Aperture in the Democratic Republic of Congo

by Steve Simon

GOMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC)-- A documentary film crew and I have made our way here by car from Kigali, Rwanda. We are following Dr. James Orbinski, the former head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), (who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of MSF in 1999) to this frontier-town, where the flurry of activity near the customs booth makes it difficult to know who is official and who isn't; since most of the agents are not in any uniform. We spend some time clearing customs without trouble, though on the way out we needed to pay a "fee" to leave with our stuff: One US Dollar.

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A street scene in Goma, DRC.

Goma is the city bordering on Rwanda with the active Nyiragongo Volcano, last erupting in January 2002, when dozens were killed and 100,000 of the estimated half-million inhabitants lost their homes. Everywhere you step, you are walking on the dark, dried lava. This city is built on volcanic lava, without water supply or soil, making it very difficult for people to support themselves. Seventy per cent of families in the area have an average monthly income of less than $25.

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Remnants from the last volcanic eruption in 2002 are never far from view.

Goma is also one of the locations Hutu Rwandans fled to during the genocide of 1994 and the DRC is the country where an estimated 3.9 million people have died from starvation, disease and violence due to conflict since 1998.

We are cautioned to be careful here, and my general sense is that many people are not overly keen on being photographed, after asking a number of times.

We stop at HEAL Africa, a non-profit group that deals with the effects of extreme violence, including widespread rape which has been systematically used as a weapon of war. More than 60,000 rapes have been reported in just two provinces of Congo since 2003, and we visit some of the victims that were lucky to make it to the safe confides of this place of healing.

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We stay in very modest but safe accommodations. I have electricity, and I start downloading the day's take. As you may remember from my last post where I describe my workflow, I'm using a managed-Aperture library located on my USB-2, 120 GB, bus-powered drive and it's working well. It will be interesting for me to see just how much faster Aperture runs with a bus-powered Firewire drive. But for now, I have no complaints.

After editing, I click on my three-star select Smart Album, choose the images for this blog and export versions by creating a new pre-set, fitting within 480 pixel width, 480 pixel height, 72dpi-- JPEG image quality set to 6.

Here's a little trick I've been using in Photoshop to sharpen my small, "for the web" images. Under Filter>Artistic>Paint Daubs, I use the defaults, Brush Size 1, Sharpness 1, Brush Type Simple. Voila, the small 72dpi image now "pops". I've been doing this for years for images posting to the web, but when I come back, I plan on playing with Aperture's Edge Sharpen adjustment to come up with my new Aperture standard. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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A young Congolese photographer gives the author a taste of his own medicine.

Next post: Destination Somalia!

3 Comments


2007-02-15 06:48:13
Fantastic stuff.
Frank Gregorek
2007-02-15 07:22:36
Your reporting on the situation in the DRC and also your use of Aperture on the road both very interesting. Thank you.
Brian Auer
2007-02-15 19:07:45
Wow, what an amazing trip this must have been. For those of us who haven't been to places like this, it's so foriegn and interesting.