Sunday, February 17, 2008

Exhibition by Will Baxter at Gallery F-Stop

Throughout the month of April, 2008, Gallery F-Stop will be exhibiting a collection of black and white images by photographer Will Baxter illustrating the conflict in Sri Lanka. The exhibition will open on April 2nd and the photographs will be on display through April 30th, 2008.
About the Photographer:
Will Baxter is a 30-year-old documentary photographer based in Bangkok. His photographic work focuses mostly on conflict, social upheaval, and their effect on civilians. In the past year his photographs have appeared in The Sunday Times, Le Monde, Le Figaro, Time, and The Washington Post. He is represented by World Picture Network.
Background on the Conflict in Sri Lanka:
The tiny island nation of Sri Lanka plunged back into full-blown war this year after the government announced its decision to unilaterally withdraw from the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement effective January 16, 2008. The conflict, between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is actually one of the most underreported in the world and has made the Medicins Sans Frontiers’ list of the 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Crises in each of the last two years. Almost 6,000 people have been killed in Sri Lanka as a result of the war since early 2006 when peace talks failed, pushing the overall death toll since 1983 to approximately 70,000. There is a growing worry among international donors that the collapse of the truce will now invariably result in widespread human rights abuses against civilians.
Murders, abductions, torture, kidnappings, forced recruitment, bombings, arbitrary arrests and the recruitment of child soldiers all occur in the north and east of the island on a daily basis and the victims are, almost without fail, noncombatant Tamil civilians. But ironically, it is not the group labeled ‘terrorists’ by the US, UK and European Union—the LTTE—who are responsible for the vast majority of these human rights violations, but rather, it is the Sri Lankan government and the paramilitary groups they support. The LTTE, of course, are also guilty of a laundry list of human rights abuses, and with the collapse of the ceasefire there has been a notable increase in bombings and targeted killings carried out in Sinhalese majority areas by the LTTE, including in the capital Colombo. The LTTE are also frequently criticized by rights groups for their continued recruitment of child soldiers.
But despite the devastation this war has wrought, the situation has received very little attention in the international news, especially regarding human rights abuses against civilians. This is partly because of the ridiculous restrictions imposed by the government on what journalists can and cannot cover. Over the past few years, freedom of the press in Sri Lanka—much like the concept of human rights—has devolved into mere abstract theory. The already volatile situation has also been compounded by a general hostility and suspicion toward the media by the government. In 2007 alone, six journalists were killed in Sri Lanka, making it the third most dangerous country for journalists behind Iraq and Somalia. Blatant censorship has also become common practice as journalists are rarely given uninhibited access to conflict areas, and local journalists especially are targeted simply for doing their jobs.
Will Baxter
Gallery F-Stop (located inside Tamarind Cafe)
Sukhumvit Soi 20, Bangkok
+66(0)2-663-7421 , +66(0)2-663-4261