Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Africa
Nevertheless, she persisted
Nevertheless, she persisted

When Elizabeth Warren insisted on reading a old letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the U.S. Senate on February 7, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ordered her to shut up. In a classic example of mansplaining, McConnell commented on her silencing by saying, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” It instantly […]

2016 – A year in photos
2016 - A year in photos

There’s a military phrase that, despite my aversion to military terms, works well for photography. Some places I visit are clearly “target-rich environments,” in that it’s hard not to capture compelling images because the people and their surroundings are so beautiful. I’m not referring to some misplaced sense of the exotic. People aren’t interesting just […]

#TeamRefugees
#TeamRefugees

At the 2016 Olympics in Rio, a unique team of ten refugees participated for the first time in international competition. Their participation clearly showed that bravery knows no borders. To honor their participation and the struggle of refugees and displaced people around the world to survive and prosper, every day during the Olympics I posted an […]

2015 – A year in photos
2015 - A year in photos

When Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, a New York City street photographer in the 1930s and 1940s, was asked what the secret was to his images, he responded, “f8 and be there.” In other words, you gotta show up. During this past year, that’s what I tried to do. From the streets of Pasco, Washington, to the […]

South Sudan – Is there hope?
South Sudan - Is there hope?

Cecil the Lion is dead. In an act that has been rightly criticized all over the world, a Minnesota dentist traveled to Zimbabwe and paid a lot of money to wound the iconic lion and then chase him for two days before finally killing the animal and skinning him to take home a “trophy” to […]

Getting comfortable
Getting comfortable

Photography can be, at its best, an intimate window into people’s lives. Yet intimacy implies proximity. The war photographer Robert Capa understood that. He said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” At a certain point, however, getting close can induce discomfort in the subject of the image, making them change what […]

2014 – A year in photos
2014 - A year in photos

In these waning minutes of 2014, I want to offer my thanks to those people around the world who let me share in their lives for a few moments or a few days this year. Because they were willing to tell me their stories, or let me into their homes and neighborhoods to document their […]

South Sudan: New nation, old problems
South Sudan: New nation, old problems

When fighting broke out in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in December, Asanta Jantana quickly gathered her seven children and fled for another part of the country where she hoped she could find peace. They hitched a ride on a truck for a day, then walked the last 12 miles to her brother’s house in the […]

Advent images
Advent images

Advent is a time of waiting–for the incarnation, for justice, for peace. Over the centuries the church has developed a series of measures to help us develop the practice of waiting, everything from different liturgical colors to candles and wreathes to calendars with little doors to special music (though it’s an unfair fight: for every […]

Jumping Rope
Jumping Rope

When I was a kid at Lincoln Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington, I preferred the monkey bars during recess and would frequently hang there, often upside down, watching my classmates jump rope while chanting some rhythmic rhyme. In that pre-modern universe it was only girls that jumped rope, of course. Any attempt by a boy […]

Sanctuary
Sanctuary

A few days ago, Pope Francis paid an unannounced visit to a refugee center in Rome. He arrived without a motorcade and spent 90 minutes talking with refugees and the staff of the center, which is run by his order, the Jesuits. Afterwards, he urged the faithful to be better stewards of empty church buildings by […]

Abyei: On the border of two Sudans
Abyei: On the border of two Sudans

When violence breaks out between two different groups in Africa, it’s common for western media reports to characterize what happened as “tribal violence” or “ethnic conflict.” Such nomenclature is mandatory for writing about Africa, wrote Binyavanga Wainaina in his landmark 2005 essay How to Write about Africa. Such reductionism makes complicated scenarios easier to digest […]

Timbuktu trouble
Timbuktu trouble

Timbuktu sounds dramatically different these days than it did a year ago, when religious extremists exercised terror, beating women and girls who ventured out of the house without completely covering themselves, chastising men who wore their pants too long, smashing any machine that made music, burning books of science and faith that dated back centuries […]

In praise of literacy
In praise of literacy

Following the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua in 1979, one of the first priorities of the new government was to launch a massive literacy campaign throughout the cities and countryside. Political empowerment of the poor majority demanded the ability to read and write, and volunteers from throughout the world came to help. Run […]

Angola classroom
Angola classroom

Two weeks ago I mentioned the premise in quantum theory that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality. This is especially true when a sweaty photographer tries to capture images of a whole room full of kids. Some of them will inevitably stare at the camera. Since documentary photojournalism strives […]

War Shadows
War Shadows

Sometimes the best images aren’t where you thought you’d find them. In 2002, just after Jonas Savimbi was killed, I went to Angola to cover the end of that country’s bloody civil war. Savimbi was one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite “freedom fighters,” and US funding and encouragement, including from private terrorist groups like the Heritage […]

Running away
Running away

Children can be a pain in the butt. They are such adorable little creatures, unless you’re tasked with photographing in a refugee camp. Don’t get me wrong, here, I’m talking about kids who are like me when I was a kid: obnoxious. (Some would suggest it’s a trait I have yet to outgrow.) Let me […]

Background basics
Background basics

Backgrounds are important. I remember reading about one famous street photographer in Paris who would search for an interesting wall or street, then find a sidewalk café where he would sit all day, drinking wine, as he waited for someone to come by that would provide just the right foreground element to make the picture […]

Walking women
Walking women

A photographer does well to think of her or his audience as jaded. Unless you are documenting something really new, most people have already seen so many images of fill-in-the-blank-with-the-project-you’re-shooting that one more image that looks like the rest they’ve seen isn’t going to noticeably budge their applause-o-meter. So one of the easiest ways to […]

Egypt: Advent in Tahrir Square
Egypt: Advent in Tahrir Square

It is Advent in Tahrir Square, where people are waiting. They’re not sure for what, but such is the nature of Advent, to wait for freedom and deliverance amid uncertainty. The people gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square are both afraid and hopeful at the same time. That’s Advent in a land where Arab Spring has […]

Advent waiting
Advent waiting

Advent is a time when Christians practice the discipline of waiting. For many people in the world, however, waiting is more ordinary, the stuff of every day and not just special days. Waiting shapes who they are and how they see the world. For many who wait, impatience simply isn’t an option, perhaps because it’s […]

Horn of Africa: Deadly drought
Horn of Africa: Deadly drought

Fatima Mohammed walked 32 days from her drought-ravaged farm in Somalia to the relative safety of the sprawling Dadaab refugee settlement in northeastern Kenya. There were days, she told me, when they were so thirsty that her children couldn’t walk, and the adults would ferry them ahead, returning to carry two more children at a […]

Libya: Urbicide in Misrata
Libya: Urbicide in Misrata

Fred Pavey has a rubber chicken. His wife gave it to him. Fred is a British explosive ordnance disposal technician, and when he gets to a place where he has to deal with landmines or bombs or other things that are just lying around waiting to go bang, he inflates the chicken and leaves its […]

Malawi: Food questions
Malawi: Food questions

The usual picture the media paint of Africa is one of corruption, violence and hunger, a picture that plays well into the goal of aid groups to bump up revenue. After all, if there’s no crisis, there’s no money. And as humanitarian groups become fixers and access providers more and more frequently for cash-strapped foreign […]