Meet Melanie
November 24th, 2010

Melanie Blanding is the inaugural recipient of the $15,000 Focus For Humanity Fellowship. I didn’t see her work until the final round of judging by the FFH Advisory Council, but when I did it truly stood out from what were already some very strong contenders. Melanie is talented, passionate and driven. She’ll go far, and I’m thrilled that FFH will be a part of her journey.

She has invested a lot of her time and photographic effort into telling the stories of victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her own words are better than mine could ever be:

“My most substantial project has been concerning sexual violence against women in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Producing it ended up being bittersweet really. Until very recently, victimized women in the Congo have been silenced by their families and communities, ignored by the international community. In the three times I’ve been there, women clamoured to meet me and have me record their story. I was literally overwhelmed on some days by hundreds of women begging me to at least record their name, even if I wasn’t able to record everyone’s story and image.”

Those of us who have been in similar situations know exactly what a rollercoaster of emotions a scene like this can be. It is so easy to become sad and angry in the face of the violence and injustices that humans inflict upon one another, yet at the same time we find victims who restore our hope and faith in mankind.

This has not been an easy journey for Melanie. She has struggled to find an outlet for her stories. She has struggled to find interest in stories from a part of the world that isn’t in the news every evening. This is a problem that most of us can understand. While the news rants on and on about royal weddings and celebrity breakups the voices of victims and stories of hope from around the world go untold.

Well, Melanie is going to fight that trend. And FFH is going to help her. Most of all she is looking forward to help with marketing and business management. I suspect that this is a common wish among young photographers.

Melanie is a new face for me in this photographic community. It is my sincerest hope that the Focus For Humanity Fellowship, along with continual support from Focus For Humanity, will help Melanie tell the important stories of our world. And I hope that all of you will help her in whatever way that you can.

Be sure to visit Melanie’s website (here) and more of her documentary work in the DR Congo (here). The FFH press release with a photograph of (instead of by) Melanie can be found by clicking here.

Congratulations Melanie!

Dinka, southern Sudan – © Melanie Blanding

6 Responses to “Meet Melanie”

  1. Ed says:

    Jeffrey, just fyi the links are not working. Still, managed to get the website. A well deserving winner. Melanie, you did so much more than I did with my own (two day) opportunity in KY, and I was amazed to see some landscapes form Llanfairfechan in there, just a few miles from my parents place in Menai Bridge! The Women in Warzones is outstanding though. She should submit some of her work to burn magazine if she hasn’t already.

  2. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Thanks Ed. Those links should be working now. (Might have to reload the page.)

  3. Eli R. says:

    Congratulations, Melanie! Looking forward to follow your work in the future. What’s your Twitter ID?

  4. lane davis says:

    Thanks for introducing Melanie. I remember looking at some of Melanie’s images at SWPJC in March and was blown away by her work with women in the DRC. Her commitment to capturing their story and determination to let them be heard is something that really impressed me. Glad she is the recipient.

    (p.s. i also look forward to hearing Melanie speak this next march at SWPJC.)

  5. CJ Kern says:

    Congratulations! Well deserving of the award, outstanding work!

  6. Pradeep says:

    Lovely work!

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