I had to expose shocking conditions of mentally ill in Africa, says World Press Photo award winner
Shackled by the ankle to the floor of a dilapidated prison cell, a young man sat in his own filth - naked, stripped physically and emotionally.
He was one of dozens of mentally-ill men and women confined within the walls of a South Sudan prison.
It was a sight that award-winning New Zealand photographer Robin Hammond will never forget.
"I remember very clearly that it was one of those places you smelled before you saw it. It was really shocking," the 39-year-old said at a press conference yesterday.
He is in town for the 2014 World Press Photo exhibition which is making its stop in Singapore on its year-long tour.
It is presented by The Straits Times.
Mr Hammond has been documenting the human rights abuse of the mentally ill in South Sudan since January 2011, the year it became independent.
Many of them are locked away in prisons for years on end as the young nation struggles to care for them.
"That young man in South Sudan changed my approach to photography," Mr Hammond said.
"If I don't tell their stories in the most powerful way possible, it is a waste of their time and emotional energy. I have to make it worthwhile."
Mr Hammond felt compelled to tell their stories through his lens after he learnt from a taxi driver that mentally-ill people there are sent to prisons, not mental institutions.
His series of images took second place in the Contemporary Issues category of the 2014 World Press Photo award.
In spite of the recognition and his passion, Mr Hammond admitted that his job takes an emotional toll on him.
"I know that young man is still in that prison, on the same piece of floor, three years later. It is incredibly hard," he said.
This is the fourth time the exhibition, which showcases 151 award-winning photographs, is here.
The pictures were picked from 98,671 images submitted by 5,754 photographers of 132 nationalities.
Also here for the exhibition is German photojournalist Julius Schrank, 30.
He won first place in the Daily Life category for his shot of Kachin Independence Army fighters in Myanmar.
He advised aspiring photojournalists: "Don't stay still. Go out there, look around and keep shooting.
"Stories are not always as far as you think. They can be right in front of you."
To see all the winning photos, go to www.worldpressphoto.org/awards/2014
World Press Photo 2014 Exhibition
Today till Feb 1
Raffles Hotel, Level 1
8am to 10pm
TALKS FOR PHOTO ENTHUSIASTS
For details, go to www.worldpressphoto.asia/outreach/amateurs-professionals