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'Portrait of war' Southern Democratic Republic of Congo by Melinda Kerr

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'Portrait of war' Southern Democratic Republic of Congo by 

This woman is a victim of a seemingly never ending war in southern congo. She has suffered sexual violence (rape) so severe it has rendered her incontinent. She now exists purely as a result of a courageous charity called Heal Africa, and indeed her own inner strength and faith. I asked her if I could take her portrait and she stood up (which must have been painful), straightened her back and stared straight down the lens. No stopping to straighten her scarf, no preening, no fear. Just an honesty so raw, so uninhibited and so rare, I caught my breath and thought I’d never breath again. I was totally overpowered by her intensity. After I took the shot and showed it to her she smiled and thanked me. It still gives me a shiver to look at it now.

HEAL Africa calendar available now!!! CLICK HERE.


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G’day all, my name is Melinda but my mates call me Mel, so feel free. I live by the beach in Elwood, Victoria, Australia. I contribute to a few charities as a Photojournalist, namely HEAL Africa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Any of my Africa stuff’s profits go to them. So far the sales have bought 7 operations and heaps more so thanks for everyone’s support. I also take a mean beach shot (well try to).

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  • rufflesal
    rufflesalabout 7 years ago

    Thats a beautiful shot Melinda. She does look strong. Her eyes are so deep!

  • Robert Knapman
    Robert Knapmanabout 7 years ago

    This is just extraordinary. Direct and honest. Great shot.

  • Melinda Kerr
    Melinda Kerrabout 7 years ago

    Thanks guys-much appreciated.

  • shygrrrl
    shygrrrlabout 7 years ago

    The story behind the face made me cry. A stark contrast to the beauty of the portrait.

  • gaypony
    gayponyabout 7 years ago

    ive put in entries in the bw and landscape sections.
    they wont even hold a sniff to this.

  • James Pierce
    James Pierceabout 7 years ago


  • Afzal Ansary FRPS
    Afzal Ansary FRPSabout 7 years ago

    Dear Melinda,

    Please do not misunderstand me as I am only trying to be helpful. Your image ‘Postrait of War – Souther Congo’ shows a close-up of an African woman who is clearly identifiable and then you go on to say ‘She has suffered a rape so severe it has rendered her incontinent’. All my life I have been concerned about ‘3Cs’. 1st C for Consent to photograph- 2nd C for confidentiality and 3rd C for Copyright. You will appreciate that conset to be photographed is NOT a consent to publish the picture in print or electronic form or any other form for that matter. For publishing a picture you need more than just a consent to photograph. People misunderstand that a consent given to be photographed is automatically a consent to publish, which in legal terms it is NOT. Further more to disclose to the whole world that ’ She has suffered a rape so severe it has rendered her incontinent’ is grossly unethical unless you had permission to publish what she told you in private and in confidence. I hope you did have her consent to publish and tell the whole world that ’ She has suffered a rape so severe it has rendered her incontinent’. We must abide by the ethics of photojournalism.

    This is NOT meant to be a criticism but a friendly suggestion and I trust that you will take it in the spirit. If you feel offended, then please accept my apology.

    Kind regards & best wishes


  • Melinda Kerr
    Melinda Kerrabout 7 years ago

    Hi Afzal. I was in Congo working as a volunteer photographer for an AID mission. I did indeed have consent to do all of the above from all parties. This was the purpose of my volunteer effort and clearly understood by all. All parties (Heal Africa and their patients) asked me to publish the details (however ‘gory’) to further the education of the west about the condition for women in central Africa. With respect your assertion that I have been ‘grossly unethical’ as you put it is offensive. It makes an assumption that is unfounded and un-checked. Never in my wildest dreams would I approach the task in an un-ethical manner. I am fully aware of my responsibility as a photographer, indeed as a person and fellow human being. All of my shots were requested and encouraged. I didn’t simply ‘wander’ into these people’s lives off the street. I was living amongst them and working daily with them. This is about telling the story. It’s real and unless we ‘hear’ it we won’t do a thing. I encourage you to contact Heal Africa ( if you have any concerns.


    Melinda Kerr

  • Melinda Kerr
    Melinda Kerrabout 7 years ago

    It’s now a bit later and I’m a bit calmer. I’m annoyed that I lost my temper there for a minute-it’s not my style. I’m very close to the cause and thus am sensitive to it. Please appreciate that anyone reads my diatribe :-) I love the people I worked with, I’d never do anything to hurt them – thx :0)

  • Afzal Ansary FRPS
    Afzal Ansary FRPSabout 7 years ago

    Hi Melinda, I have not asserted nor have I implied that your have been ‘grossly unethical’. In fact the words ‘grossly’ and ‘unethical’ do NOT appear anywhere in my text. Please read again to confirm. I made a general remark ‘We must abide by the ethics of photojournalism’.

    I very much admire the work people like you have done for humanity and more particularly in Africa. I spent 18 years in Zambia working for the British Government when we started a new medical school at the university teaching hospital. I spent 6 years documenting AIDS and finally published a book ’ A Colour Atlas of AIDS in the Tropics’ which won the Lancet Trophy in 1989. My feelings for the cry for help from Africa for health care needs is very much like yours. I do apologise if you got the impression that I was critical about your work. Far from it, in fact I admire people who put time and effort in helping those helpless people who are deprived of bear essential health care. I would very much like you to see my audio-visual CD on ‘I Cry for Africa’.
    May be this is not the platform for this discussion, which is of mutual interest. Please email me on my personal email address: afzalansary" if you wish to contact me. Once again, please do not be offended as such was not my intention.



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