Men and Love : WILPF’s Second Photography Collaboration

2024

Image Credit: Micha Serraf

A visual, photographic exploration of sharing different visions about who, where, how and what men can and do love in these times of increasing conflict and polarisation.

Winner
Micha Serraf 

Micha Serraf (Zimbabwe) for his series of images which he describes as “attempting to find the means and the methods of conjuring what bell hooks refers to as ‘feminist masculinity’. A masculinity that is abundantly concerned with reciprocal coexistence with the community in which it exists. A masculinity that is abundantly concerned with the wellbeing of women, other men, queers, children, the environment, the past and a sustainable future. A gentle future – together, where soft is strong.” 

The jury was particularly impressed by Serraf’s powerful visual language and the unique way that he grappled with the theme of the collaboration.

My practice is centred around rewriting the trauma of displacement with the imagined memory of celebration, homage and childlike wonder. In pursuit of memory, identity and a place to call home, my work is grounded in a nostalgia of personal and ancestral experience, of what never was, and of what could have been; caught in an entanglement between ancestral history and utopic optimism. My work is often informed by memories I have from when I was a child in Zimbabwe and my endeavour to understand the deep nostalgia I feel toward the seemingly unfamiliar. To push a more celebratory narrative that is fuelled by the unshakable belief in an abundance, where the often-imposed political narrative takes second chair to that of our lived experience.

First Runner-up
Matthieu Paley

Matthieu Paley (France) for his series of portraits of Sufi pilgrims in Pakistan in which he walked on ancient trials with sufi pilgrims who called themselves warriors of love.

“This series is a personal exploration of the yet unexplored crack in the male psyche, the shadow of the feminine. As a photographer, experimenting beyond my documentary work, I saw an ecstatic joy in these men that mesmerised me and rings deep into my own sensitive core.

Exploring this feminine shadow, I witnessed courage and kindness. To be a male embracing this softness, to let oneself inhabit that sacred space, that in-betweenness, I see as a powerful act of strength and humanity, not sexuality.

Muscles may contract in front of the camera, the chest puffs up, the eyes pierce through a serious brow … is this the ego playing tricks? The attempt to look strong exposes something much deeper, a vulnerability, a beautiful strength.

Looking more closely, the men soften, answering to an earlier stage of innocence, of unconditional love, when they once sat on the lap of their mothers.

All images were made in Pakistan and the quotes are from the people portrayed.”

In this video, Matthieu Paley, speaks about his images and what drove him to join the Sufi pilgrimage.

Since his first assignment in Bhutan in 1999, Matthieu Paley has traveled the world for National Geographic. After crossing Mongolia on foot, he set out to walk through Pakistan’s Hindukush mountains, eventually crossing into Afghanistan to document, for over a decade, the life of a nomadic group living at high altitudes in extreme isolation. The recipient of numerous awards, he has published several books of his work and his fine art images have been exhibited in galleries worldwide as well as in museums.

Inspired by years of documenting traditional self-sufficient communities all over the world, Matthieu started his own large scale food forest and planted over 1500 trees and counting. He currently lives off the grid in Portugal.

Over the course of his career, Matthieu has learned seven languages, including Urdu. Speaking the language fulfills his passion to truly connect with the people he meets and aids him to instill a sense of intimacy and collaboration in his work.

You can follow his work on his Instagram page @paleyphoto

Second Runner-up
Cem Genco

Cem Genco ( Turkey) for a single image in a series showing a Syrian couple supporting each other in the wake of the wife losing her legs while living under bombardment in Syria. 

Artist Statement

“Azim Elvan looks after his wife, who lives in the deepest depths of the war. I wanted to show that we should not leave our spouses and loved ones alone during war or at any time.”

In this video, Cem Genco speaks about the impact of his work on the couple in his image.

Born in Hatay in 1986, Cem Genco has been working at Anadolu Agency since 2009. As a war photojournalist, he worked in Syria, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

He witnessed human tragedies in Ethiopia and Somalia and was following the Operation Olive Branch organized in the region the refugee influx in Syria, the de-escalation zone in Idlib, the Aleppo operations, the Cilvegözü explosion in which 17 people lost their lives, and the Reyhanlı explosion. As a photojournalist, he strives to capture the most beautiful photos. Through his eyes, people see the drama and brutality of the events taking place all over the world. He was nominated for a Pulitzer with the photograph he took in Reyhanlı in 2014 as an explosion took the lives of 53 people. He has won many awards in international photography competitions. He now continues his profession in Ankara.

Honourable mention

Slava Novikov (Russia) for his single image entitled ‘Inseparable’ expressing love at times of conflict and hardship.

Honourable mention

Mouneb Taim for his single image taken amidst ruins in Syria.

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Thank you!

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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