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Where are they now? Photographer launches project to track 500 migrants from his award-winning image

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Photographer Massimo Sestini‘s stunning image of a small boat jam-packed with asylum seekers off the coast of Libya showed the world just how terrifying a refugee’s journey can be.

The image, which won a World Press Photo Award and resonated worldwide, depicts 500 refugees risking their lives in order to find a new home. The passengers were rescued by Operation Mare Nostrum (OMN), a search-and-rescue team organized by the Italian government.

Now Sestini wants to find every single person who was on that boat. Livia Corbò, studio manager at Massimo Sestini News Pictures, joined The 19 Million Project to talk about the recently launched “Where are you?” project.

“Massimo dreamed of taking that specific photograph since 2013,” Corbò said. “He didn’t want simply to take a pic of a boat full of migrants; he wanted to capture a very specific moment.”

Sestini was on the ONM frigate that rescued everyone on the boat; he captured the photo at the very moment the passengers looked up at the rescue helicopter, realizing they were safe after 17 hours at sea.

“The role of a photoreporter in these circumstances is different than usual,” Corbò said. It’s not to capture images to be published in magazines but to be a messenger; to increase consciousness by digging deeper.”

In the midst of the European migration crisis, the work of photojournalists is more important than ever.

The original photograph is now the basis for “Where are you?” — Corbò and Sestini are encouraging people to visit the site, zoom in on the photo and see whether anyone is recognizable. Eventually, the follow-up project will feature the current stories of each passenger.

“Capturing the moment when they crossed the Mediterranean is the beginning of a larger story, Corbò said. “The story of these migrants’ future is rarely told, but it is important.”

View the enlarged image here and see whether you can contribute to the project.

— Alexandra DiPalma of Fusion
Photograph Massimo Sestini

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