TIME On Our Radar

French Photographer Wins 2015 Remi Ochlik Award

Edouard Elias won for his work on the French Foreign Legion in Central African Republic

French photographer Edouard Elias has won this year’s Rémi Ochlik Award, which comes with a 8,000 Euro cash prize.

Named after a photographer who was killed in a rocket attack in Homs, Syria, in 2012, the Rémi Ochlik Award is given each year to a young photojournalist who has produced an extensive photo essay. Elias won for his work in the Central African Republic, where he followed 20 men from the French Foreign Legion.

“The subjects of these photographs are important to me,” Elias tells TIME. “I’ve developed a strong relationship with them and I have to say that my first reaction when I learned I had won was to call them. They were delighted because we’re going to be able to talk about them and the work they’ve done in Central African Republic.”

Elias first went to the Central African Republic in August of 2014, a few months after sectarian violence claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people. He had seen the work of photographers such as William Daniels and Michael Zumstein, who had also covered the conflict, and wanted to cover the tense situation in the country from a new angle. “I thought I would embed with the French army because it hadn’t been done before,” he says. “Randomly, I ended up with the French Foreign Legion. At first, I thought I would look at France’s military engagement in the country but, in the end, my work changed and became about these men. I didn’t expect them to welcome me the way they did. We developed a real relationship to the point that they forgot I was a photographer. I was able to document their lives.”

With his photographs, Elias isn’t claiming to explain what happened in the Central African Republic. “It’s really about the way 20 men live in a section of the French Foreign Legion. It’s intemporal. I wasn’t interested in the fights, the war. I was interested in their private lives — in the times in-between.”

Elias has continued to follow these men, spending Christmas with them. In August, he will visit them again at their base in Nimes, France. “Again, I will be looking for photographs that show their lives; I’ll be looking for the human side.”

Elias will receive his award at this year’s Visa pour l’Image photojournalism festival.

Edouard Elias is a French freelance photographer.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME On Our Radar

Marcus Bleasdale Wins Robert Capa Gold Medal

“This is a war about corruption, it’s a war about poverty, it’s a war about misrule, mismanagement, bad governance"

Early one morning in December 2013, in the town of Bossangoa, less than 200 miles northwest of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, photographer Marcus Bleasdale was documenting the plight of nomadic Muslim herders who had recently been attacked by predominantly Christian fighters.

One of them had been struck by a bullet and needed immediate medical attention. Bleasdale assisted in taking him to the hospital for treatment, but rather than stay there, the man wanted to rejoin his family. When they returned to drop him off, the town had completely changed.

“I’ve been in a couple of attacks in these small towns over the years in Central Africa, and it’s very easy to see that the population is acutely aware of what’s about to happen,” Bleasdale told TIME in a recent interview. “The houses have been closed up, the businesses have been closed up, there wasn’t a single person on the road,” he continued. “As we were driving away, the attack started. We could hear the guns starting just to our left and right.”

The group immediately went to a nearby African Union base to find shelter. “We saw thousands of people from the city running towards this compound,” Bleasdale recalled. “It was a matter of 30 minutes before we realized this was a countrywide, coordinated attack.”

The scenes that day, which Bleasdale called “desperately sad,” played out across Central African Republic, the landlocked former French colony of some 4.5 million people in the heart of the continent. Two days of unprecedented bloodshed between the largely Muslim Séléka fighters and anti-balaka militias—comprised of Christians, animists and ex-soldiers—would leave hundreds dead in the capital and many more across the country, rocketing the conflict into the international spotlight and prompting an influx of foreign troops to try and tamp down the violence.

In January 2014, after the country’s self-installed Muslim leader stepped down and Séléka went into retreat, what Bleasdale called an “uneasy peace” that lasted just a few weeks gave way to an “all-out attack” on the largely Muslim population that was remaining. An unstable security situation since then has kept the country and its people in limbo.

“This is not a religious war,” he said. “This is a war about corruption, it’s a war about poverty, it’s a war about misrule, mismanagement, bad governance.”

For his work, commissioned by Human Rights Watch, Foreign Policy and National Geographic, Bleasdale has been named the latest recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal by the Overseas Press Club of America. It’s the first time the Medal has been bestowed on a photographer for work produced, in part, for a non-governmental organization.

Read: Magnum Photographer Jerome Sessini Wins Olivier Rebbot Award

The award, named after famed war photographer Robert Capa, who died after stepping on a land mine in Indochina in 1954, is among the industry’s most prestigious and honors the “best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise.”

