Forgotten War

Forgotten War.
Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Photographs by members of the VII Photo Agency. Introduction by Simon Robinson. Foreword by Nicholas de Torrente.
de.MO, Milford, 2006. 128 pp., 50 color and b&w illustrations, 8½x6½”.

Forgotten War“What makes a book?” I had to ask myself this unlikely question when I saw Forgotten War. The unconventional yet innovative design questioned my own understanding and definition. This book is stripped down to just the bare minimum-stitched signatures, cover and content-which emphasizes the design, function, and metaphor of the work. Forgotten War was a collaborative exhibition and book project between five photographers of the fabled VII Agency and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Together with publisher de.MO, they created a streamlined effort to show the world the present health crisis in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Haviv, Knight, Kratochvil, Ladefoged, and Nachtwey photographed in areas where MSF has medical facilities to reveal an intimate look at the distressing situation. Forgotten War is a visual journal of what the photographers saw in the summer of 2005. Haviv and Ladefoged worked in color, while Knight, Kratochvil and Nachtwey shot in black-and-white. The powerful photographs are not of scenes of war or fighting, but of what happens on the periphery to the quality of life as a result of lack of security and basic resources during ongoing conflict. These areas of conflict run along the eastern border of the DRC, shared with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and will most likely still be flaring up even after the recent summer elections. Humans are vulnerable, especially where sickness abounds, and the design of the book mirrors that vulnerability. With the text of the book jumping around the page like an erratic ECG and the loose corrugated cardboard covers reminding one of the flimsy shelters of the refugee camps, the book takes on a life of its own that may not stay intact for very long. – Larissa Leclair

Originally published in the Photo-eye Booklist, Fall 2006.