Tucked away in the pages of Numéro Cinq are skillfully told stories that pull us inside. The best of these hold us tight and whisper things that haunt our thoughts, urging us to care more deeply. Robert Semeniuk tells such stories with his photographs. He has been a photojournalist and human & environmental rights activist for 3 decades. I met Robert and his wife, musician Ruta Yawney on Bowen Island a few months ago and today I am honored to introduce you to Robert’s work. Each of the images shown here is excerpted from a story. These particular stories about the Inuit of arctic Canada, preventable blindness in Ethiopia, war affected children, and AIDS in Botswana are elaborated in image and word on Robert’s webpage.
— lynne quarmby
By Robert Semeniuk
Tea time on the cariboo hunt
Gaza boys playing ‘Arab & Jews’
Robert is currently bringing his focus closer to home. In his words:
For the past four years I have focused my work on an overarching project called Personalizing the World Health Crisis. Completed legs of this project include studies of Aids amongst the dislocated San people of Botswana, the Trachoma epidemic in Ethiopia, and Malaria effected refugees on the Thai Burma border. The current leg of this project is a year-long visual study of mental health in Vancouver’s downtown east side. The infamous district is Canada’s poorest postal code. It’s perceived as the bottom of the barrel, where the dregs of society collect after they have fallen. It is synonymous with poverty, systemic abuse, rampant drug use, homelessness and prostitution. I became familiar with the area in 1987, when I distributed cameras to street kids associated with the needle exchange in hopes that photography would provide them with new ways to express their experiences. It is my conviction that many of vices exhibited by those in the downtown east side are rooted in various types of mental illness, and that addressing the underlying mental condition can help move an individual toward restored mental and physical health. This is a story about people who fell through the cracks. An intimate look at the people and the cracks. —Robert Semeniuk