Previous recipients have included Larry Burrows of LIFE and Horst Faas of the Associated Press for their coverage during the Vietnam War; James Nachtwey for stories in Lebanon, El Salvador and South Africa; Getty Images photographer John Moore after the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan; and Carolyn Cole of the Los Angeles Times for work on Iraq and Liberia.

For his part, Bleasdale recognizes the company he’s in. “That’s really what went through my mind a little bit when I found out that I’d been honored,” he said. But he quickly noted that his work would not have been possible without his team, including loyal fixers and drivers, and especially Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.

Bleasdale’s career in photojournalism began in the late 1990s, documenting the war fueled by diamonds in Sierra Leone. From there, he pivoted to Central Africa and specifically began to focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo and how natural resources were being used to finance the conflict there.

Documenting the shift and struggle over money and natural resources in developing nations is a natural fit for Bleasdale. He studied business during his university years, focusing on economics and finance, and then spent nearly a decade as an investment banker.

“I tend to still kind of have this economic training in my mind when I work as a photographer and specifically when I work covering conflict,” he says. “When I document conflict, I don’t necessarily document the conflict itself but I try to look at the economics behind the war, and what is financing it.”

Bleasdale hopes to return to Central African Republic within the next few months, with an aim to focus on real life beyond the horror. “I have a lot more work to do there.”

TIME Behind the Photos

Back and Forth in Central African Republic’s Unholy War

One photographer's year-long look at the unending cycle of death and uncertainty in a country mostly neglected by the international community

That Central African Republic even managed to squeeze into last year’s news cycle is a grim feat. After all, it was stacked against heavyweights like the July downing of a Malaysian jet over eastern Ukraine, protests across the U.S. over several police killings of unarmed black men, an unprecedented Ebola outbreak, as well as a summer war in Israel and Gaza.

Each of those stories, and many others of similar intensity, commanded audiences around the world for their mystery or shock or tragedy or absurdity. And, notably, for their visuals.

The same could be said for the conflict in Central African Republic, which saw some of the darkest days of its independence last year as it struggled to rebound from a coup a year earlier. Among those who committed to documenting the spiral is French photographer William Daniels, who has made some half a dozen trips there over 14 months.

Daniels was initially drawn to Central African Republic because of its unknown complexities and absence in most mainstream media. Landlocked with 4.6 million people, it lies at the center of a bad neighborhood. Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congo are at its south; Cameroon is to the west; Chad and Sudan are to the north; and to the east is a long border with South Sudan, where, away from most front pages of global news outlets, a raging civil war has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

It was March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim rebel coalition Séléka swept into the riverside capital, Bangui, from the northeast. President François Bozizé fled as a vicious campaign of looting, torture and murder got underway. Séléka leader Michel Djotodia soon proclaimed himself the successor; he would later lose control of his ranks and an attempt that fall to disband them would do little to stop the atrocities.

At the same time, groups of militias called anti-balaka had begun to form and train and retaliate against Séléka. Their name in the local Sango language means “anti-machete”; their fighters are comprised of ex-soldiers, Christians and animists, who think magic will protect them. They’re adorned with amulets to ward off attacks and fight with hunting rifles, poison-tipped arrows and machetes.

Months of tit-for-tat attacks led to two days of street warfare that December, leaving hundreds dead in the capital and an international community scrambling to react. France swiftly approved a contingent of troops to restore order in its former colony; the soldiers were named “Sangaris,” after a butterfly in the region with a short life-span. Some 5,600 peacekeepers from the African Union deployed around that same time.

MORE: Bloodshed in Bangui: A Day That Will Define Central African Republic

But the intervention would do little at first to quell the violence. Some critics called the French operation too narrow for its focus on Séléka when anti-balaka shared blame. At the start of 2014, with the retreat of Séléka into the east and resignation of Djotodia, who would be succeeded by popular Bangui Mayor Catherine Samba-Panza, anti-balaka began to fill the void. Their retaliation in some cases would eclipse the brutality of what prompted them to assemble.

Reports of atrocities would soon build up, as experts and journalists warned of whole Muslim villages being looted and torched, with their residents being forced to seek refuge in churches, schools and medical clinics. Hundreds of thousands would flee into neighbors like Chad and Cameroon.

