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Letters From The Neighborhoods

Turjoy Chowdhury | United States

“Peace, there must be peace.”

Tony Lakouetene is a survivor of the Central African Republic Civil War. He used to be a teacher at a University and always loved to take photographs. The long-going civil war impacted his life and career badly. He and his family witnessed the horrors of the war from a very close distance. He saw people being slaughtered and shot like animals. In his village, at least 27 people were killed. Tony struggled there for a long time with his family just to survive. At the pick of the violence, when all the media and human rights organizations left, he started documenting everything and spreading those photographs through the internet. He got connected to international media outlets, and his work was published. One day, the rebels came to his house but could not find him since he was hiding.
Then they beat his wife and two kids. After a few days, they went to the university and captured him. The rebels tortured him awfully. To save his life and his family, he migrated to the USA.
Tony still likes to do photography and wants to continue that.

The City of New York is a melting pot where culture, language and diaspora come together to create a towering monument to diversity. Each of its five boroughs has its unique characteristics and neighbourhood culture, lent to them by their inhabitants. But how much does the city know its dwellers? With life as fast-paced as is shown in pop-culture depictions of the city, is there time to pause and learn why these people migrated, building NYC a multicultural paradise? 

The project “Letters from the neighborhoods” tells very personal stories of those immigrants who migrated to NYC after facing extreme human rights violations back in their homelands. Each portrait in this series comes with an open letter written by them in their native language —a personal anecdote, the story of their journey or advice to others.

Moreover, while making an inclusion through photography, the process allows them to cherish the freedom of expression.

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