Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

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 friend in Toronto wrote to say my images appeared in three daily newspapers there on the same day, including on the front page of one. Friends in Holland and Pakistan and Indonesia all wrote to say they’d seen my credit. The Boston Globe used a couple of my images in their collection called “The Big Picture,” of which I’ve always been a fan. For a photographer, especially one as insecure as me, such placement is good for the ego. Size does matter. A few weeks ago a Norwegian colleague called me, somewhat intoxicated, to say my photos from eastern Congo were being projected at that moment on the walls of a cathedral in Oslo as a rock band played, all part of a fundraiser for humanitarian work in the DRC. Cool. But my photographer ego was on steroids when I saw this:

Hanging Paul Jeffrey's photo on WCC headquarters in Geneva - Photo by Sean Hawkey

Thanks to Sean Hawkey for this photo of my photo being hung on the front of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, where the ACT Alliance has its headquarters. It’s an image of a Haitian girl surrounded by rubble in Port-au-Prince following the January earthquake there.

A girl stands in the devastated center of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which was ravaged by a January 12 earthquake.

I’ve used a similar technique a few other places, and I really like the effect it has, putting the human in relation to the environment in a way that stresses the background and forces you to think about the image and wonder about its impact on the child. Full disclosure: I stole the idea from James Nachtwey, whose haunting image from Chechnya of a child standing in a street in ruins of central Grozny gave me inspiration. Here’s an image of mine from Uganda, a child displaced by attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army:

A once displaced boy is now back home in northern Uganda.

And here’s one of a girl living in a camp for internally displaced persons in the Darfur region of Sudan:

A girl in the Dereig Camp for families internally displaced by Darfur's conflict.

I’ll keep doing it. The world needs to think more about the impact of war and poverty on the lives of children.

One Response to Size matters

  1. Valerie says:

    Paul,

    Have really enjoyed exploring your blog. A friend pointed out your work for UMC/UMW a couple of years ago, but only recently discovered your blog. I appreciate reading your commentary while viewing your images. Totally agree that the juxtaposition of a child to a destroyed environment speaks volumes. I was surfing through your images and was drawn to the Haitian girl against the starkness of the white rubble. Enjoyed reading about your inspiration; personally I don’t think building upon another’s technique diminishes your work. Will be returning frequently to your blog for inspiration.

    Blessings,
    Valerie

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