Making Connections:
Photographic Storytellers from Around the World

Saiful Huq (Bangladesh), Larry McNeil (Tlingit Nation), Peter Magubane (South Africa), Andy Patrick (FiftyCrows Foundation), Sandra Sebastián Pedro (Guatemala),Chris Rainier (National Geographic Society), and Newsha Tavakolian (Iran)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006 | 7:30 - 9:00pm | Kresge Auditorium | Free and Open to All

Presented with the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society’s All Roads Photography Program recognizes and supports talented indigenous and underrepresented storytellers from around the world who are documenting their changing cultures and communities through photography. The program provides a forum for photographers to showcase their work to a global audience with the opportunity to engage and experience, firsthand, the unique and essential voices of these artists through exhibitions, public discussions and workshops.

In this Aurora Forum conversation we meet all four of this year’s All Roads Photography Program awardees: Saiful Huq (Bangladesh), Larry McNeil (Tlingit Nation), Sandra Sebastián Pedro (Guatemala), and Newsha Tavakolian (Iran). They will be joined by celebrated South African photographer Peter Magubane, Andy Patrick, founder and executive director of the Fifty Crows Foundation for Social Change Photography, and National Geographic Society photographer Chris Rainer. These photographers will present their work and discuss ways their images and stories make connections that help create a more just and beautiful world.

A Bangladeshi with advanced degrees in applied physics, electronics and communication engineering, Saiful Huq bought his first camera in 2000 and became a “photo activist.” Shahidul Alam, a National Geographic board member and founder of the Drik Picture Library in Bangladesh, writes: “The urge to show the helpless victim, the tearjerker image that looms large on billboards, are often the first choice of photojournalists trying to make their mark. That a young photographer has been able to resist those easy options says a lot about Huq. His is a reflective stance, not a judgemental one. And in showing the plight of victims of meaningless violence, he chooses not to show them as victims, but as people who find themselves in a strange unfamiliar land. One they have never had to deal with before. It is the humanity of his images rather than the power of their construction that is central to his images. The visual strength is a bonus.”

Larry McNeil writes this about himself: “I was born into the Killer Whale House, Keet Hít, of the Northern Tlingit almost precisely in the middle of the twentieth century and was raised in both Juneau and Anchorage Alaska. I am a product of both our traditional Tlingit culture and the mainstream world of North America, with an emphasis on the Tlingit aspect. My photographs are about my view of what it means to be mired in the milieu of the intersection of cultures and some of the absurdities that magically appear on a regular basis, like being asked to make sacred art by mainstream curators and coming back with a piece titled Bone Heads that pokes fun at the notions of stereotypical perceptions of the sacred. The intersection of cultures is a sight to behold, especially if you’re stuck in the midst of it. If you can’t laugh about it you’ll end up a bit nuts, as the doctors would phrase it. These pieces were made as part of the larger fly by night mythology body of work that I’ve been working on for a number of years… maybe my entire life, come to think of it.”

Peter Magubane is an internationally acclaimed black South African photographer whose long and distinguished career spans over 50 years. Working first with the illustrious Drum Magazine during the fifties and later for the Rand Daily Mail, he routinely covered political assignments. As a result he was detained, kept in solitary confinement for 586 days and later banned by the nationalist government of the time. Despite the harassment, his photographs recorded much of the violence and pathos of the apartheid era and his pictures of the 1976 Soweto riots defined his reputation as a first-class social and political photographer. He has published more than a dozen books, been featured in innumerable exhibitions, and has received many awards, including the Missouri School of Journalism Honorary Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism for his lifelong coverage of apartheid (1992), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mother Jones Foundation (1997), and the Leica Lifetime Achievement Award (1997). In recent years he has become an art photographer documenting surviving tribal ways in post-apartheid South Africa.

For the past sixteen years, Andy Patrick has been actively involved in the development of social cause organizations striving to make a positive impact on the human condition. He is the founder and executive director of FiftyCrows Foundation, which discovers and disseminates documentary photographic essays that advance our common humanity. He is also the current president of LiveBooks, which has developed a web-based application allowing photographers to manage and present their images on the web. Occasionally he finds time to take photographs, sculpt stone and ponder the disappearance of journalism in America.

The daughter of a Guatemalan Maya Q’anjob’al photographer in Guatemala City, Sandra Sebastián Pedro has been taking pictures for more than fifteen years and has been a photojournalist for nine. She writes, “Becoming a photojournalist is the one of the most important things that happened in my life as a professional, indigenous woman. When I began my career as photojournalist there weren’t any woman in the photo section of the two newspapers where I worked, Siglo Veintiuno and El Periódico. In spite of my youth, gender, and origin, there were people who trusted in my abilities.…One has to be the eyes, the ears, and the voice of a people, serving those who expect to see the news as well as those who create it.”

Chris Rainier’s mysterious images of sacred places and indigenous peoples have earned him recognition as one of the world’s top documentary photographers. His mission is to document the disappearing cultures and tribes remaining on the planet. His photographic essays have appeared in a range of national and international publications and are in numerous permanent collections around the world. In addition to Keepers of the Spirit and Where Masks Still Dance, he has recently published Ancient Marks, a book documenting tattooing and scarification around the world in both traditional and contemporary cultures. From 1980 to 1985, he was a photographic assistant to the late Ansel Adams. He now serves as co-director of the National Geographic Society’s Ethnosphere Project, is a member of the Explorers Club in New York City and serves as a board member of Cultural Survival in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Chris continues to lecture and teach worldwide about the significance of photography as a tool for social change. He and his family divide their time between New York, Washington, D.C., and the mountains and streams of Colorado.

Newsha Tavakolian has been working as a photographer in the Iranian press since she was sixteen years old. In 2002 she started to work internationally covering Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. She feels strongly about women issues in the Middle East, which is one of the main focus points in her work. Her pictures have been published in publications around the world including Time, Newsweek, Stern, The New York Times Magazine and newspaper, Le Figaro, and NRC Handelsblad. In 2005 she was chosen along with nine other women photographers for a special issue of Marie Claire magazine. In 2006 she was selected with 11 other young photographers for the World Press Photo Masterclass in Holland. She is represented by Polaris Images in New York City. A resident of Tehran, she speaks Farsi, English and Kurdish. 

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