- What does visual peacemaking mean to you?
Visual Peacemaking to me is the mission of making photographic images that inform and enlighten the viewer about our global family.
Photographs will always be powerful in shaping our views and stimulating our response to an issue. I believe a visual peacemaker is a photographic voice addressing all manifestations of human conflict, natural conflicts inherent to our ever changing environment, as well as the life altering conflicts faced by people worldwide due to the the constant pressures of modernization.
- What motivates you to be a peacemaker?
I am motivated by my opportunities and privilege to witness the life realities of people and places of lesser known or misrepresented cultures coupled with the ability to make photographs that accurately document and help to preserve these rich cultures. I’m driven by the power to change - photo by photo…. - the way we understand and participate in our world.
- Have you ever felt stereotyped?
In Africa most of the people regard foreign photographers as opportunist there to take photos only to return to the “west” to sell exotic photos of Africa for gazillions of dollars. Fortunately for me my continued return over the years to the cities, towns, and remote villages with gifts of photo prints has erased this “American” photographer stereotype. In fact in many of these places I am fondly called “camera man” - there only to tell the world the story of their beautiful existence.
Here in the States the photographer working in Africa is often stereotyped. In this case most people are conditioned to seeing (and expecting) the typical images of naked, starving, dying people, or war-torn hopelessness and moreover the safari adventure pictures of elephants, lions, and monkeys that have long been the hallmark image of Africa.
My photographs, showcasing life in the big cities and bustling towns mixed with images of the vibrant life in traditional villages, tend to break down the layered stereotypes that plague the photographer working in Africa and the subject - Africa.
- How does your camera get you to reflect on your world and your life?
Seeing more intensely and observing more patiently with a greater understanding and appreciation of my subject. When traveling to a destination (new or previously visited) I enter a thought process of visualizing photo compositions based on my research, planning, and/or prior experience. On arrival I carefully scout photo compositions based on the light, and the vibe of being there. Finally I begin to make photographs in response to the moment, the movement, and the sense of place. It is during this entire process that I am forced to slow down and absorb everything - the sights, the sounds, the smells, along with the feel of my surroundings. I am constantly reflecting on my world and my life when looking through my lens and capturing an instant in the lives of others.
- What do you like to photograph best?
My favorite subjects are people being people while candidly living out their day-to-day lives in all their magnificent diversities.
- What technical aspect of photography do you find most challenging?
1. Shooting film in a digital photography dominant era poses a challenge. With each medium having it’s pros and cons, I could make a list that highlights the advantages that film has over digital when considering the locations that I shoot in and the conditions I shoot under.
2. Airport X-ray (although I’m well known by scores of airport security agents in dozens of countries for talking my Fujichrome around X-ray machines).
3. Chasing great natural light between Cancer and Capricorn.
- Is there a particular group you feel is misunderstood or stereotyped that you’d like to document common humanity amongst?
Most of the African peoples - misunderstood and stereotyped - south of the Sahara. The roughly 80% of this part of the continent who are not involved in some kind of conflict or safari adventure.
- Do you have an idea worth sharing?
A great idea: an IGVP annual printed book celebrating its member photographers and their visual peacemaker accomplishments.
Say Africa to most people and what comes to mind?
Hot tropical jungles and exotic adventure filled safari; or famished children smothered in flies; or the plight of war and civil conflict; or AIDS, malaria, and total impoverishment?
These are the thoughts and image we’ve come to associate with Africa. Fed mainly by limited information (or misinformation) over many decades our perceptions have been shaped about an entire continent.
Growing up in the 60s’ and 70s’ my earliest impressions of Africa (including Saturday afternoon Tarzan flicks) came from news images of the starving children of the Biafran War and the scourge of the Dada regime. This remained my view of Africa as news photographs, film, and press covering Africa usually focus on conflict, tragedy, or a seemingly incurable condition. This lopsided imagery has fueled the prevailing stigma plaguing Africa for decades. After all, if the available media largely typify conflict and poverty – or imagery showcasing wildlife backdropped by the exotic tropical landscapes – what would your impression be?
Photographer and avid traveler, I first went to Africa in 2002 with a peaked interest in my ancestry. A discovery voyage, my trip proved more enlightening than anticipated and was life changing. On a six week travel itinerary between Senegal and Ghana, it took a few days to witness all of the exciting beauty and realize that much of what I’d been led to believe about Africa was inaccurate.
The pure culture rush from the uniquely diverse peoples and magical places inspired me. I’ve since lived in, traveled, and photographed vibrant cultures spanning Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Ethiopia, and Djibouti – with the inspired goal of seeing and photographing the entire continent.
As this amazing experience continued to unfold, I realized the need to produce imagery that reveals the total picture of Africa and responds to the lack of up-to-date information.
My vision is to use my photographic style and point of view to enlighten the viewer about lesser known or misrepresented cultures of Africa. My mission is to showcase the intense beauty of Africa – in all it’s diverse manifestations – in order to bring new insight valuable to seeing and truly appreciating this magnificent continent.
Everyone should really see Africa.
My Recent Activity
I am available for assignments worldwide. I’m also available for lectures and workshops. Please contact me directly.
I will be working in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Guinea, Senegal, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia from September 2013 through December 2014.
I have logged extensive travel experience throughout West Africa and rapidly developing experience in East Africa. My commitment to presenting a new point of view has earned me access to countless subjects and unique encounters, opening essential to exposing the unseen beauty of Africa.