"The Fence," Honored by World Press Photo

Last summer, photographer Charles Ommanney drove a Land Rover over 2000 miles along the US-Mexico border, from Brownsville, TX to San Diego, CA. The result of his 3 week drive is the 10-minute film, The Fence, produced for MSNBC. 

Yesterday, the World Press Photo Foundation awarded the project with 2nd Prize in the Long Feature category in the 2015 Multimedia Contest. Jury member Hussain Currimbhoy describes his experience with the film, "By turning the fence into a character, is a master stroke...[Ommanney] exposes the absurdity of this fence beautifully. He has done that with some text, but also through a mood that he's created, which is very, very delicate, and very, very smart....It's one of the best looking films I've seen in a very long time. " 

It is an honor to receive the award, and to be among colleagues and friends, including the film, The Long Night by Tim Matsui and MediaStorm, which won first prize. Matsui, a Seattle-based photojournalist, was my mentor during my early years in photography. Influential in directing my career, he guided me into the then burgeoning space of multimedia storytelling. Matsui taught me the most valuable lesson of determination and tireless work, which he exemplifies in the dedication of his life's career to documenting issues of sexual violence and sex trafficking. The Long Night is the culmination of his vision to change the way the world perceives, understands, and affects change on the global crisis of human sex trafficking. 

Third place in the Long Feature category is Japan's Disposable Workers: Net Cafe Refugees, another MediaStorm production, directed by Shiho Fukada, and edited and produced by Eric Maierson. As the most transformative period in my young career, the six months interning at MediaStorm with Maierson forever changed my understanding of storytelling and the craft of editing. Maierson's deeply thoughtful and intelligent approach to story continues to influence my work every day. 

Congratulations to all the winners of this year's World Press Photo competition, and thank you to this year's jury.  

Sex Workers Armed as Paralegals

In South Africa, sex work is criminalized. Sex workers are seen as acceptable targets of abuse. Police sexually abuse sex workers, profile sex workers, and arbitrarily arrest sex workers on non sex-work-related charges. Health care professionals deny services and preventative care to sex workers. Clients and pimps abuse sex workers with impunity. The law then reinforces this systemic behavior, threatening the health and safety of this marginalized community. 

This week, the Open Society Foundation published the fifth video in the Bringing Justice to Health project. As part of a series of videos highlighting the legal empowerment work of different grantee programs across the globe, These Rights are For Us features The Women's Legal Centre--a South African organization dedicated to equality for women--and the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force--a sex worker-led support and advocacy group. This video features Ncumisa's journey from sex worker to paralegal; empowering her peers in Cape Town, South Africa.  

Camera and sound by the talented Sven Torfinn. Additional photography by James Oatway. Produced by Lauren Frohne. Edited by Andrew Hida.

Two Views on Immigration

Since the introduction of the Secure Border Act of 2006, hundreds of miles of fence have been built by the federal government in sections along the nearly 2000-mile long border between the United States and Mexico. Costing tax payers nearly $3 billion, sections of fence in California cost up to $21 million a mile to erect. The construction of the fence pushes migrants to seek increasingly perilous routes through the arid and inhospitable desert regions of the Southwest border. The fence is largely ineffective and tremendously costly in both money and lives. 

Over the few couple months, the news has been inundated by a wave of illegal immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border from Central America. This immigration situation is unique due to the sheer magnitude of migrants, but also because these are unaccompanied minors. The country is struggling to find a solution to deal with this pressing humanitarian and political crisis, spawned by the aftermath of a 2002 law enacted by President George W. Bush to help protect minor sex trafficking victims. 

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to work on two important projects that although don’t directly address the recent immigration crisis, do offer important and unique perspectives on the immigration debate facing our country. 

In May, I produced the introductory video to the New York Times’ project, The Way North. Over the course of 39 days, writer Damien Cave and photographer Todd Heisler traveled north from Laredo, Texas to Duluth, Minnesota along Interstate 35. A Southern Crossroads is a vignette about Hilario Martinez, the Director of Security at El Conejo bus terminal where hundreds of passengers enter the United States everyday en route to northern destinations. His work is deeply personal and valuable to the clients who look to El Conejo as a lifeline between the United States and Mexico. 

In July, in partnership with MSNBC, I produced and edited, The Fence,  a 3-part series that explores the political, economic, environmental, and humanitarian impact of the US-Mexico border fence. Photographer Charles Ommanney drove the nearly 2000 miles along the border from Brownsville, TX to San Diego, CA where he photographed and filmed the serpent-like fence, and gathered testimony from various US citizens about their experiences and opinions about the border fence. The footage is simultaneously spectacular and disturbing, and the stories are both haunting and infuriating. The Fence is a fresh look at the immigration debate, that forces you to question the efficacy of the militarization of our southern border.