"Such an ethos might help to explain the spirit of San Francisco-based Catchlight's Activist Awards, an annual photography contest that honors both professional and emerging individuals whose visual work focuses on the issues -- underrepresented as they might be -- of our time. The 2014 winners certainly uphold the promise: Swedish professional Åsa Sjöström's "The Secret Camps" documents life in a secluded refuge for women and children, emerging Tamil photographer Amirtharaj Stephen's "Koodankulam: A Nuclear Plant In My Backyard" chronicles community protesters in opposition of the Indian and Russian Government's Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP)." Katherine Brooks, Huffington Post
For the past three years, an annual, secret summer camp has been held for women and children in Sweden who've been subjected to domestic and honor violence. The nature and beauty of the camp, which is organized by the Women's Rights Organization in Malmö, is meant to bring some sort of normalcy to the difficult lives of its attendees. Children play and smile, some take a bath in the lake for the first time, and mothers and children have the opportunity to do things together without fear.
From Catchlight/PhotoPhilantrophy website:
Åsa Sjöström's essay from secret Swedish camps offers a fascinating point of discovery into the issue of domestic and honor violence against women and children. Her ongoing project, The Secret Camps, documents life at this secluded refuge for women and children seeking to spend a few days of freedom swimming, exploring nature, and relaxing together without fear.
The images are haunting, delicate and unforgettable, as children in the photographs hide their faces with flowers and fading balloons, or stand dripping on a pier, having just swam in the lake.
"As a photojournalist, I want to create awareness and also to induce a genuine situation between me and the people in my photographs," says Sjöström. "Through a close collaboration, the Women's Rights Organization and the women gave me the full confidence to stay in the camps and to do narrative photographs."
Judges' Statement: Sjöström's visually distinctive approach evocatively captures the transformational time at the camps for women and children who have suffered domestic violence, and in so doing, she brings attention to an issue that affects women and children all over the world. We feel it's extremely important to talk about this subject, and are delighted to honor Sjöström for her imaginative, creative and well-edited series.