanistan, Kunduz, 2001POS JN 174 37
Afghanistan, Kabul, 1996POS JN 174 38
Baidoa, Somalia, 1992POS JN 174 39
Cambodia, Svay Rieng, 2005POS JN 174 40
Vietnam, Bac Giang Province, 2004POS JN 174 41
Vietnam, Mekong Delta, 2012POS JN 174 42
Vietnam, Quang Tri Province, 2004POS JN 174 43
USA, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1995POS JN 174 44
USA, Phoenix, Arizona, 2004POS JN 174 45
USA, Harvest, Alabama, 1995POS JN 174 46
USA, Harvest, Alabama, 1995POS JN 174 47
USA, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2006POS JN 174 48
Greece, Lesbos, 2016POS JN 174 49
South Africa, Transkei, 1992POS JN 174 50
South Africa, Soweto, 1992POS JN 174 51
South Africa, Soweto, 1994POS JN 174 52
South Africa, Soweto, 1992POS JN 174 53

Xposure hosts solo exhibition spaces for acclaimed photographers along with group exhibitions for professional institutions. All exhibiting photographers will be present during the festival, enabling you the opportunity to meet and talk to them about their work.