July 2nd, 2010
Last week I had the honor of sharing the podium with Martin de Boer and Christopher Morris during the opening of the Our World at War exhibition at the Seattle Center. Martin is the Deputy Head of the Regional Delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the US, Canada, and the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Christopher is a founding member of the VII Photo Agency, contract photographer for Time, and has decades of war photography under his belt; he also contributed to the exhibition.
The event was hosted by the Seattle chapter of the Red Cross, and it was through these people Lu and I had the chance to learn more about what the Red Cross actually does. Martin spoke of the organization’s history, then he segued into the exhibition itself. The idea was to put a face on the statistics, to tell stories about individuals who live in conflict zones or who are coping with the aftermath of war.
Christopher then took the stage, weaving through years of conflict to share with us his experience. Before the ICRC assignment, he’d never worked for the organization; their paths were parallel, but as a journalist he was an observer, an historian, while they were actively involved in conflicts or disasters. To him, war is “one idiot with a gun trying to kill another idiot with a gun.” It’s not that war happens in an empty desert between two armies, it happens in villages, towns, and cities where civilians are killed, and he is sick of it.
I’ve never been to an active conflict zone, but I have been to post-conflict countries. It was here that I fit into the evening, because I put faces to statistics. I create viral media and have experience partnering with non profits and non governmental organizations, telling stories of individuals with the purpose of educating a detached public and spurring them to action. While I am less of an historian than Christopher, I don’t think either of us are any less passionate about revealing truths and conveying them to a global audience.
During the reception I had a chance to talk with Christopher. As a younger photographer who admires his work, it was an honor to have his signature in the photo book the Red Cross presented me. As a peer, it was enjoyable to talk about the editorial industry and the new tools available to us as storytellers, chiefly, HDSLR’s, iPads, and self publishing via social media.
Christopher started his career during a time when assignments were bountiful and print magazines were the place to be published. I started when the web was in its infancy, and both of us are weathering the decline of print media, the rise of digital distribution, and a changing audience capable of choosing the stories it wants from the increasing noise of a 24 hour cycle where old news was published 60 seconds ago.
Needless to say, it was a pleasure to meet him, Martin, and the local Red Cross staff who put on the event. Lu found a mutual boot admirer, a British woman as rapid about football as she is, and, in her devilish way, was trying to convince Martin to delay his flight for the morning world cup game. She also received a gorgeous flower arrangement, seen in the above iPhone photo with Red Giant’s Plastic Bullet processing. (Thanks Majidah!)
The Red Cross is hosting lectures throughout the duration of the exhibition, which I highly encourage you to attend. They’ve put a lot of work into helping people understand the human cost of war.
A piece by Christopher Morris on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Both this and Obama’s War were shot on the Canon 5D Mark II using a Canon Tilt-Shift lens.
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