26-year-old French Photojournalist Found Dead in Central African Republic

Camille Lepage in October 2013 in Bangui, Central African Republic. Photo AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui

Camille Lepage in October 2013 in Bangui, Central African Republic. Photo AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui

Camille Lepage, a photojournalist from Anvers, France was found dead in western Central African Republic (CAR) on May 13. The 26-year-old had been living in Africa for about a year and a half, in Juba and South Sudan, before her last project in the CAR. According to her final Instagram post, about a week before her death, Lepage had embedded with Anti Balaka Christian militia. Her work has been featured in many publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Le Monde and Libération.

The details surrounding her death remain unclear, but her body was found by French peacekeepers in a car that had been driven by Christian militia. President François Hollande has promised to use “all the means necessary to shed light on the circumstances of this assassination and to find her killers.” A French team of investigators has reportedly been sent to the scene.

Lepage studied journalism in the UK before deciding to focus on photography because, as she said in an interview with photography website PetaPixel, “What fascinates me about photography is its universal language. Unlike other media, anyone can understand a picture, feel it, it speaks to the viewers. I probably say that as I’m a photographer but I feel that picture you love lives in you, you can think about it and they get you where the photographer was, which is amazing.”

Lepage explained her choice to move to Africa as a choice to focus on “forgotten” people and causes. As she said, “I can’t accept that people’s tragedies are silenced simply because no one can make money out of them. I decided to do it myself, and bring some light to them no matter what.”

Lepage’s work is characterized by a proximity to her subjects, an intimacy to the moments she captures. As she said, “I want the viewers to feel what the people are going through, I’d like them to empathize with them as human beings, rather than seeing them as another bunch of Africans suffering from war somewhere in this dark continent. I wish they think [sic], ‘why on earth are those people in living hell, why don’t we know about it and why is no one doing anything?’ I would like the viewers to be ashamed of their government for knowing about it without doing anything to make it end.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 18 journalists have died this year in connection with their work, including Lepage. In 2013, the number was 99. According to Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, “We are greatly shocked by this tragic disappearance of a young journalist who showed extraordinary courage in her daily work. Her awful death shows the degree to which journalists are exposed to danger in their search for information, in CAR as in other sites of conflict.”

Lepage’s impressive portfolio remains available on her website: http://camille-lepage.photoshelter.com/#!/index.

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