Documentary & Street Photographer Oliver Merce is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From the project ‘For You’. To see Oliver’s body of work, click on any image.
I first took notice of disabled people when I was a child. My mother was a medical worker in a neuropsychiatric hospital. I used to occasionally visit her and at that time the Romanian government was blurring the line that was separating people with intellectual disabilities and those with psychological problems, cramming them all in facilities of this sort.
As for the Foundation “For You”, for a couple of years I had been aware of its existence. Between 2003 and 2010 I lived in Timişoara in the same neighborhood in which the Foundation is located. Every day when I was walking my dog, I would meet people about whom I was to learn later that they were aided by this foundation. Even after I moved from the neighborhood, I was still passing by their office on a daily basis on my way to work. I figured out what was the foundation all about looking at the banner on the building, which was urging people to redirect 2% of their profit to help them. And yet my curiosity regarding their work arose much later, namely around the beginning of 2017.
I had already brought to an end my first long-term photographic project and I was looking for a new project to start. I was considering some further social subject. This was the first time I visited their internet address and their headquarters also and I began to really become aware of the importance of their endeavor.
Approximately 98% of them are locked up by their families or foundations, and only 2% are in the care of the state.
This is how I learned that there are over 800,000 people with disability in Romania. Although society has isolated them, they have somehow managed to get out of the enclosure, while still remaining in the community. Approximately 98% of them are locked up by their families or foundations, and only 2% are in the care of the state.
Consequently, for hundreds of people Foundation “For You” has become a haven of compassion in the midst of a social precipice. They are not actors in the world’s stride ahead and lead an obscured existence, away from the biased perception of society.
I have conceived my photographic approach as a manifesto in order to raise awareness on the needs of these people and on the ways they can be integrated in society. The photos were taken at the foundation venue or on the occasion of various events organized by the foundation between March 2017 and May 2018. They generally depict how life is going on for the intellectually challenged people. However, the pictures will not render what they think, what their dreams are, the way they feel when they are discriminated or when they are refused certain rights due to less tolerant persons or legislation that leaves a lot to be desired. Issues of this sort are to remain the subject of media debate or source of inspiration for writers. The stories involved have been stripped of the visible burden of suffering and have not been retouched to be glamorous whatsoever.
The people aided by the foundation have fellow humans who care for them, their words are heard, and their suffering reverberates.
All images and text © Oliver Merce
By Oliver Merce
Oliver’s Previous Contribution To Edge Of Humanity Magazine