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Emma O’Brien | Faces of Courage



Emma O’Brien is a British portrait photographer living in Johannesburg. One of her most recent projects is a photographic series called Faces of Courage all shot in Goma, Eastern Congo.


She let us know more about the project and why she made the decision to visit Congo:


I became aware of the conflict in Eastern Congo and the impact it has had on the people living there after watching a news report several years ago. My interest was re-ignited after I read a book called ‘Half the Sky’ in 2011 which featured a chapter on the problem of rape in Eastern Congo and how a Goma based charity called HEAL Africa is working to help the women there affected by rape. I contacted HEAL Africa and arranged a visit – my motivation was to go and meet the women, take their portraits and present the photographs alongside their stories in order to put a human face to the problem, so that people viewing the images can see ‘who’ these women are.


Having met many Congolese people during my stay in Goma, the project has expanded to include men and children too, who have been affected by the on-going conflict in different ways. I met and photographed women at the HEAL Africa hospital who have had fistula repair operations as well as people living in a refugee camp, and orphaned children looking after their younger siblings. The fact that these people are still able to smile, in spite of what has happened to them and in spite of the uncertainty that surrounds them is an incredible feat of courage and should be an inspiration to us all.


Emma’s aim is to publish the Faces of Courage project as a book and donate the proceeds from the book to micro-loan programmes that HEAL Africa run, which help women to set up their own businesses and start on the path to economic empowerment and self-sufficiency.


Emma’s first visit to the region was in August last year and she returned to the DRC last month to complete the photography for the project.











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