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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Picture power: Misery in Darfur
British photographer Marcus Bleasdale describes how he came to take a picture of a child refugee in southern Sudan which became Unicef's photo of the year for 2004.

The picture we are talking about is an image I took in the middle of 2004 in Darfur, in a very small village called Dissa.

It's an image which depicts a depressed, shoulders-down figure of a child in a cluster of what remains of her family.

The very weather-beaten arm of her mother goes over her left shoulder and there are the very small weather-beaten hands of the child, who is about five or six, clinging on to this one piece of security that she has, which is the weather-beaten hand of her mother.

The mother is not in the image, she's in the background. But then slightly further in the background you see the other hands of her brothers and sisters as they wait in this village.

And the main part of the image you are drawn to is this single tear that's coming down. It sums everything that was horrendous and still is horrendous about the conflict in Darfur.

The story behind how I arrived at this spot where the girl was waiting is kind of a complicated one.

Dust storm

I had arrived in Chad, which is the neighbouring country to Sudan and the closest border to Darfur, and smuggled myself across the border.

Villagers shelter beneath tree

I joined up with a group of Sudanese Liberation Army rebels and travelled with them for about a month.

This particular village where the image was taken, we stumbled across as we were driving through the desert.

I was immediately drawn by this huge tree that I saw, with maybe 200 or 300 people sheltering under it.

It was the first sign of a populated village, of life, in Sudan that I had seen in a few days, apart from rebels and, of course, the Khartoum (government) planes flying above.

And there was this huge tree where all of these people were sheltering underneath and a dust storm going on at the same time.

Marcus Bleasdale

I screamed at the drivers to stop and I jumped off and initially took a picture of just the tree and the people sheltering underneath it.

I walked slowly up to the tree and found almost immediately that it was just women and children - there were no men apart from maybe a village elder who was 80 or 90 years old.

And they were all huddled underneath this tree wearing weather-beaten clothes and carrying very little food.


And then I saw the family and I saw this child. At the time I saw the image, she had her head rested on her mothers lap, sleeping almost, exhausted probably from lack of food.

Every photographer knows when they take an image that they feel is going to be powerful
I approached slowly and showed both the child and the family and the mother my camera, in a questioning motion, in a way to ask if it would be possible to take an image.

And the lady just slowly, exhaustedly, just nodded her head.

I have maybe three frames of the image. In one, the child is looking directly at me. In (the published) image she is looking... just exhausted, looking out to the left-hand side of the frame, just tired, just in need of someone to pick her up and take her to somewhere she's going to be safe.

When I saw it through the viewfinder it was... maybe it's a cliche, but I think every photographer knows when they take an image that they feel is going to be powerful, and I certainly felt that when I was taking this one.

Marcus Bleasdale gave this account to the BBC World Service programme, The World Today.


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