Visual Histories of Canadian Aid to Refugees and Displaced People Abroad: A Virtual Exhibition
Pictures of refugees and displaced persons have been crucial to the successes and failures of campaigns of modern humanitarian aid. They set the tone of global relations, emphasizing solidarity, inequality, prejudice or justice. Why do images attract public attention? Have they changed?
Have the ethics, sensitivity, capacity for outrage and sympathy evolved? Have the methods of photographers changed?
How have NGOs navigated the pitfalls of the “limits of empathy and the pornography of suffering”?
Is the public more critical? cynical? fatigued?
Collaborative collection, interpretations and diffusion: The historians, archivists, humanitarian worker members of the Canadian Network of Humanitarian History (CNHH) continue to collaboratively collect and help present important pictures of Canadian development and humanitarian aid in a virtual exhibition in an attempt to respond to questions of representation, engagement and force of photography with respect to transnational Canadian aid to refugees and forcibly displaced populations abroad. This collaboration seeks to give the story behind the pictures, show the many ways by which a single image was used in the media, speak to the outcomes of the campaigns, give clues to viewers about how to read pictures, and explore differences in reading pictures over time. The online virtual exhibit is open access, cross-posted on contributors's websites and is hosted by the CNHH.
Interested in contributing? You are invited to participate by sharing a picture or visual story from your organization to contribute to a history of visual representations of Canadian aid provided to people forcibly displaced by conflict, disaster or emergencies. Please contact us with your photographs, stories or ideas. We look forward to seeing how we can work with you to identify photographs that have histories and to glean their invaluable insights in order to share in this virtual exhibit.
See the example: The image featured above was made for the Canadian International Development Agency photo library in 1996 by Canadian photographer Roger LeMoyne. Comments on the picture and publication give an idea of the project.
In the long term: Today, one generation after the exponential growth of aid and modern humanitarianism, it is urgent to identify and preserve archives and testimonies. Histories of these interventions abroad is invaluable for the study of the cultural, economic, political and social implications of the movement of people, and in informing considerations for future interventions. The CNHH invites you to be part of the preservation of pictures of humanitarianism. The project will be of special interest to NGOs celebrating milestone anniversaries and looking for ways to take stock of, and share, their institutional memories, reflect on best practices, and ensure their financial and institutional future by attracting donations from older generations. One specific arm of this project, in collaboration with Carleton University’s Disability Research Group, is particularly interested in stories related to disability and technology.
The project is made possible through generous financial support of a Migration & Diaspora Studies TD grant.
Contact us: Dominique Marshall, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonya de Laat, RA, Refugee & Forced Displacement project, email@example.com
Beth Robertson, RA, Disability Research Group, firstname.lastname@example.org
Find the PDF of the invitation here.