Dominic Nahr – The Road to Nowhere, Newcomer 2009
These are photographs fighting against oblivion. The very first Newcomer Award series, which was presented in 2009, is a ruthless documentation, which deals with one of Africa’s most brutal conflicts. Dominic Nahr focused his series on the dramatic situation of refugees in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For many years, war photographer and reporter Dominic Nahr’s professional work took him to scenes of tragedy around the world; his images reveal how crises impact the lives of the people. The experiences he had in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were to prove a decisive moment in the life of the photographer.
“The work I produced in the Democratic Republic of Congo represented a turning point in my life.”
War in the Congo: at the end of 2008, Nahr was still at the beginning of his career. The then 25-year-old photographer was on the continent for the first time, a continent totally unfamiliar to him: “I’d never been to Africa before travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I heard the riots had escalated and feared the situation would get even worse. Even so I was still curious about this place, which had apparently not received enough protection,” Nahr recalls.
In October 2008, Tutsi rebels seized control of most of the main roads in eastern Congo. As the rebels approached, over 250,000 civilians fled across the borders, desperately searching for something they simply could not find: security. Chaos, violence and cruelty exploded. “Neither in Asia, where I grew up, nor in Canada, where I went to university, had I heard much about Africa. I had to see it with my own eyes, unfiltered,” Nahr says.
He placed himself and his camera in the midst of war. His pictures scream out loud and remain silent. They leave the viewer suffering and hoping to find a way out. To this day, his photos produce a shudder at the thought of where and how they were shot. At the same time, the amazing compositions and aesthetics found in Nahr’s work is breathtaking. It is something of a miracle that Nahr survived the inferno physically unharmed.
“I was very lucky to receive the LOBA Newcomer Award just as my career was taking off.”
“The Congo was my first experience of Africa. It went so deep that I went to Nairobi afterwards. Africa wouldn’t let me go.” Looking back, the photographer continues: “The work I produced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo represented a turning point in my life. It is the country I can call my first African love. After spending several months reporting on the war and humanitarian crisis in the east of the country, I decided to move to the continent, and finally ended up in Nairobi – where I lived for almost ten years. Being stationed in Kenya, I was able to continue working on topics that interested me, which were in the regions surrounding Kenya, such as South Sudan and Somalia.”
(Text updated 2020)
Dominic Nahr was born in 1983 in Appenzell, Switzerland, and grew up in Hong Kong. In 2008 he graduated in Toronto with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and moved to Nairobi in 2009. Since graduating, he has devoted himself to documenting conflicts, humanitarian crises and critical social issues. He has won numerous awards, including a World Press Photo and a Swiss Press Photo Award. Nahr, also a founding member of the photo agency MAPS, was named Photographer of the Year by the Swiss Photo Academy in 2015. In 2017, he was a LOBA finalist with his series “Fallout”. In 2018, he was named Switzerland’s first Leica Ambassador. He has been living in Zurich since the end of 2017.