The Aftermath Project, set up by photographer Sara Terry after her experiences in Bosnia, dispenses an annual grant to documentary photographers. The grant is designed to facilitate a documentary project on the subject of the long term affects of war. As I understand it the money usually comes from George Soros’s Open Society Institute.
Yesterday was the submission deadline for a new grant, funded this time by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, on the subject of the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara.
As usual, the brief is admirably open. The Aftermath people are interested to hear each photographer’s approach to the subject, what their work is like, and what their budget would be to realise the work. Simple. But it always takes me an age to prepare this kind of submission.
This time the subject was a very good fit with my long term project ‘Prisons of Conscience’, since the Sahrawi people were the victims of a campaign of ‘disappearances’ in the 1970s and 80s. Following the effective occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, the Moroccan security services routinely abducted individuals from their homes and detained them for years, leaving their families with no idea what had become of them.
After the death of the Moroccan King Hassan II in 1999, and the succession of Mohamed VI, the surviving detainees were released. Their troubles weren’t over, however, since they often had no idea where their families now lived (and the families had no idea whether they were still alive) and their country was divided by the Sahara’s equivalent of the Berlin Wall. For a pretty good description of the current situation read this Amnesty International report.
After a bit of research I found the main sites where the Sahrawi were detained and the areas where the surviving detainees now live, so I was able to put together what I hope is a fascinating photographic journey. We’ll see if the Aftermath people go for it.
The on-line submission process for these grants is always different, and yesterday’s was certainly interesting since I could see all the other photographers’ submissions as they came in! I didn’t look though guys. Honest.