© André François, The Syngenta Photography Award 2013
I have been a professional photographer for over 20 years. Among all my works, health documentaries have been my main focus for the last few years. In 1995 I started ImageMagica, an organization that works with photography as a tool of social transformation. In the last 8 years I have made documentaries about health in Brazil and I’ve been in several hospitals, health centers and people’s houses. It’s always a wonderful experience to hear the stories of the people I meet and it’s a very important part of the job.
As an independent project, in 2008 I started a worldwide documentary about access to health and quality of life called Life Project. My main goal is to document positive health initiatives to inspire people around the world.
For this project, I travelled to several countries, including Cambodia, Haiti, United States, Japan, Canada (Nunavut), South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda, amongst others. Such trips are not always easy. To make them possible I count on my team’s work production and also on the support of the local and international organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, Unicef and the United Nations.
The photos selected by Syngenta Photography Award were made in Kenya (Nairobi), an amazing country where I had the opportunity to meet a very special group in Kibera and Mukuru’s slums.
In those slums, as in many others around the world, food security and access to water are important issues. The work that I’ve found was begun by the organization Solidarités International and its changing lives of these communities.
Solidarités International trains people of the community to teach families how to produce their own food at home. They grow vegetables in a gardening sack, using a technique called vertical agriculture, which improves the productivity in a small space. The most impressive aspect of this project, for me, was its simplicity, because this kind of agriculture relies on very little water, only a small amount of land and cheap materials. Importantly, everyone can grow vegetables on their own backyard and do not require any specific knowledge.
Another interesting aspect of this initiative is that, besides improving the families’ diet and health, by growing their own food, the people of the communities can also sell the vegetables they don’t consume and get income to invest into a better quality of life. It was very special for me to have the opportunity to see this transformation happening in the middle of Africa.
That’s what Life Project is about: to find and document simple and creative initiatives that help people’s lives and can be reproduced anywhere. By showing this to the world, my intention is to inspire people from different places to make the necessary changes in their own communities in order to have a better and healthier life.
André François, president and founder of ImageMagica NGO, has been making photographic documentaries for 20 years. In 1992, he published his first photography book: São Thomé das Letras. He is the founder of the NGO ImageMagica (www.imagemagica.org), an organization created in 1995 with the mission of using photography as an instrument of social transformation, especially in the area of health and education.
Since 2005 he has been photographing subjects related to health. André has visited more than 100 hospitals and health centers all around Brazil, each with its own reality, to register special actions of great caregivers as well as people searching for access to health. The photographer has four books released: Caring; The curve and the path; Choosing and Living; and Back Home.
Throughout these projects, André François’ images were distributed to health professionals, students, journalists and the results are clear: encouragement of humanization groups inside hospitals, institutions (both national and international), as well as material for health classes, conference presentations and mobilization for new actions and resources.
By the end of 2008, the contact with many international organizations such as the UN (United Nations), WHO (World Health Organization), Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, among others, showed that those issues are not only a Brazilian matter: access to health and humanization are issues that concern WHO as fundamental concepts to think about health promotion in all regions of the world. Therefore, André started his worldwide project called Life Project – A photo-documentary (www.imagemagica.org/lifeproject/) about world health, a global work which discusses how important promoting health and life quality is by documenting positive initiatives in different countries.
Still in development, the project already documented the Indigenous community of the Yanomami, situated at the North of Brazil; Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia; the Nunavut territory in Canada's far North, where the Inuit community lives; Haiti, after the earthquake that devastated the country in January 2010; the neighborhood of Queens in New York with a large concentration of people from all over the world; Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the country in 2011 and in Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Ruanda and Burundi), documenting projects related to HIV, malaria, TB and food security.