From the photographer: Reporting back from South Sudan

- Karel Prinsloo, Arete’s photographer based in Johannesburg

I have been to South Sudan many times over the years — from the time it was still part of Sudan. The country is ravaged by civil war, and last February famine was declared. But my work with Arete has shown me how humanitarian and aid agencies are helping people overcome these hardships.

A South Sudanese man watches a World Food Programme airdrop. Credit: Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Unicef

One such agency is UNICEF. Last month, I travelled to Juba, the capital, to photograph UNICEF’s new Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore as she went on her first field visit to South Sudan. This trip wasn’t just about her visit; we also witnessed lots of other stories on the ground.

Heresa holds her one-month-old baby in a maternity ward. Credit: Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Unicef

We visited health facilities in Juba and children’s paediatric centres; we photographed airdrops delivering vital basic supplies to displaced people living in camps and UNICEF staff providing essentials such as soap or mosquito nets.

Ms. Fore met and talked to many people — all of whom have been affected by both the war and ongoing drought. She was clearly moved by what she heard. Our schedule was packed, and we were working long days in hot and difficult conditions, but I was really impressed by the way she handled the work and I aimed to capture her compassion and composure in the photographs I took.

Ms. Fore speaks with Heresa. Credit: Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Unicef

For me what makes a powerful humanitarian photo story is being able to show the real human experiences one encounters. For example, this photograph of Ms. Fore interacting with a woman who has just who has just received buckets, soap and mosquito nets at the camp — this photo helps tell the story of one of the people affected by the famine. You get to see what is happening on the ground.

Ms. Fore speaks to JudJok. Credit: Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Unicef

These types of photo shoots are always tough. It is hot and dusty and one has to managed very difficult lighting conditions. The sun is incredibly bright — making it hard to show detail in the photographs. Because of security constraints it is often hard to take images in softer evening or early morning light.

To overcome these challenges I have learnt that the main thing to remember is to stay focused on the human element of the story and ensure that one takes different types of images in as many different angles as possible.

The photos I took were used in many different online and print publications including ABC News, Asharq Al-Awsat, ReliefWeb and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A UNICEF press release about Ms. Fore’s visit to South Sudan is available here.

If you want to learn how to tell powerful humanitarian stories through photography, then join our popular workshop at London’s Frontline Club on 10 May 2018. For more details, click here.