#RESIST by NOOR
“Our images have been our form of resistance. We create them with a shared respect for the courage and humanity of those fighting to live free and fair lives everywhere”.
Banner image: SOS South Side, USA, 2012 © Jon Lowenstein / NOOR. “While this picture is subdued – the subjects of the photograph were anything but subdued. Each man represented a passion for humanity that was unbridled and displayed through their ultimate sacrifice that heart, ideals and a willingness to put your life on the line for a cause is what a human life is to be measured by” – Jon Lowenstein
Since NOOR Photo Agency was founded in 2007, it has been dedicated to covering the struggles for human rights and social justice that exist around the world. From wars in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria, to racial discrimination in the USA, via global warming and rising sea levels, modern day slavery and diamond mining, the fourteen NOOR photographers have unrelentingly shone a light on the world’s inequalities and prejudices, seizing the power of photography for social awareness and change. The word ‘NOOR is in fact Arabic for light – a reference to both the process of image-making, and ideas of education, understanding and hope.
To celebrate their tenth anniversary and to reaffirm their principles of amplifying crucial issues, they are sharing #RESIST – a curated group print sale, featuring thirteen images that represent resistance; each a reminder of that fact that resistance can take many forms, and an affirmation of the power of standing up against authoritarianism, racism and oppression.
To support NOOR’s efforts, we share a Q&A with the Managing Director Clement Saccomani, and a few of the stories behind the #RESIST images. Prints are priced at a very reasonable €100, and the sale ends on 16 February, so get in there quick!
F*ck the KKK, USA, 1990 © Nina Berman / NOOR
“When the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist terrorist organization, decided to march around a baseball field in a small town in southern New Jersey, a crowd of protestors showed up to resist. As the KKK donned their white robes and waved their confederate flags, the protesting crowd, led by many black high school students, pushed the Klan behind the ball field fence and into the wooden bleachers. The Klan grew frightened and weak as the protesters outnumbered them. Chanting with righteous anger and moral authority, these teenagers drove the racist hate mongers off the field and out of town. It was my privilege to witness this beautiful moment of resistance when young people stood up for their ancestors and their own dignity.” – Nina Berman
Clement, tell us a little about how NOOR began…
NOOR started 10 years ago in September 2007 in Perpignan during Visa pour l’Image Festival. Samantha Appleton, Jodi Bieber, Philip Blenkinsop, Pep Bonet, Jan Grarup, Stanley Greene, Yuri Kozyrev, Kadir van Lohuizen, Francesco Zizola and Claudia Hinterseer agreed that together they were able to “make changes” through photography, making stories that would impact humanity. They decided to unite their individual visions and reflections and they founded their own agency to have full control of their professional lives and to be able to carry on pursuing their projects, and to strengthen their ability to work independently. NOOR is a family, a family of light, a place where they can safely pool their resources. Today, 10 years after, we still strongly believe that some things simply need to be seen.
What does your role as Managing Director at NOOR entail?
My role is to make it happen. NOOR Individuals are visual story-tellers, photographers, film-makers, writers, artists using photographs, videos, drone footage, 360 cameras, sounds and writing to see, to document, to investigate, and to witness our world. My mission is to make sure that NOOR helps, hosts and supports each author’s needs, wishes and aims in order for them to produce, to work, and to express their creativity. I am a lucky man.
Kalone, Sierra Leone, 2003 © Pep Bonet / NOOR
“Kalone is a football player from the National amputee football Team in Sierra Leone. He is stretching while training on the beach. The football team is entirely made up of players with one leg and goal keepers with one arm. Amputated by machetes of the Revolutionary United Front, they are residents of the Murray Town amputees’ camp, which is home to victims of rebel atrocities committed during the civil war. Resist. Supposed to be outcasted by society and left aside, they resist to their destiny and to the aftermath of a 10-year war. Resistance is what made them stronger human beings. Resist. For some people there is no other choice than to resist.” – Pep Bonet
Javelin team practices along side the Separation Wall, Occupied Palestinian Territories, 2013 © Tanya Habjouqa / NOOR
“The West Bank institution often finds itself a focal point of violent clashes between Palestinian students and Israeli soldiers, with Israeli forces regularly storming university campuses across the occupied Palestinian territory. Students say a good day is not breathing tear gas, and experience incursions at minimum every few months. The ability to find pleasure can be a form of resistance … the human spirit cannot just live on misery and drama. These “amazon warriors” stopped me in my tracks watching their grace and fierceness as they practiced along the wall. There is a tension and even aggression on the edge of daily life for the students. And it is beautiful to see them rise above it.” – Tanya Habjouqa
How do you work with the 14 NOOR photographers? How does being part of an agency benefit them?
