- What does visual peacemaking mean to you?
Visual peacemaking, for me, is the act of helping people from different cultures, neighborhoods and countries to respect each other, even though there are natural historical, political and even religious differences between them. This can be achieved with photographs that show hardships, hopes and even the natural beauty of the world that people live in and experience.
- What motivates you to be a peacemaker?
I have always loved taking and making photographs. There’s just something special about the “magic” of capturing an image and feeling that there’s a story behind it. I’m motivated by the possibility that my images will convey the essence of a story that can help people understand and appreciate each other, whether they are in difficult situations or expressing their hope for a better life. But I am also motivated to show the beauty in otherwise unfamiliar places, which I believe can be a positive reinforcement to accepting others of different backgrounds and environments.
- Have you ever felt stereotyped?
Yes, I think most people have at some point in their lives. But while it certainly isn’t acceptable, it also can be an opportunity to work towards correcting it.
- How does your camera get you to reflect on your world and your life?
My camera is a portal into things that I see and the stories I’d like to tell. I find that the camera helps me focus (no pun intended) on things that I might otherwise not notice. It has helped me grow as a person in many different ways.
- What do you like to photograph best?
Some photographers want to specialize and I periodically grapple with that. The truth is, I like photographing everything! But if you were to pin me down to give just one answer, I’d say people. There’s nothing like seeing the expressions on their faces and the hope and happiness in their eyes. I love photographing people of all ages in different environments. They can be happy or sad—the goal is to communicate something about them.
- What technical aspect of photography do you find most challenging?
Even with today’s digital darkroom tools, the key is to get a good image from the camera. Managing natural light can be a challenge. You can try and plan around times of day, etc. but you don’t want to miss that image that shows up at high noon. Fortunately I have a good command of postprocessing software. But you still need a decent image to work with.
- Is there a particular group you feel is misunderstood or stereotyped that you’d like to document common humanity amongst?
I have travelled to many locations around the world, but mostly to Asia and Southeast Asia in recent years. There is so much poverty (and culture) there, and I’ve learned a lot about the people and their living conditions. When I tell others about my experiences I sometimes get a “really?” type response. I am currently working on a story to go along with my photographs of China, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
- Do you have an idea worth sharing?
As I indicated earlier, I think visual peacemaking should involve more than just the “bad” things that people around the world endure. Sure that’s very important, but I think there’s room for a positive angle to the storytelling. It’s kind of similar to watching news on TV or in the press. How about a “positive story of the week” or something like that? I’ll try and tell one!