Here are Resource Magazine, we are huge proponents of photography that isn’t simply pleasing to the eye. We also want them to be impactful and meaningful, created not only to be displayed but to raise awareness, provoke discussion and make changes in our world. So when we caught word of Mike Mellia‘s newest project, “Our Side of the Story: South Sudan“, we listened.
In light of the civil war in South Sudan, Mellia decided to take action. “The idea for this project was inspired by the current conflict in South Sudan that began recently. South Sudan became its own country, separate from the country of Sudan in 2011 due to social unrest and violence. Many have been forced into exile or killed.” For the project, he photographed some of Hollywood’s Sudanese actors and a few of the most prominent Sudanese supermodels to hit the runway, among others. They all share the common thread of being born in the midst of the chaos in Sudan and having to flee. These former refugees have shaped a life that seemed impossible just years ago, and they’ve made it their mission to give back to their roots.
Life for many Sudanese civilians has rarely been easy and we know that a photographer like Mike Mellia can bring his talent to a cause such as this and create some ripples – especially when working alongside him are supermodel Nykhor Paul (#WeAreNilotic Movement) and creative director Laura Lanteri.
“Supermodel Nykhor Paul has modeled for Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, DVF and more. Nykhor fled South Sudan to an Ethiopian refugee camp and immigrated to America at age 9,” explains Mellia. “Her dream of unity among all tribes in South Sudan is one that will end the circle of violence and exile. She has a strong passion for uniting South Sudanese women and people of all backgrounds through spreading the philosophy ‘We Are Nilotic,’ a message of unity for all people of the Nile River. Nykhor and many of the other subjects have lost and are losing family members right now who are still in South Sudan. The #WeAreNilotic movement brings awareness and a call for unity.”
Creative director Laura Lanteri worked for Oscar de la Renta, Gucci and Louis Vuitton before founding her own branding agency, Laura Lanteri New York. She also completed a masters in International Development from Harvard and has previously worked with the United Nations and the World Bank.
Together, they form the team behind “Our Side of the Story: South Sudan.” Says Mike Mellia: “Nykhor introduced me to many of the subjects and Laura was the ideal creative director, with her very unique background in international politics, branding, and fashion.”
The photographs are striking “My style of portraiture is very natural but also very painterly. I love the beautiful light coming through a window in an old renaissance painting. The empty set brings focus on the subjects and their own individuality.”
“I felt a connection to South Sudan and these subjects because of their powerful stories, the passion of the individuals, and the emotion behind what is happening in their country.”
“Our Side of the Story: South Sudan,” will open on Thursday April 10th, 6pm-9pm, at 39 White Street (in Tribeca), New York, NY 10013.