In 2016, the Powerses led a week-long photography workshop entitled Operation Goma in North Kivu, one of the most volatile provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Powers brothers traveled to North Kivu at the behest of Camme, a Congolese non-profit organization “providing education, entrepreneurship, and social services and life skills for children” in the DRC. Their goal was to provide a setting in which vulnerable young people could both share their stories and gain a new skill to enter the global marketplace. All proceeds from the exhibition will go directly to Camme, for the construction of a media building where workshops on photography and computer literacy will be held.
All the photographs in Lens on Life were taken by children who have been orphaned, abused, or otherwised victimized by the Second Congo War, which has claimed more than 5.4 million lives since 1998. Despite this, the images emphasize community rather than trauma. Social bonds take precedence over social disarray, challenging the traditional Western narrative about life in “war-torn Africa.” Though the poverty of the region is visible in many of the pictures, it is never more than backdrop to the images’ human subjects. People are depicted at work, at play, and at rest, and have a clear sense of agency in their representation. The images aren’t a kind of naive photojournalism, but, rather, an intimate portrait of individuals who are going about their lives in circumstances that are materially very different to most Westerners, but otherwise more familiar than we might have expected.
Operation Goma and others being run concurrently in the US will serve as litmus tests for the creation of a non-profit organization led by the Powerses. The organization's goal will be to scale the model used in the Congo to provide photographic training and raise the capital needed to purchase tools and run courses in photography and computer literacy within host organizations worldwide.
Operating since 2007, CAMME RDC (République Démocratique du Congo) has worked with more than 1,500 former child soldiers, street children, former sex workers, and other disadvantaged youth to help them develop their potential and become successful members of their community. Operating a pre- and elementary school, an agricultural training program, and an entrepreneurship workshop for older youth, CAMME is legally registered under the laws of the DRC, and is operated by a team of fifteen Congolese staff in Goma. Lens on Life project annual report can be found at 520 east 86th street 5B, NY, NY 10028 or by contacting the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10371.
CAMME USA is CAMME RDC's US-based affiliate. A registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit (EIN-45-3571880), CAMME USA works to support youth-focused organizations in the DRC, and to promote awareness of the challenges facing youth in a troubled region. Contributions to CAMME USA are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.