The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation For Documentary Photography & Film
Camille Lepage – 2014 Documentary Photography Prize
I chose photography as a medium because it’s a passport to the world and to its most beautiful and terrible stories. Photography is a tool that has the power to make things change, and become proof of the history.
Camille Lepage, March 2014
Grant Submission to The MRO Foundation
French photojournalist Camille Lepage covered the collapse of Central African Republic for seven months. She was embedded with Christian anti-Balaka fighters who were battling the remnants of a Muslim rebellion known as the Seleka.
But her submission for the 2014 grant award stated that it was time for her to focus on its reasons and deeper consequences. She said that she needed to “go beyond the cliché, the usual equation, Africa = Violence.”
To look at the roots of the crisis, Camille would to go the diamond mines, the uranium and oil field areas – three being very strategic economic matters for the country. Needing to understand what it was like to be a part of this crisis, she would follow a group of young Muslim men, stuck in Bangui and hoping to leave.
Camille proposed following ‘Dieudonné’, the field coordinator for the anti-Balaka in charge of organizing attacks around the city. Knowing the danger of such an undertaking, her understanding and empathy came through in her proposal. Wishing he could quit and go back to his normal life, Dieudonné had no choice but to join the anti-Balaka after his two brothers were killed by the Seleka, his house looted and his mother dying afterwards of a heart attack.
Camille never got the news that she was a 2014 MRO Foundation grant finalist. She was killed on May 11, 2014. Her death was described as a “murder” by the French presidency and it marked the first death of a Western journalist in the conflict.
To us, her fellow documentary photographers, Camille Lepage was simply a journalist.
The MRO Foundation Prize — the highest honor we give to a documentary photographer or filmmaker — was not created as a means to reward merely greatness of the individual, but greatness of the soul, of compassion, of an eyewitness that transcends well above the self. This year we honor Camille Lepage for her heart, for her transcendental work that rises above the personal to become iconic.
Mrs. Maryvonne Lepage accepted the Prize in Arles on 11 July 2014 on behalf of her slain daughter.