A recent United Nations report found that anti-balaka had carried out the ethnic cleansing of the country’s Muslim minority. As many as 6,000 people had died in the conflict so far, but “such estimates fail to capture the full magnitude of the killings that occurred.” The commission couldn’t conclude that there was a genocide but made clear that both Séléka and anti-balaka were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

All year, Daniels aimed to unravel the tale of how a people who historically hadn’t seen violence along sectarian lines devolved into just that: Muslims and Christians, neighbors, turning on each other because they shared the holy beliefs of those who attacked them, looted and burned down their home, or killed members of their family.

The implosion of the conflict allowed him to dig deeper each time he returned. After covering the more newsworthy unrest in late 2013, he flew back several times last year to bear witness to the grim aftermath.

In February, he recorded the violent assault by anti-balaka on Muslim communities. In April, he documented the exodus out of the country and violence in Grimari, a small town near Bambari that lies at the entrance to Ouaka region. While on assignment then for Al Jazeera America, he captured the plight of refugees trapped in a Muslim enclave, and in September he got a peek inside Séléka.

Daniels admits that the balance of keeping to the news while going below the surface to probe the conflict’s tangled roots has been a challenge.

“It’s difficult to shoot daily life in the street in this country,” he says during a call from Bangui in December. “It was difficult before and it’s much worse now because as soon as you show your camera, someone will get upset and someone will ask ‘what are you doing?’ and someone will ask for money. It’s a nightmare and very, very uncomfortable.”

BanguiA Christian man is destroying burn out cars in rage, next to a looted mosque that was set on fire earlier, in the capital Bangui.
William Daniels—Panos A Christian man destroys burnt out cars in rage, next to a looted mosque that had been set ablaze. Bangui, Central African Republic. Dec. 10, 2013.

Returning to Central African Republic as much as he did last year allowed him to gauge any progress.

The overall security situation in Bangui was less tense in December than early fall, with more shops and markets open for business and more people back at work, he says. “Each time I come back, it’s a bit more.” In the capital, for example, where in late 2013 he photographed a man filled with rage destroying a burnt out car next to a looted mosque, a basketball court now stands in its place.

“It’s becoming better in places like Bangui but that doesn’t mean it’s better everywhere,” he says. “And there’s still a potential in many places for a big explosion of violence.” A U.N. mission took over from the African Union force in September and France plans to withdraw 1,200 troops—”we allowed this country—one of the poorest in the world—to begin healing,” President François Hollande said—but bouts of inter-communal violence still flare up often.

Thirty percent of the country’s population is considered as being in “a moderate to severe food security situation,” the U.N. said on Jan. 13, and 440,000 people are still internally displaced. More jobs are needed, too, especially for youths. A recent report by Save the Children estimates that some 6,000 to 10,000 boys and girls were part of armed groups, well above the 2,500 thought to be involved at the start of the conflict. And elections, originally scheduled for February, have now been delayed to at least summer.

It’s that grim assurance of uncertainty and global neglect, in part, that will keep him going back. Support from grants and hefty stipends helps. In September, Daniels received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography. (Disclosure: This reporter helped shape his entry essay.) And in December, he was named the 2014 recipient of the Tim Hetherington Grant by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch.

Daniels continues to see the challenge of documenting the personal impact of the country’s strife. It’s easy to get aggravated at the scenes witnessed, but it’s his recognition that it’ll take time, and patience, and a lot more aid, to turn things around that keeps him grounded and motivated. He may return as early as next month.

“It would be pretentious to say that my pictures could completely change the situation,” he says. “But I think it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening here. I think it’s important to keep testifying.”

William Daniels is a Paris-based photographer represented by Panos Pictures.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME.

Andrew Katz is a homepage editor and reporter covering international affairs at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

TIME central african republic

One of Joseph Kony’s Top Commanders Just Surrendered to U.S./African Union

The leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels Joseph Kony (seated C), surrounded by his officers, addresses his first news conference in 20 years of rebellion in Nabanga, Sudan, on Aug. 1, 2006.
Adam Pletts—Reuters The leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army rebels Joseph Kony (seated C), surrounded by his officers, addresses his first news conference in 20 years of rebellion in Nabanga, Sudan, on Aug. 1, 2006.

Dominic Ongwen could have information about the movements of Joseph Kony

At 10 he was forced to become a child soldier and he rose to become a commander of child soldiers. Now Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army [LRA], a cult-like rebel group that started in Uganda, has surrendered to members of a joint military task force run by the United States and the African Union.