This is a good question. Well, basically, there is one rule and 14 exceptions and that’s the challenge of working with such amazing individuals. Each of the NOOR photographers has a clear vision of what and how she or he wants and what she or he needs. Being part of NOOR helps them to focus on their stories and commitments, and we as staff take care of the rest, making sure their only priority is to be able to work and inform us on what’s going on in the best possible conditions.
Photography is generally a solitary pursuit and so I love that NOOR supports group projects as well as individual ones. Can you tell us about one or two of those, and how does a group project work in practice?
I think Consequences and Solutions, two group projects on Climate Change from a few years ago were amazing projects. I remember looking at those projects from the outside and telling myself “Damn, they are good and smart!”. Thanks to NIKON, our main and great sponsor, photographers have been able to work together on strong and important stories such as climate change, food, modern slavery etc. I believe NOOR has a collective intelligence and smartness and every time photographers work together, something good happens. #Resist is the perfect example on how the group can come up with great ideas and all together, we make it happen.
Resisting the Belo Monte Dam, Brazil, 2012 © Yuri Kozyrev / NOOR
“On Tuesday 9 October, 2012, around 80 “warriors” in full war paint and armed with bows and arrows, clubs and lances occupied a construction site for the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon in Brazil. In a cloak-and-dagger operation, the native Indians stormed the Pimental cofferdam, chased off around 900 construction workers and took control of a large number of trucks and Caterpillar construction vehicles.” – Yuri Kozyrev
Is there one NOOR project that resonates with you the most, or that you’re most proud of having supported?
#Resist is a good project and we are all proud of it. We are facing a critical moment in history and it’s necessary and important to take initiative. NOOR is turning 10 this year and many more projects will happen during the year and in the coming years, so let’s see. I am proud when NOOR confronts the dominant narrative and inspires empathy and action through visual storytelling with integrity and passion.
NOOR has been running for 10 years now – how has the industry and general working climate / practice changed in that time?
Instagram didn’t exist 10 years ago and now millions of pictures are uploaded every hour. The industry has changed a lot, the general working climate and practice has changed, but it has been for the 15 years I have been working. Let’s enjoy it, there is no other choice, let’s build the future of visual story-telling instead of looking at the past. I am father of a 10 years old daughter, how can we make sure she has now and in 10 years access to independent sources of information, photojournalism, freedom of press, visual story-telling? We have a huge responsibility in her present and most of it, in her future. She is the future of our industry and the future of our world, let’s give her all the chance, the tools and the experience to understand and to build a better world.
Rising Sea Levels, Bangladesh, 2013 © Kadir van Lohuizen / NOOR
“A mother and her son at the village of Bainpara in the delta of Bangladesh. Their land has been taken by the waters during a cyclone and subsequent frequent flooding. Flooding has always happened in Bangladesh, but today the waters often don’t recede anymore due to the rising sea level, if they do, the land is saline and crops won’t grow anymore.” – Kadir van Lohuizen
The Boxer, Afghanistan, 2012 © Andrea Bruce / NOOR
“In a padded room rich with sweat, young women ran drills around me. Then turned, boxing their image in a broken mirror. In Afghanistan, as in many places in the world, women battle traditional roles and cultural boundaries as often as their opponents in the ring. Simply by living their passion, practice becomes a form of protest. Pictured: Afghan Olympic boxing hopeful Sadaf Rahimi practices in the Kabul Olympic Stadium.” – Andrea Bruce
The Center for Constitutional Rights is a very worthy organisation to support. Why have you chose them? Did you have links to them already through NOOR photographer projects?
Since its creation, NOOR has been seeking the collaboration of NGOs and foundations. Nina Berman, one of our American member told us about them and we all agreed. The Center for Constitutional Rights and NOOR are fighting for the same causes, let’s support each other. We believe we can join forces and create synergy to resist and make the world better. We hope we will be able to work on other occasion with them.