“Not sure I can talk about my ‘career’ just yet–I’m still just getting started!” freelance photographer Camille Lepage told the photography site Petapixel in October 2013.
Less than a year later, Lepage’s body was found in a car in the Central African Republic, according to news reports citing the French government. She had been traveling with fighters of the anti-Balaka Christian militia and was killed in an ambush, the reports said.
On Sunday, the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa showcased Lepage’s work in a memorial service at the Kuona Trust Art Gallery in Nairobi. Although only 26, Lepage already had an impressive array of photos published at media houses around the world.
Lepage felt a certain frustration toward the media industry and believed some important stories were not being told. Her photos featured the more remote areas and less covered stories. “So many serious stories were missing from the headlines simply because they don’t fit within [the media agenda] or the advertising company’s interests,” she told Petapixel.
Freelance journalist Tristan McConnell said he met Lepage in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan in late 2012. “I was there five days–in and out–and just as I was going to leave, I met Camille,” he recalled. “She had been in the Nuba Mountains on her own for five weeks, and she was only hitching a ride to a nearby refugee camp because she was sick.”
“She was a very committed photographer, who would devote a lot of time to get the story and picture right,” he said.
Close friend and fellow freelance photographer Christena Dowsett also remembers Lepage’s devotion to her subjects: “She always focused on the story more than the money. If she believed in a story, she would follow it to the end–regardless of whether there was income or not.”
“Of all the photographers I’ve worked with, her rate of progression was one of the fastest I have ever seen,” said Carl De Souza, chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in East Africa.
Lepage’s untimely death is a reminder of the risks and challenges that freelance journalists face when covering a story with no institutional backing.
“Her death, like other journalists’ deaths, should really stiffen our resolve to defend freedom of speech and make sure our governments defend it on our behalf,” Andy Chatfield, her former tutor at the U.K.’s Southampton Solent University, told the BBC.
The photos in the slideshow come from Lepage’s work in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. They have been re-published here with permission of the Hans Lucas photography company.