A few months ago, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) unveiled the winners of its first photography contest exploring militarized masculinities and alternatives. The competition is part of a program called “Countering Weaponized Masculinities: Mobilizing Men for Feminist Peace”.
This year’s winner is Colombian photographer Carolina Navas Gutiérrez. She won for her project “Nos miran” (which translates to “They are watching us”), which she describes in these terms:
“My series of portraits of young Afro-Colombians reveals how, through dance and music, they confront a reality fraught with violence, lack of opportunity and abandonment. I fixed my gaze on the men, because they are the ones who make up the majority of the armed groups such as the army, the paramilitaries, the common criminals or the guerrillas who have a strong presence in Tumaco, one of the municipalities most violent in Colombia.
“In this hostile context, these young artists are like flowers in the desert. There is a lot of talk about the problem of drug trafficking in the world and the damage that drugs cause to young people in first world countries. Little or nothing is said about the thousands of young Colombians who suffer from violence, poverty and fear linked to drug trafficking. For me, it is important to contribute in some way to making this problem visible and to remember the communities that find their own ways to resist the hostile contexts in which they have lived.
In addition to the main award, WILPF announced that two photographers received honorable mentions: Lauren Justice and Pedram Pirnia. The Justice Project is a collection of portraits and interviews with perpetrators of domestic violence as well as their counsellor, titled “What Would I Have Done If I Killed Her That Night?” Pirnia, a former aid worker, won recognition for a single image from Afghanistan titled “Classroom with a Gun”.
This competition comes at a time when the notion of militarized masculinities demands new examination, particularly in the wake of the war in Ukraine and the relentless gun violence in the United States. As Jury President Pete Muller said, “The relationship between masculinity and violence is more pressing than ever. We need a meaningful and complex conversation about this. I think this competition helps move the discourse forward.
Alongside National Geographic’s Muller, this year’s jury was photojournalist Donna Ferrato, Washington Post photographer jahi chikwendiu, National Geographic Latin America manager Gael Almeida, Time magazine’s Paul Moakley, Atlantic visual editor Monthly Jehan Jillani and concept artist Tasha Dougé.
Each of this year’s winners will receive a financial contribution which will be showcased at an exhibition of their work later this year.
WILPF is the oldest women’s peacebuilding organization in the world, with secretariats in Geneva and New York and incorporated member organizations in nearly 50 countries. WILPF plays a leadership role in feminist movements around the world, especially those working to resolve conflict and promote peace. In recent years, WILPF has increased its focus on mobilizing men for feminist peace in collaboration with the MenEngage Alliance.
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