In September 2012 I had the privilege to meet in person some of the workers and directors behind the Kirkuk Center for Torture Victims. Kirkuk-center.org, as they state on their website, “is a human rights organization assisting traumatized victims of torture, persecution and violence in Iraq. We believe in a democratic society where the dignity of the human person is respected, where adults and children enjoy the right to life and liberty, and where citizens are free from torture and terror.”
At our initial meeting, we discussed the development of the “cover” for their upcoming annual report. In 2011 they had paid for a stock image that conveyed the idea of a victim of torture, but for 2012 they wanted something more real and directly connected to the people they have been serving in Iraq.
A few weeks later, I was brought to one of their centers where I met an incredible Kurdish woman, who had suffered throughout the years of war in Kurdish Iraq. My brief was to create a naturally-lit, black and white headshot. Instead of conveying sorrow, as their previous cover had done, they wanted to portray a more optimistic and hopeful vision, while avoiding the use of an obvious smile.
During the hour-long session, I was able to capture several different angles that could be used as a cover. We had such a great time with this resilient woman, that it was hard not to make her laugh. This remains an important personal lesson for me–to still have that much joy after going through so much.
Below you can see a contact sheet with selected images from the shoot, and the final image chosen by the organization. You’ll also see some snapshots made by a friend, of the Annual report, starting to circulate in Germany, throughout Europe, and of course in Iraq.
(And here you can download a PDF version of this annual report)