Apr 272011

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

Five Photographs

By Robert Semeniuk


Tea time on the cariboo hunt

Gaza boys playing ‘Arab & Jews’

The San: AIDS and dislocation

Trachoma in Ethiopia


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


  11 Responses to “Five Photographs — Robert Semeniuk”

  1. My word. The child in #2 is heartbreaking. Personalizing the world, indeed. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • This little boy grabbed my heart too. I originally thought that he was defending himself in ernest, and he is, but as I learned from Robert’s website, the situation was play, post-traumatic play. A child’s way of trying to make sense of his life. Somehow this knowledge makes the image all the more compelling.

  2. Tremendous. Thank you Robert and Lynne.

  3. So very moving. Thank you.

  4. Wow. These are spectacular and moving. Thank you.

  5. Amazing and heartbreaking photos!

  6. They are all great. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  7. Saw these the other day. Stunning and heartbreaking. These photos truly tell the stories – from Canada to Ethiopia to Botswana. Wow.

  8. Stunning photos, Lynne. Thanks for posting them.

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