Telling visual stories of social injustice

As a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times, Ms Barbara Davidson (above) spent two years documenting victims (left) affected by gang violence in the city.
As a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times, Ms Barbara Davidson spent two years documenting victims (above) affected by gang violence in the city.PHOTO: THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
As a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times, Ms Barbara Davidson (above) spent two years documenting victims (left) affected by gang violence in the city.
As a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times, Ms Barbara Davidson (above) spent two years documenting victims affected by gang violence in the city.PHOTO: THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Photojournalist Barbara Davidson has photographed Indian girls from a marginalised caste saved from prostitution and travelled to war-torn countries such as Afghanistan to cover the calamities brought on by armed conflict.

The three-time Pulitzer Prize winner will be in town today to give a talk on her experience documenting humanitarian crises in a career that has spanned two decades.

It is the social injustice in the world that spurs her to continue telling stories that are under-reported, says Ms Davidson, who was born and raised in Montreal, Canada.

"I am deeply troubled by the conditions that so many women and children live in around the world and it's a calling for me to shed light on their stories," she tells The Straits Times over e-mail.

Ms Davidson, who declined to give her age, has worked at several newspaper outlets in the United States and was most recently a staff photographer at The Los Angeles Times.

While working there, she spent two years documenting people affected by gang violence in the city. The work, Caught In The Crossfire, won her the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography.

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Ms Davidson says she is in tune with her emotions and those of the people she is photographing.

"I walk a fine line when I am covering sensitive stories and have to ensure I am not intrusive or a dignity robber. It's a delicate balance making sure I do not cause more pain to the people I am covering because of my presence," she says.

After a decade at The Los Angeles Times, she left the paper in 2017 and is now a freelance photojournalist and commercial photographer.

She has had the opportunity to work on advocacy projects and will tackle the issue of gun violence in the US in an upcoming project.

Ms Davidson was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship earlier this month and will use the grant earnings to travel across the US and take portraits of survivors of gun violence. She will document the process in a short film.

"Tragically, gun violence in the US has become normalised and I will demonstrate how wrong that is through my project," she says.

For Ms Davidson, her images and the lectures she delivers are ways to create awareness of the plight of "people who live extremely difficult lives".

"If I can inspire one person, even just one person, to then go out and make a positive difference in the world, I feel like I have done something meaningful."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline 'Telling visual stories of social injustice'. Print Edition | Subscribe