Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Disasters
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 […]

Nepal Quake + 1
Nepal Quake + 1

One year ago today, within a few brief seconds, the floor of the Kathmandu Valley shifted five feet to the south. It was the earthquake everyone knew was coming, but few had prepared for. In the year since, the survivors have lived in “temporary” shelters for one monsoon season, then one cold Himalayan winter, and are […]

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 […]

Europe welcomes refugees
Europe welcomes refugees

When I heard the news that some governors in the United States were trying to forbid the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states, I remembered the wet infants I’d been handed on Lesbos. As rubber rafts overloaded with refugees floundered in the surf off the Greek island, photographers weren’t exempt from helping to get […]

Pilgrimage to Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Pilgrimage to Hiroshima & Nagasaki

It’s safe behind the camera. There’s enough stuff to think about–aperture, shutter speed, framing–that I can usually stay somewhat detached from the emotion in front of the lens, be it grief or anger or levity. But what usually occurs at a professional distance has a bad habit of sneaking up on me later. So it […]

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 […]

Indonesia: Tsunami+10
Indonesia: Tsunami+10

People throughout South Asia will soon pause to remember the giant waves that ten years ago this month swept over thousands of coastal communities, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving millions homeless. This is the story of several of those communities. Immediately after the December 26, 2004, tsunami, I flew to Sri Lanka to […]

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 […]

Philippines: After the typhoon
Philippines: After the typhoon

Tacloban was ground zero for last November’s typhoon in the Philippines. Although its residents have been hard at work cleaning up the mess the super storm left behind, a walk along the city’s ravaged waterfront is still a powerful emotional experience. As I picked my way through the rubble on Valentine’s Day in February, there […]

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 […]

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 […]

Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees

People have continuously lived in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, for more than 5,000 years. In 2003 I went there to research a story about efforts to preserve the twisting labyrinth of narrow stone-paved streets. I intentionally got lost, and spent delightful hours just wandering, repeatedly trekking into dead-end alleys and having to retrace […]

Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez

I met Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in January 2000 in the aftermath of horrible mudslides that ravaged the steep hillsides of Caracas and the country’s northern coast. I covered the response to the disaster, and spent part of my time in a steep ravine where the Catuche River flows into the center of the capital. Over […]

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 […]

On the Beach
On the Beach

Sometimes when I look at an image that I captured years ago, I get a feeling that is totally unrelated to whatever you may see when you look at the image. Take this photo from the remote Indonesian island of Nias. I had gone there a while after the big tsunami to document how islanders […]

Rescuing Ena Zizi
Rescuing Ena Zizi

Three years ago this week, the earth shook under Port au Prince, Haiti, and for many the world came to an end. I went to Haiti to cover the aftermath of the quake for the ACT Alliance, which had several members actively working in Haiti before the quake. I spent my nights there camped in […]

Philippines: Misery Mountain
Philippines: Misery Mountain

High on the slopes of fog-draped Mt. Diwata, far above the Compostela Valley in northern Mindanao, more than 40,000 people cling to the hillsides because of what lies under the ramshackle community of Diwalwal. It’s gold, and since its discovery here by Mandaya indigenous people in the late 1970s, Diwalwal has resembled parts of California […]

Haiti: Hatuey’s legacy
Haiti: Hatuey's legacy

They were easy to spot from a distance because they all had on the same red shirts. As they neared my row, I cringed a bit, hoping they would continue on towards the back of the plane that was going to carry us to Miami. But then two women stopped and asked to get past […]

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 […]

Pakistan: Mortenson lessons
Pakistan: Mortenson lessons

Greg Mortenson certainly told a good story. When I was on the road for two months last year speaking about my work, I repeatedly encountered people who had read his books and were inspired by what he had experienced and accomplished. Yet there was always something about his story that bothered me, and now we […]

Haiti: Rubble Nation
Haiti: Rubble Nation

The January 2010 earthquake generated a new word in the vocabulary of Haitians: goudougoudou. That’s the affectionate Kreyol term that Haitians across the board use to name the disaster that ravaged Port-au-Prince and nearby cities. It’s alternately written goudou goudou or goudou-goudou, and is supposedly–if you say it over and over again very fast–the sound […]