Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Photography
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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Are selfies evil?
Are selfies evil?

When a camera is pointed away from the photographer, it can yield images that provide a fascinating window through which we can better see and understand the world around us. Yet when the camera is turned around and pointed toward the photographer, rather than providing new insight into that fascinating world out there, it merely […]

Guatemala: Playful women
Guatemala: Playful women

Decades ago, I hitchhiked across the United States, and along the way I stopped at the Grand Canyon. Yet while growing up I had seen so many pictures of it that when I first stepped out on the rim and looked down, I thought, “Oh. This looks just like the pictures.” It was cool, certainly, […]

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 […]

f8 Belgrade
f8 Belgrade

I don’t think I’d last long in an office. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to never break a sweat, to have a fast internet connection, to never get your feet wet, to not have to run through an airport to catch a connecting flight. But it would be so . . hmm, for […]

Roma Redux
Roma Redux

As I stepped out of a taxi near a collection of metal shipping containers in Makis, a village outside of Belgrade, Serbia, the people living in the containers eyed me suspiciously. When I set my camera case on the ground and start assembling my camera equipment, a few of the women started shouting, Bezi! Bezi! — […]

Guatemala genocide trial
Guatemala genocide trial

Manuela Toj knelt in the mud at the bottom of the pit, the three skeletons before her covered with flower petals and burning candles. I knelt beside her, along with several of her neighbors, all of us gathered around the newly revealed skeletons. A Mayan priest intoned prayers for the dead while a young woman […]

Bosnian volleyball
Bosnian volleyball

If we want the images we capture to be interesting and compelling, we’ve often got to change our point of view. Especially today, with the proliferation of imaging technology in the hands of many, we are inundated with images. If we want our images to stand out from the crowd, we’ve got to do something […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Size matters
Size matters

My images get used in a variety of places. Photos I captured in Haiti after the quake, for example, besides showing up in church-related magazines and websites around the world, were also used in secular media like the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, Portland Oregonian, the Guardian, BBC.com, blah, blah, blah. A […]

Incredible India
Incredible India

Not long ago a principal purveyor of stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV and AIDS, the Christian church has become in many places around the world a leader in providing both care for people living with the disease as well as advocacy and education to reset the culture’s response to people infected with […]