Artiste feted for genocide, mental health photo project

Thursday December 13 2018



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Chrystal Ding won an award for her proposal to document survivors of the Rwanda genocide who are receiving therapy. She is the third winner of the Rebecca Vassie Memorial Award, which supports early-to-mid-career photographers in the UK.

The Trust was set up following the tragic death of the British photographer and photojournalist Rebecca Vassie, aged 30, while on assignment in Uganda in 2015. The award funds projects that “focus on human stories with a social or political context.”

Ms Ding won a $2,500 prize for her proposal to create portraits of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, as well as their therapists, along with commentary in the form of letters from survivors to the people supporting them.

The title of Ms Ding's winning project is Attention Must Be Paid (taken from the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller).

The photographer believes that society must pay attention to those who suffer, and also to the healing qualities of the attention received in therapy.

Ms Ding describes the project as a “personal and challenging” endeavour.

She will work with charities supporting recovery programmes for Rwandans who were in their infancy during the genocide. “I can't wait to get started,” she said.

Ms Ding studied photojournalism and documentary photography at the London College of Communication, and was awarded the bursary partly on the strength of her previous portrait work.

Rebecca Vassie

Rebecca Vassie was an international photojournalist who moved to Uganda for her work. Her photos were published in The Guardian and The Washington Post, and she worked on longer projects with Uganda's transgender community and Olympic hopefuls.

She died in 2015 at the age of 30 from complications related to an asthma attack she suffered while documenting a refugee community.

Rebecca's mother, Janet Vassie, and Rebecca's sister, Kelly Vassie, judged this year's award alongside curators Melanie Hough and Jennifer Thatcher, photographer Ben Bird and BBC News' Matthew Tucker.

Kelly Vassie said: “We're very excited about Chrystal's work, and we're especially pleased to support a project in East Africa, where my sister lived and worked for the past three years of her life.”