at a glance
Surviving the Peace, an exhibition of photography by Sean Sutton at the FCC Phnom Penh through November 2006, opening reception with the photographer Wednesday Nov 1, 6:30 p.m.
Against the background of a building riddled with bullet holes, photographer Sean Sutton captures a young boy in mid stride, propped up on a pair of crutches and missing a leg, looking forlorn yet purposeful in his gait.
Like so many of Sutton’s photographs, the image of the young boy grabs you by the arm. But reading the caption below it comes like shrapnel through the heart: “13-year-old Candre Antonio stood on a landmine outside his house. Afraid for the families’ safety, the father had planted the mines himself. Kuito, Angola, August 1995.”
In “Surviving the Peace” — an exhibition of 100 black-and-white photographs at the FCC Phnom Penh through November — Sutton lays bare the humanitarian challenges faced by Candre and others like him in conflict-affected communities around the globe.
Along with Angola, “Surviving the Peace” visits Cambodia and Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, and a dozen other countries in various stages of rebuilding. Sutton shows the child soldiers of the Karen National Army in Burma, an all-female demining team in Cambodia, tribeswomen dancing in Africa, and fishermen in Laos piloting boats made from the discarded fuel tanks of American bombers.
With the heart breaking and the quirky, Sutton also offers images of hope. In Vietnam, a man waters his vegetable garden planted on recently demined land. His wife smiles on from the front porch, holding the couples newborn baby.
As a photographer for the Mines Advisory Group, a demining organization active in Cambodia and around the world, Sutton has spent the last decade documenting MAG’s work in many of the world’s most notable hot spots.
In telling Candre’s story, and that of the family in Vietnam, Sutton also tells the story of MAG, the demining agency from Britain.
Created in 1989, MAG works in more than 35 countries rebuilding post-conflict communities. In addition to clearing landmines and unexploded ordinance, MAG trains and employs people from local areas, helping conflict-affected communities reintegrate into peaceful society. Their community-centered approach won MAG a Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate in 1997.
With MAG’s intervention, Candre will likely be fitted for a prosthetic leg. When he gets a little older, he might even learn to use a metal detector and other tools of the demining trade. Instead of being a victim of his war-torn country, he just might help rebuild Angola, providing his countrymen with a more prosperous future. Perhaps even one day, he too can have his own peaceful garden to grow.