According to U. S. State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, U.S. officials have yet to confirm that Ongwen, who declared his defection from the group in the Central African Republic on Tuesday, is who he says he is, but Ugandan army spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda trumpeted a rare success in the region-wide hunt for the group best known for amputating the limbs of detractors and turning young children into soldiers and sex slaves. “This is great news,” says Kasper Agger, the Uganda-based field researcher for the Enough Project, a Washington D.C.- based human rights advocacy organization that has been tracking the Lords Resistance Army across Uganda, South Sudan, Congo and the Central African Republic. But whether or not Ongwen’s defection will lead to the eventual capture of Kony “is the million dollar question,” says Agger. “We can hope that he has vital information to share, but nailing down Kony at a specific time and place is still very difficult.”

According to Psaki, the defection of Ongwen, 35, would “represent a historic blow to the LRA’s command structure.” Ongwen, who was abducted by the LRA on his way to school according to Agger of the Enough Project, quickly made his way up the ranks to become a brigade commander, collecting multiple charges of grievous human rights abuses along the way. In 2005 the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted Ongwen for seven counts of crimes against humanity including murder, pillaging and enslavement.

Ongwen’s defection, says Agger, may be a sign of weakening leadership within the organization, but it is also possible that the commander may have had a falling out with Kony and was in fact fleeing for his life. “We do know that he had been increasingly marginalized over the past few years,” says Agger, but Kony also has a tendency to pull commanders back into the fold as younger, less experienced soldiers die off. “So he could still have some useful information.” Ongwen’s defection may be a “victory along the road” says Agger, but it is no reason to rest in the hunt for Kony. “If anything, it’s an encouragement to keep up the pressure, to make sure that we see this through to the end, and that the Lords Resistance Army is truly finished.”

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 6, 2015

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Marcus Bleasdale‘s work from Central African Republic for an in-depth account of the country’s spiral into bloodshed by Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, with whom the photographer has covered the country since November 2013. The most recent conflict erupted after the now-disbanded Séléka coalition of Muslim rebels ousted the Christian president in early 2013 and began a vicious campaign of looting, torture and murder, mostly against non-Muslims. Two days of street violence in December 2013 left hundreds dead and shocked the global community into action, with French and African peacekeepers sent in to restore security. But the retaliation by armed militia groups known as anti-balaka bred even more death and, in many cases, targetted the Muslim minority, prompting an exodus into the eastern region and neighboring countries. Bleasdale’s images provide an important and harrowing documentation of turmoil that has, in recent months, largely been ignored.

Marcus Bleasdale: The Unravelling – Journey Through The Central African Republic Crisis (Human Rights Watch)

Lucas Jackson: U.S. Military’s Last Days of Combat in Afghanistan (TIME.com) The Reuters photographer documented the final days of the U.S.’s official combat campaign in the country

The Influencers: Lynsey Addario (American Photo) The magazine features Addario as one of the five most influential photographers of the last 25 years

2014 The Year in Pictures (The New York Times) See also the Lens blog article, Choosing the Pictures of the Year, in which photo editors Meagham Looram and Jeffrey Scales explain the thinking behind the selection

Cartier-Bresson’s classic is back – but his Decisive Moment has passed (The Guardian) Sean O’Hagan writes somewhat critically about the re-printing of Cartier-Bresson’s seminal book, six decades on

TIME central african republic

Hundreds of Muslims Are Trapped in Enclaves in the Central African Republic

Those trapped "face a grim choice: leave and face possible attack from anti-balaka fighters, or stay and die from hunger and disease," reports HRW

Hundreds of Muslims are trapped in enclaves in atrocious conditions in the Central African Republic, fearing attacks if they leave and blocked from fleeing abroad by the interim government, reports Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Those trapped in some of the enclaves face a grim choice: leave and face possible attack from anti-balaka fighters, or stay and die from hunger and disease,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at HRW. “The government’s policy of no evacuations is absolutely indefensible.”

HRW also deplore U.N. peacekeepers for alleged complicity in hindering Muslims to seek safety. Camp leaders in the western Muslim enclaves of Yaloké, Carnot and Boda told researchers earlier this month that an estimated 1,750 people, many of them ethnic Peuhl herders, are desperate to flee.

Most of the Muslims in the west of the country escaped brutal attacks by Christian and animist anti-balaka militants between late 2013 and early 2014. More than 5,000 people were killed between December 2013 and September this year, the Associated Press reports.

