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2017 in Review

A parallax is the apparent displacement
of an observed object due to a change
in the position of the observer

or

the difference between the view of an object
as seen through the lens of a camera
& as seen through a separate viewfinder.
 

A change in perspective.
A change in placement.
Changes us.

2017 was a loaded year.
Take your time to scroll through
the stories & experiences that defined it for me.

By clicking on the buttons, the full story will appear in a new tab.

 

YULIANA

 
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"They went to the capital to find a better life, and all they found was the death of the girl." - Grandmother of Yuliana

Moving to Colombia in 2016, I began contributing to the national newspaper El Espectador. On December 4, 2016, Bogota was rocked by the news of the kidnapping, rape and murder of 7 year old Yuliana Samboni by a wealthy local man.

Together with journalist Edinson Bolaños, we put the story on the 2017's first front page paper exploring the circumstances that led her family to migrate from their remote, rural home. In search of opportunity in the urban expanse of Bogota, women and children become vulnerable and families are re-victimized.

By fall of 2017, the #metoo movement took hold in the US. For me, Yuliana's story became a harsh reminder of the violence that women, and too often girls, face regularly throughout Latin America, and are almost never part of a public discussion.

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DEFENDER

 
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Roughly every four days the news splashes across Colombian national newspapers and buzzes in on WhatsApp messages. Another community leader, human rights defender, indigenous journalist: murdered.

This has been a constant theme since I moved to Colombia in September 2016. While the mainstream media focuses on demobilizing female guerrilla soldiers painting their fingernails, another war is taking place. As communities, many times indigenous or Afro, are trying to exercise rightful control of their resources and territories, they are being killed off. According to the UN, more than 200 such defenders have been killed since 2016 alone.

 
 

DEFENDER is a long form, personal effort to visualize the work of these defenders. It began as a collaboration with Colombian legal collective CAJAR while contributing investigation to their human rights documentation. The work was exhibited as photographs and audio testimonies in my first solo exhibition at the Centro Cultural Casa Bolivar in Bogota where government officials, NGO's and the public were invited to various panel discussions and walkthroughs. I continued my coverage of the issue for The Guardian in September and in November, a multimedia version of the exhibition was shown at the UN in Geneva.

 

In 2018 I’m expanding DEFENDER while also producing a documentary film with filmmakers Emily Wright and Daniel Bustos. This is the other side of Colombia’s peace process.

 

 
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LA ISLA NETWORK

As a member of La Isla Network, I’ve had the incredible opportunity of covering the global CKDu epidemic since 2011.

For the past two years, we have expanded our scope of understanding of affected regions and working populations from Central America to Texas, South Asia to Africa and beyond. Collaborating with my friend and mentor Ed Kashi, we produced two films on the issue in India and in Sri Lanka. Our film Hidden Under the Indian Sun, produced with Talking Eyes Media was featured on The Atlantic in January and showed during the Visa Pour L’Image Photo Festival in Perpignan, France this past September. Our work was also included in the Arles Festival and is currently traveling with the Born the Same tour.

While producing In the Hot Zone in Sri Lanka, I worked with the very talented musician Kate Simko who created a beautifully haunting original soundtrack and the film will show in the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2018.

Working with visual artist Aubrey Roemer, we brought our project Empalagoso to the University of Vermont in a beautiful exhibition.

Finally, I’m very pleased to announce that in February 2018, Ed Kashi and I will be continuing our CKDu coverage in Peru
after being awarded a National Geographic Society Explorer Grant.

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New Media Advocacy Project

The Niger Delta has been wrecked by oil exploitation over the past fifty plus years. In the Lake Albert and Edward areas of Congo and Uganda, companies are just beginning their exploration for the cursed resource. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature with New Media Advocacy Project, committed to empowering local activists, decided to take a roadtrip.

 

I spent ten days on the road with activists from Congo and Uganda, learning about the impact of oil on the Niger Delta and capturing their conversations with local fishermen, leaders and other activists for a film that is currently being shown in communities all around the Lake Edward, Albert and Virunga National park areas.

 
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In November, I travelled to Montevideo, Uruguay to cover the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with New Media Advocacy Project for documentary series currently in production. It was a humbling experience to witness families and victims from across the Americas bringing cases to the commission, not finding any justice in their countries of origin. Testimonies of the parents of Ayotzinapa, environmental rights defenders from Peru and the story of a lawyer from Chile who’s client was imprisoned, her only crime being an indigenous woman. It was at once inspiring and chilling to see the last line of defense of human rights, gathered, a disturbingly small amount of people fighting for our common rights.

 
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I’m starting 2018 with an even stronger commitment
to creating work to #defendthedefenders
& call out violations in the Americas.

Independent visual journalism and filmmaking is only possible
with the loyalty and support of clients, editors & collaborators
who value our work in these uncertain times.

So thank you for being a part of this journey.

To a healthy and safe 2018,
un abrazo,

Tom

 
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