Artist Captures the Face of Ebola in Photography Project

Exploring the human side of an epidemic.

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Surviving Ebola, Guinea Conakry, October 2014.
Photo by Livia Saavedra.
Nyanbalamous Gabou, 24.
Photo by Livia Saavedra.
M'Balia Sylla with her father-in-law.
Photo by Livia Saavedra
M'Balia, Coyah Prefecture.
Photo by Livia Saavedra
Mamadou Sadio Bah.
Photo by Livia Saavedra
Fatoumata Binta.
Photo by Livia Saavedra.
Fanta and Sydia Bangoura.
Photo by Livia Saavedra.
Kanta, Conakry.
Photo by Livia Saavedra.
Bengali Souma.
Photo by Livia Saavedra
Fanta Camara.
Photo by Livia Saavedra.
Dgenebous Soumah, 20, Coyah Prefecture.
Photo: Livia Saavedra.

As the ebola epidemic continues to rage in West Africa, a new art project reveals that even those who survive the often-fatal disease still suffer greatly from its after-effects, reports the Huffington Post. In October, French photographer Livia Saavedra visited Conakry, the capital of Guinea, and took portraits of ebola survivors.

Saavedra’s work shares the all-too-common stories: orphaned children left to fend for themselves, or widowed mothers unable to provide for their families. (Many ebola survivors have lost family members who did not share their luck.) By speaking with and taking portraits of survivors, the artist reveals the human element of the outbreak, often overlooked in the climate of fear and distrust that has arisen over the past few months.

Over 5,000 people have already died during the current outbreak, the largest ebola epidemic in history. As Saavedra’s interviews with her subjects reveal, even those who are luckier (an estimated 10,000 are thought to have contracted ebola and survived) are all-too-often ostracized by their communities. “The stigma they face is terrible,” wrote Saavedra in an email to WorldPost. Her trip was financed by Waha International, an NGO dedicated to maternal health.

The spread of ebola is fueled by poor sanitary conditions, poverty, and a common lack of running water. The disease is so feared that even recovered patients, who are now immune to the illness, and can no longer spread it, are widely distrusted by their neighbors. Some lose their jobs, and are thought to be cursed by the community.

Saavedra has uncovered stories of hope however, such as a 24-year-old medical student who fell ill while working to raise Ebola awareness in his community. When he recovered, he was welcomed by his neighbors. Other portraits show the former patients embraced by loved ones, looking ahead to the future.

The epidemic has inspired a number of artists to make work designed to promote ebola awareness. In Italy, an artist’s ebola crop-circle publicized the first European case of the disease (see “Italian Land Art Spreads Ebola Awareness“), while artists in Monrovia, Liberia, are planning a “Recovery Exhibition” (see “In Ebola Hot Zone, Art Exhibition Offers Hope“). In Paris, French graffiti artist Kidult took a more cynical approach to the outbreak with a Coca Cola-themed piece that tapped into ebola conspiracy theories (see “Street Artist Makes Sinister Ebola Artwork“).


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