Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Serbia: Roma struggle
Serbia: Roma struggle

Vita Stankovic lives with his wife Sofija Arbanac and their daughters Rada, 5, and Caka, 3, in a homemade ramshackle dwelling. It’s in the middle of a vacant lot but within sight of the new high-rise buildings that mark the post-war renaissance of Belgrade, Serbia. Stankovic and his family are Roma, also known as Gypsies, […]

Brazil: Remembering Dorothy
Brazil: Remembering Dorothy

Antonia Silva Lima lives in a place called Hope. She came to the Amazon rainforest more than two decades ago, like hundreds of thousands of other migrants fleeing from poverty in other parts of Brazil. The settlers moved deep into the forest and cut down the trees to grow subsistence crops, only to be chased […]

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 […]

Honduras: A death in the Aguan Valley
Honduras: A death in the Aguan Valley

We found Carlos Martinez’ body lying in several inches of water in a far corner of the La Lempira palm oil cooperative that he and other peasants had seized from a wealthy landowner that they believed stole it from them. I had come to the cooperative early that Sunday morning, sitting for two hours with […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]