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In Maela Refugee Camp, Thailand, more than 50,000 Burmese people live. In order to leave the camp, refugees need permission from the Thai Government. The permission can be issued for a maximum of three days.

Photographer Andrés Vanegas Canosa meditates on what it means to pursue work “you never get over.”

DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY is one of the simplest and most powerful tools which we have available to tell a story, to send a message, to raise awareness. It can be simpler, quicker, and more mind-blowing than surveys, campaigns, or debates. It is a very straightforward and effective way to reveal simple as well as complex problems undermining human rights, issues leading to violations, torture, and others crimes, which often go unnoticed by mainstream media and are thus unknown to the rest of the world.

Burmese child in the dump in Mae Sot, Thailand. More than 100 illegal migrants live and work in the dumps. Conditions are inhumane.

To sensitize civil society and render the information available on illogical, illegal, and oppressive policies relating to human rights are my main motivations. I do believe that “change” is feasible, and photography is the weapon I have been using to try and make it happen.

Agua de Dios, Colombia. More than 600 people suffer each year of leprosy. Most of them have been forgotten by their own families.

A large part of my work is focused on the consequences of conflicts and crises for human beings especially in less developed countries and more vulnerable areas and regions. I try to show the human faces affected by poverty, indigence, and war.

Italian soldiers sleeping on the way to Afghanistan. Most of them are married and have children. “This war is for economy and political issues, it does not make sense,” one of the soldiers said.

Among other projects, I’ve covered refugee camps in Afghanistan, Burma, and Thailand. I investigated the nexus of security and development in Afghanistan with a full reportage on the conditions of famers in the border region affected by cultivation of illicit crops. I’ve also written analytical pieces and taken images / testimony of the Vietnamese people affected by Agent Orange, a chemical weapon used by US Forces in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

Environmental health is another key element in my work: In this regard, in Colombia, I’ve covered leprosy patients and indigenous populations.

Children affected by Agent Orange. Vietnam

I’ve also covered seaweed farmers working in extremely poor conditions in Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia), and who are exploited by multinational corporations. My latest project is about “Sulfur Miners” which took place at the Ijen volcano (Indonesia). It shows desperate groups of men working on one of the most toxic places on the planet.

Many children in Afghanistan do not have families due to war. This young girl was in an orphanage. Her dream: to be a princess.

Being a documentary photographer is tough. Many people send me emails saying, “your life is fantastic, I would like to do what you do!”

Yes, I love what I do, and I would not be able to picture myself doing something different. However, everything in life has a price. It is a profession that affects your life in ways nobody could expect.

In the middle of big buildings and luxury palaces, a small community of people live next to the rails of the train. Poverty in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

After I finish each project I fall on deep thoughts. It takes a while to understand that injustices can be on extreme levels. It leaves scars; as one of my favorite photographers Greg Marinovich, member of the Bang Bang Club, said: “You never get over it but you learn to live with it.”

Among these desperate groups, there are men of all ages working for minimal pay in one of the most toxic places on the planet.

Documentary photography and photojournalism are my passions. To do this, one has to love it. It is a world where rules for taking pictures do not exist. What really matters is the subject. To show how human rights can be affected is the main goal.

Human Rights


About The Author

Andrés Vanegas Canosa

Andrés Vanegas Canosa, or Andy VC, is a lawyer who has worked for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime headquarters in Vienna and the Microfinance Foundation BBVA in Madrid. He is also a freelance photographer, focusing on the human consequences of war and crisis in developing countries. See more on his website, Andy VC.

  • JuanCarlos Yogi

    Very inspiring and motivating! Thanks for sharing.

  • Audrys Ester Martines Sena

    Muy buen trabajo! Exquisito ♥

  • Christian Sea

    very moving photographs- thanks for doing what you do.

  • The Drifters’ Blog

    Amazing talent, and beautiful stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  • Maria Hasprunarova


    • Andy VC

      Maria, thanks very much for you words… I really appreciate them.

  • Nicky Classen

    Incredible article.

  • Anonymous

    Andres. I had the pleasure of reading/viewing several of your articles. I’m left stunned by your work, and your mind.

  • Dariush

    This is just great. This what we need to learn. Thank you and good luck.

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