August 31, 2010
I really wanted to highlight Zoriah's work this week. I checked out his schedule, and, unfortunately, he's currently in Paris, and working on projects in the Middle East and Africa. So, while I'm waiting for his intern to get back to me, I found a set of general interview questions he's posted for a time such as this.
I found his perspective on censorship in the mainstream media, and his journey into independent work particular interesting. Zoriah couldn't hack the edits, the slanted stories and the turning down of projects that he felt were critical just because an editor thought, "no one would read them."
His journey into working for himself as a humanitarian photographer makes him what I believe to be one of the most pure kind of humanitarian workers that I have ever come across. His agenda is for people, not an organization or a media corporation.
After spending some time on what I felt to be the less glamorous side of humanitarian journalism this summer, I feel that my perspective on my career path has changed. It's not that I've changed what I want to do, it's that I've changed how I feel and think about it. It's that point where infatuation meets a fatal flaw, and one has to decide whether to continue on to a real relationship with a thing, or leave it behind. I'd like to think that it means my commitment to humanitarian work has become just that - a commitment. I'm headed out for an hour of tennis, and I know that I'll be thinking of Zoriah's words while I swing - "I like to photograph things that can change." I felt much the same way about work in Uganda - show me stories that I can use as a catalyst for something new.
I was also encouraged by his, far more seasoned, perspective on the hardship involved in humanitarian work. I still remember a boy who took me out to sushi in Long Beach shaking his head over our third date. "You're going to be a hard girl to hold in one place, aren't you?" After that, a special forces marine told me that he was concerned about, "holding me back." It's a lonely place to be in, at times, having a calling stuck in your head that you can't shake. I was encouraged by Zoriah, because doesn't sugar coat the tough side of things. He mentions the relational issues, the sickness, the exhaustion. I still remember the nurse in Uganda telling me, nonchalantly, that I had worms. I sat on the toilet and cried.
Despite the hardship that I related to, and the way his interview reminded me of the things I hate about staying in impoverished countries, I love that Zoriah reminded me that we go, and we do, because "people should eat before other people buy their third car," and that his images put a desire in me, for the first time since getting back to California, to get on a plane and get my ass right back to Africa.
View the interview here.
View his portfolio here.
Find his blog here.
(photo via Zoriah)