Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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! — […]

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 […]

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 […]

All things change
All things change

Pictures of the Week are ending in order to give way to more frequent posts in the main blog area. It’s been a good run, and the last couple of years of POWs will remain here online. (And those from this year have been duplicated in the main section.) The problem was simply this: as […]

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 […]

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 […]

Colombian soldier
Colombian soldier

I’ve often said that the hardest part of photography is getting to the right place at the right time. Take a trip I made to Colombia in 2000, for example. I was interested in writing about the U’wa indigenous people. Tired of having their tribal land ravaged by foreign oil corporations, they had threatened a […]

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 […]

Morales’ morning
Morales' morning

Most of the time I interview people who are powerless: victims of oppression, refugees and street children, sex workers and migrants. I do that intentionally, as their perspective is usually given short shrift in much of the media. Too many officials and wealthy people get quoted. But every once in a while I seek out […]

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 […]

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 […]

Innocence threatened
Innocence threatened

It’s the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents, when the church remembers the biblical narrative of infanticide by Herod the Great, who’d been appointed “King of the Jews” by Rome. Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem in order to fend off losing his power to the newborn […]

Waiting in Mursan
Waiting in Mursan

In these waning days of Advent, when our practice of waiting is stressed to the breaking point by the violent anti-logic of NRA types who think the solution to violence is more violence, I recall those I've known who wait patiently. In refugee camps and prisons around the world, in homes torn by abuse and […]

Flowers for the police
Flowers for the police

I’m currently wrapping up a month-long reporting trip with a few days in Cambodia, most of it in the boonies, but including a couple of days in Phnom Penh, in part to photograph some demonstrations on Human Rights Day last Monday. I went to two very different demonstrations that morning. The second was a protest […]