Reza Captures Paradoxically Beautiful Images from World's Most Troubled Regions
WASHINGTON (2008)-Award-winning photojournalist and humanitarian Reza has devoted his life to bearing witness through his camera to the struggles and hopes of oppressed people around the world. In REZA WAR + PEACE (National Geographic Focal Point; ISBN 978-1-4262-0326-8; Nov. 18, 2008; $75), a 30-year retrospective of his work, this remarkable photographer chronicles his travels to places of conflict through exquisite images that pair turmoil with hope, joy with despair.
The book, with an introduction by Reza's friend, best-selling author Sebastian Junger, follows Reza's courageous career to the frontlines of war and areas of unrest as a photojournalist for such publications as National Geographic, Newsweek and Time.
Reza's journey has taken him from his native Iran, where he was jailed and tortured because of his photography, to dozens of countries gripped by turmoil - from Kurdistan to Egypt, Lebanon to Turkey, China to Israel, Somalia to South Africa. Through his lens, which captures not just conflict, but friendship, loyalty, family life and love, he takes us to such regions as northern Pakistan, where cultural shock and mutual incomprehension are deepening the gap between the American military and people in the tribal zones; Libya, a country making strides in economic and social well-being, but not in basic freedoms; Saudi Arabia, ruled by oil-rich princes whose opulent lives are in stark contrast to those of the "guest workers" who serve them; and Afghanistan, whose land and people have deeply touched Reza, helping him find his way in the labyrinth of his own nomadic life.
From scenes of demonstrations against the Shah of Iran to the tireless work of Afghan Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, from portraits of leaders such as Yassar Arafat, Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi to images of ordinary, unsung heroes facing unspeakable
hardships with dignity and courage, Reza uses the universal language of photography to move people to denounce injustice and celebrate the resilience of the human spirit.
Behind every image lies a gripping story, and Reza tells these tales in his own words, focusing attention on the costs of war and the universal human condition. His message is not despairing, but ultimately hopeful.
In his introduction, Sebastian Junger offers intimate insight into his experiences working with Reza in the field. "Reza is a great photographer because he sees the common humanity in people, and he sees that humanity in people because he has studied them so hard through his camera lens. ... When Reza looks at a young Afghan - or a Rwandan or an Egyptian or a Palestinian - he doesn't just see the product of a ruined world; he sees the potential citizen of a better one, as well."
"My camera is always looking for the truth that often hides in the shadows," Reza writes. "Being patient, staying right in the thick of wars, celebrations, tears, screams, the core events of life, and becoming nothing but a visual resonance chamber - that is my role." By acting as a witness, Reza is contributing "to building a world where the word 'war' will belong in the past. I believe that, one day, humanity will remember these conflicts as a form of behavior practiced by its primitive ancestors. Then, peace will have triumphed."
Describing himself as "a pilgrim seeking a world in which the best of humanity blossoms and flourishes," Reza is committed also to taking action. In 2001 he founded Aïna, the Afghan Media and Cultural Center, an international nonprofit organization devoted to developing a free press in Afghanistan. It helps ensure that journalists, intellectuals and artists can speak freely, provides training in media and communications for women and offers educational programs for children.
REZA WAR + PEACE is part of National Geographic Book's new Focal Point imprint, which draws on National Geographic's legendary photographic archive of more than 10 million images and the work of distinguished photographers around the world. The imprint will present the finest in documentary photography past and present, and monographs will celebrate individual photographers' unique style, vision and skill.
Reza is a National Geographic Fellow and renowned photojournalist who has captured the world in photographs for many leading publications and in more than 15 books. In 2005 he was honored with the Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite, the French award for distinguished services in a public or private capacity. In 2006 he received the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism "in recognition of his lifelong contributions, through brilliant photojournalism, to justice and dignity for the world's citizens."
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