Photojournalist Reza discusses photography’s influence in lecture at Syracuse University

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

Reza, an international photographer, spoke at Syracuse University on Wednesday.

Globally recognized and benevolent photojournalist Reza captures suffering through the eyes of the survivors.

Architect turned photojournalist Reza visited Syracuse University on Wednesday to discuss photography’s influence and its power to serve humanity. Speaking in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, he discussed his project “Exile Voices” that features the work of children living in the Kawergosk Refugee Camp in northern Iraq. Reza said it is important to use media, specifically photojournalism, to encourage kids to tell their stories.

Reza said photography is a powerful tool, one that can speak every language. He started AINA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the youth of Afghanistan in photo-communication.

During the lecture, he also shared his views on the importance of understanding how people live. Through his photography, he said he wants to display important issues in a dignified way — a way that can facilitate change.

“One of the most important things you see in really tough parts of humanity is resilience,” Reza said.

Famine is one of the great woes of civilization, Reza said. Rather than simply photographing the ugliness and death behind famine, though, Reza said he captures the hope and desire to survive. He said despite his desire to photograph subjects of this global issue, he had a problem.

“(H)ow could I go from my hotel, to my car, to arrive to a place where people are dying of hunger?” Reza recalled.

All the pictures he had seen before were not satisfying, he said, pointing out there was something missing.

“The dignity of those people was what was missing,” Reza said. “I didn’t want to show an object on the ground. I wanted to show the humanity.”

To truly understand how people in the villages feel, he said he had locked himself in his hotel room for 72 hours with no food.

“Sometimes you have to go too far in order to capture beauty of the culture, beauty of humanity, to create a relationship with humanity,” Reza said.

Reza then discussed the war in Afghanistan. An entire cultural community had been subject to a war for 20 years, and many people’s lives were uprooted, if not destroyed, he said.

As a part of his education initiative, Reza said he has educated young women and children to communicate their experiences to explain what has happened to them. The first documentary these women created, Reza said, was then nominated for an Emmy Award.

“Reza gave these people the power, and us the ability, to see them as humans not just statistics or collateral damage,” said Bailey Benzinger, a freshman in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “And I think that’s amazing.”

“Art can be part of the solution,” Reza said. “Art can change, heart can change.”


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