South Sudan: Birth of a Nation / Zed Nelson

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South Sudan has become the 193rd country to join the United Nations. Optimism was high but the new government has almost no capacity to run a small town, let alone a country.

Every South Sudanese knows that the new state, the least developed country on earth, faces immense challenges. Many political bosses are former rebel fighters who lived through a lifetime of war. The long-suffering population are mainly poor, uneducated, and living in conditions described by the UN as ‘the least developed place on earth’. The country has oil reserves promising vast revenues which could kick-start development, but 20 billion dollars in oil revenue is already unaccounted for. The capital has grown from little more than a village to a booming city over the past few years. Deals are being made in South Sudan’s new, inexperienced ministries, and the future of South Sudan is up for grabs.

Foreigners here are either running charities trying to give money away, or oil companies and entrepreneurs trying to suck profit out of the country as quickly as possible.

Zed Nelson’s acutely observed environmental portraits reveal the new power structures of the country’s inexperienced ruling elite, and the adventurers, businessmen and aid workers who have descended ion this fledgling nation. Capturing an unsettling mix of optimism and brooding menace, we can look at those who help create and exploit a brand new country. Newly appointed government ministers, diplomats, UN chiefs, World Bank representatives, Chinese entrepreneurs, national beauty queens…everyone contributing to and feeding off the birth of this fledgling nation.


About Zed

“The visual ‘language’ of my images is about integrity and connection with the subject. The images should feel ‘true’...real...genuine… Working with a good Art Director is a huge plus, paving the way for a creative and structured collaboration in the image-making process.”

Zed’s work is known and recognised around the world. Coming to prominence with the seminal ‘Gun Nation’, which won five major international photography prizes, he has consistently produced work that makes us reflect and wonder.

(To read more about Zed Nelson, see Who we are)