TIME On Our Radar

William Daniels Wins 2014 Tim Hetherington Grant

The photographer has spent the last year documenting the impact of strife in Central African Republic

French photographer William Daniels, a frequent contributor to TIME, was named the 2014 recipient of the Tim Hetherington Grant by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch on Thursday for his ongoing work in Central African Republic.

His project, titled “Roots of Africa’s Unholy War,” was chosen from 198 applicants. The annual honor, established after Hetherington, a British photojournalist and filmmaker died in April 2011 while covering the conflict in Libya, comes with a €20,000 prize that allows the recipient to continue a project focused on human rights issues.

Daniels has made several trips over more than a year to Central African Republic to document the effects of unprecedented violence after the Séléka coalition of mainly Muslim rebels seized power in March 2013. The move bred political chaos and ignited a vicious revenge from armed groups of predominantly Christian and animist fighters called anti-balaka. Last December, two days of street violence left hundreds dead around the capital, Bangui, and forced the global community to respond.

MORE: Bloodshed in Bangui: A Day That Will Define Central African Republic

Throughout the next year, deadly tension pushed much of the country’s Muslim minority into the eastern region or beyond the borders. Rights groups warned of ethnic cleansing as French and African peacekeepers have struggled to contain the violence.

Daniels has balanced keeping up with the news while also investigating the roots of the conflict. The commitment he and other photographers have made to bearing witness — amid huge news draws like the war in eastern Ukraine, ISIS and wrath of Ebola in West Africa — was a main factor in keeping Central African Republic on the radar.

In September, Daniels received the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography for the same work. Based in Paris, he has devoted his career to documenting humanitarian and social issues, from disease in Africa and Asia, to the unrest in Libya, to the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 5, 2014

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Andrew Quilty‘s work on Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan. Some 100,000 civilians fled the Pakistani military’s offensive against insurgents in North Waziristan this past summer by seeking shelter across the border in Afghanistan. More than 3,000 families ended up at the Gulan Refugee Camp in Gurbuz District in Khost, only to find out another danger was lurking underneath their feet. It turned out the camp is located above a decades old minefield from the time muhajideen were fighting the Russians. Quilty’s compelling photographs capture these unfortunate refugees haunted by weapons of an old war.


Andrew Quilty: Finding Refuge on a Mine Field (Foreign Policy)

William Daniels: Fighting Over the Spoils of War in Central African Republic (Al Jazeera America) These photographs show how natural riches play a part in the conflict often seen purely in ethnic terms | Part of a series of posts on Central African Republic.

Best Photos of the Year 2014 (Reuters)

War’s effect on peace is examined in new Tate show (Phaidon) Tate Modern curator Shoair Mavlian talks about the new exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography.

Elena Chernyshova (Verve Photo) The World Press Photo award-winning Russian photographer writes about one of her photographs from Norilsk.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Bill Gates has some notes for Thomas Piketty: Tackle income inequality by taxing consumption, not capital.

By Bill Gates in Gates Notes

2. Thousands have died as Central African Republic slides toward civil war, but media coverage is scant. Is there an empathy gap?

By Jared Malsin in the Columbia Journalism Review

3. Europe’s apprentice model isn’t a perfect fit for U.S. manufacturing, but it could change the way we train a new generation of blue-collar workers.

By Tamar Jacoby in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

4. Ebola may be gruesome but it’s not the biggest threat to Africa.

By Fraser Nelson in the Guardian

5. In dry California, regulators are using an innovative pricing scheme to push conservation.

By Sarah Gardner at Marketplace

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME the backstory

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 17, 2014

Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Jehad Nga’s gloomy work from the conflict-ravaged Central African Republic, shot on assignment for The New Yorker. The photographs of the warring parties and the plight of civilians capture a bleak portrait of a country at its worst hour.


Jehad Nga: Central African Republic (The New Yorker Photo Booth)

Nadav Kander: Dust (Wired Raw File) The work on the ruins of the Soviet era’s secret cities is worth viewing again.

Aaron Huey: Sherpa Pride and Sacrifice (National Geographic) Series on Nepal’s brave Sherpa.

Joseph Sywenkyj Wins W. Eugene Smith Grant (TIME LightBox) The American photographer won the prestigious grant for his work documenting the lives of families affected by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Davide Monteleone (British Journal of Photography) The photographer talks about his Chechnya work.

Diana Markosian (Open Society Foundations) Markosian speaks about documenting Chechen women.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.


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