Even before they entered the gates to the fair, visitors were directed to Stand L 67/L 73 in Hall 3.1 by ten large-format posters. ARD TV and Hessischer Rundfunk radio were interested, the Austrian Minister of Culture, Josef Ostermayer, came to the stand, as did Frankfurt Mayor Peter Feldmann. On the podium, TV personalities Sabine Christiansen and Marie-Luise Marjahn shared the space with politician Tom Koenigs and international photographers Chris de Bode, Patricia Willocq, Hartmut Schwarzbach, Fernando Moleres and Nannen Prize winner Kai Löffelbein. The most intense bustle at Edition Lammerhuber’s stand came when 250 young ‘book pilots’, girls and boys from schools in Frankfurt, turned up. What drew them all to the 2014 Book Fair? ‘We the Children’, a project of UNICEF Germany, GEO and Lammerhuber publishing house, on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The book runs to almost 300 pages and is edited by former GEO editor-in-chief, Peter-Matthias Gaede, and by Jürgen Heraeus, Chairman of the Board of UNICEF Germany. It combines photo reports from 42 countries and can be read as a to-do list for the international community of states; as a plea not just to enshrine the fundamental rights of children, for instance the right of protection against violence and exploitation or the right to education and health, in solemn statements but to implement them in real life. While the pupils of Frankfurt milled around the large-format images for two hours and listened to tales about the circumstances of children in Syria, messages to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon were entered into one copy of the book, which is published in German and English to widen the appeal of its theme, further supported by the hash tag campaign #WetheChildren.
In his preface to the book, Gaede describes its intent as “a harsh reminder of what should be on the agenda of the global family”. The book draws on the work of committed first-rate international photographers*. The children at the fair took to the message of We the Children with empathy, as witnessed by their encounter with Neehaari Mandali, an Indian woman who had tried to immolate herself to get out of an arranged marriage that had become unbearable. It was not easy to look into her ravaged face, but many children wanted to talk to her and to hear her story.