Sunday church service in the town of Drodro in eastern Congo's Ituri Province
In January 2020, after receiving the 11th Carmignac Photojournalism Award, British-Canadian photographer Finbarr O’Reilly began an ambitious project focusing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, O'Reilly was quickly forced to rethink his approach and instead launched Congo in Conversation – collaborative reportage produced in conjunction with Congolese photographers and journalists. A monograph of the work and an international exhibition followed.
As restrictions eased and borders reopened, O’Reilly resumed his work in the DRC, framing his series as an outsider’s view on a country in turmoil. The result is the French-English monograph Congo, A Sublime Struggle.
The work explores issues of security, human rights and the legacy of colonialism in the eastern DRC – and how these affect the environment. Its title is inspired by the independence speech on 30 June 1960 of Patrice Lumumba, the first president of the DRC, who was overthrown and killed by a firing squad seven months later.
O’Reilly, who lived for 12 years in West and Central Africa, spent two decades covering conflicts in Congo, Chad, Sudan, Afghanistan, Libya and Gaza. He is the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize exhibition photographer and contributes to the New York Times. His photography and multimedia work has earned industry honours including first place in the Portraits category at the 2019 World Press Photo Awards, and the World Press Photo of the Year in 2006.
Here, the Carmignac Photojournalism Award laureate shares some of his images from Congo, A Sublime Struggle.
Dorika, victim of sexual violence, North Kivu, January 2022
A diverted riverbank gold mine after heavy rain led to the mine being flooded overnight, Iga Barrière, Ituri Province, May 2021
Miners at a gold mine in Iga Barrière, Ituri Province, May 2021
People flee from the erupting Mount Nyiragongo volcano in Goma, North Kivu Province, May 2021
People run during a minor earthquake the morning after Mount Nyiragongo erupted for the first time in nearly two decades, Goma, North Kivu Province, May 2021
All images by Finbarr O’Reilly for Fondation Carmignac.
Congo, A Sublime Struggle is published in French and English by Reliefs/Fondation Carmignac on 22 June 2022.
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