Monday, February 27, 2006

greetings from london

From: ruby@...
Date: Wed Jun 1, 2005 2:02 am
Subject: greetings from london

Dear Osman Altaee,

I have just been reading your website. Your story is an inspiring one and you
truly are an adventurer and a warrior! I was particularly interested in your
camaign againts 'Human Buttons', as I am very interested in the issues raised by
how images are used to gain support for humanitarian causes. I worked for two
and half years for a publishing company, Trolley ( that
published mainly books of photojournalism, particularly projects that deal with
the dispossessed. We felt that it was important to share the horror of images of
people suffereing human rights abuses, to inform people of the injustices that
go on in our wolrd. But I have always been aware of the dangers of invoking pity
in western viewers who come to see the third world as poulated by miserable,
down-trodden and pathetic cases. While seeing these images can move people to
sadness and rage that in turn moves them to act against these injustices, they
often do little to show these victims as more than victims, as dignfied human
beings just like us. Some photographers do work in a way that aims to empower
the subjects of their work - I have in mind particularly Adam Broomberg and
Oliver Chanarin (, who's two books Trolley have published.

Your views on the 'Human Buttons' have given me a lot to think about.

I would be very interested to know what your opinions are on the images we see
of refugees in less extreme context as the 'Human Buttons' - in books, magazines
and newspapers.

I remember being told by photojournalist who took pictures of Kosovan refugees
that their were more photographers than refugees, fighting over the images of
peoples suffering like vultures. The images these stories conjured were more
shocking than the ones that the journalists had brought back, but of course they
never took pictures of the complete scene.

I am currently working on a project to set up a new oragnisation, Sandblast,
which aims to promote the cause of the Saharawi refugees who have lived for the
past thirty years in camps in the Algerian Sahara, since the invasion of the
homaland by Morocco. The are yet another group who have been disgracefully let
down by the UN, and when I visited the camps I heard many complaints of the
wasteful way in which the UNHCR used their funds. We aim to raise awareness of
their situation through the arts. The Saharawi are a dignified people with a
firm commitment to democracy, equality and the peaceful resolution of their
cause. We are trying to give them a platform to tell their own stories in their
own words, images and songs. We would like people to learn about their plight
and feel anger at the situation, but to respect them and not to pity them. One
of Sandblast's projects will be working with two groups, PhotoVoice
( and Fotografie Senza Frontiere, who run photography
workshops with dispossessed people, teaching them the use of cameras to tell
their own stories and portrey themselves as they would like to seen.

We also see the importance (as you certainly do!) of web-based media, and are
setting up a website ( which is still in its early
stages, but which intends to showcase the work of Saharawi artists and link
people around the world who are intested in their cause or related issues.

Anyway, I just want to say how inspiring I have found your webpages. I would
love to be kept up-to-date on your wrk and campaigns, so please add me to your
mailing list. I am working on a mac so have not been able to download your
ebooks, but I intend to find a PC where I can do this as soon as I can! I look
forward to reading more from you.

With all my support for your courageous work,

Ruby Russell, London