Last June, I had the privilege to document the installation of “One Million Bones” (made with clay and paper mache) on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Hundreds of people joined Naomi Natale, the creator of this project, in bringing awareness of the genocides taking place around the world. It was a rich opportunity to participate in something that was beautifully artistic, as well as, humanitarian; mirroring a mass grave, the installation honored the people who succumbed to the atrocity of ethnic cleansing.
Symbolically, we were undoing a wrong, we were taking care of the dead while speaking of the living who are facing this hard reality. The experience was powerful. As I photographed adults and children, dressed in white, respectfully holding the bones and walking on the grass to lay them down, I felt a tremendous sense of compassion. At one point, I gave my camera to a friend, picked up bones from one of the piles and, when I approached the sea of white on its green carpet, I was overwhelmed by emotions: I was cradling human suffering and putting it to rest and restoring honor. Refugees and activists came to share their beliefs on how to change the path of ethnic cleansing. They spoke with eloquence and strength. I watched a crowd eager to be a part of that change and felt a connective thread without borders or race.
For me, the two days of preparation were as meaningful as the event. The rain was a constant presence and rendered the unpacking of truckloads of boxes, containing the bones, a great challenge; it was as wet as the tears shed by the many who were represented in this installation. I photographed those scenes with difficulty, as volunteers worked in the rain, some of them bare footed, placing piles of bones by the side of the grass fields.
Capturing the depth of such a display of conviction and love in contrast to the brutality of genocide brought forth an image of how deeply conflicted humanity is, something I have tried to understand for years. Joanne Teasdale
The One Million Bone Project was Naomi Natale. For more information please visit
Thank you Joanne. To learn more about Joanne Teasdale please visit Joanne Teasdale.