Sanne de Wilde, Arko Datto and Leonard Pongo join NOOR

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NOOR, the prestigious photo agency and foundation, has signed up three new nominees – Sanne de Wilde, Arko Datto and Leonard Pongo. Hailing from Belgium, India and Belgium/DR Congo respectively, all three are known for their cutting-edge work, rooted in documentary but pushing the aesthetic boundaries of image-making.
Sanne de Wilde graduated from Ghent’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in June 2012 but is already known for several outstanding projects – Snow White, a study of albinism shot in distinctive bleached-out colours; The Dwarf Empire, a study of small people and voyeurism; and, mostly recently, The Island of the Colorblind, an investigation of achromatopsia that was published as a book this summer, presented at the Voies Off in Arles by the Festival Circulation(s), and given a cover feature in BJP.
Arko Datto originally studied physics and maths before moving into photography, graduating in photojournalism from the Danish School of Journalism, Aarhus in 2013. He has made several long-term personal projects including PIK-NIK and Mannequin, which both attracted attention at Arles this year – PIK-NIK winning the Cosmos-Arles PDF Award and Mannequin screened at the Voies Off. His work has been published by BJP, TIME, National Geographic, Newsweek and many more, and he has also worked for Benetton’s Fabrica initiative, covering the Indian elections for two months in 2014.

Picnicking is far from a simple affair in eastern India. In a land where the fleeting months of December to February offer the only time to ‘enjoy’ the otherwise unbearable tropical sun, picnicking is a winter pastime that’s taken very, very seriously. This work, done between 2013 and 2015 takes a look at this phenomenon. From the series PIK-NIK © Arko Datto/NOOR
Leonard Pongo grew up in Belgium with a Belgian mother and a Congolese father, and is known for his long-term projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His series The Uncanny attempts to convey the inner lives of people in DR Congo since the political elections in 2011, for example, and won the POPCAP Prize Africa in 2014. Pongo has published his work in The Guardian, Wall Street Journal and National Geographic, among others, and was one of PDN’s 30 emerging photographers to watch in 2016.

“Having Sanne, Arko and Leonard join us as nominees of NOOR helps us to continue to confront dominant narratives using visual storytelling with integrity and passion,” commented NOOR managing director Clement Saccomani. “We exist to inspire empathy and action. These storytellers share with us this mission and will play an important role in helping us to achieve it.”
Sanne de Wilde added: “Call me naive, but I believe in the power of the photo-family. Connecting people who share ideals, differ in opinion, reach for the same goals, exchange ideas; eager to learn, teach, share. I see NOOR as a colourful bunch of people who I could add another touch of colour to.”
A cursing during a wrestling competition in the Gécamines suburbs – (Lubumbashi) 2013 © Leonard Pongo/NOOR
NOOR photographers Tanya Habjouqa and Robin Hammond have also now joined the agency as full members, following a unanimous vote by the existing photographers. Established in 2007, NOOR’s roster includes image-makers such as Nina Berman, Pep Bonet, Yuri Kozyrev, Alixandra Fazzina and Kadir van Lohuizen; respected photojournalist Stanley Greene was also a member until his death earlier this year.
The agency and its members are committed to “the fundamental power of photography to bear witness to the struggle for human rights and social justice”, and the name NOOR is taken from the Arabic word for light.
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy