When she walked in the exhibition Climate Refugees by photographer François Pesant on a cold winter day in 2010, Sonia Labranche, a young lawyer from Montreal, didn’t know that what she was about to see would have deep impact on the course of her life.
After seeing these photos, Sonia decided to do a Master’s thesis on environmental refugees. She moved to Bangladesh, where she did fieldwork among climate refugees who fled rising seas. There are between 30 and 40 million of these forced migrants on the planet, and according to experts, their number will rise to 250 millions by 2050. They are not entitled to any rights, protection, or assistance because they have no legal status.
Sonia says, “This exhibition has been a huge triggering factor in my life. It opened my eyes to this reality, and I decided to try to do something about it. I have spent the last two years working on this subject, and I’m planning on doing my Ph.D. on this subject. This exhibition will have impacted the rest of my life.”
And her work may have a positive impact on the lives of millions of climate refugees around the world who desperately need lawyers and researchers to influence policymakers to improve their plight.
PhotoSensitive is a non-profit collective of photographers committed to using black-and-white photography to address social issues. PhotoSensitive’s new exhibition, Picture Change, is a Toronto-based show dedicated to highlighting the ways that photography makes a difference in the world by provoking action, reflection, or even a change in a policy or law.