National Geographic Live with Photojournalist Ed Kashi

Sensitive Eye – The Work of Photojournalist and Filmmaker Ed Kashi
by Hope Atterbury, National Geographic Live

© Kristin Reimer 2012

On a crystal clear Skype call from France, photographer Ed Kashi spoke recently about the personal and professional themes he plans to explore when he appears at Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington DC on April 17th.

“I love giving lectures. It’s exciting to share with people,” he told me. “The work seems to come alive. In some ways physically being with an audience that’s looking at my images and hearing my stories is even more exciting than seeing the work in print.”

Kashi’s current work in print appears in “The Changing Face of Marseille,” an article from the March issue of National Geographic Magazine. His images portray Provence’s capital city as a melting pot with a diverse immigrant population of Comorans, Algerians, Christians, Roma, Moroccans and Muslims that somehow manages to live in a delicate, although separate, harmony.

For Kashi, the assignment was unusual both for the amount of street shooting it required and for how resistant to being photographed his subjects were.

“I had to do by far more street work than I have before,” Kashi said. “At every turn people seem to question me as though asking ‘why are you photographing me, how will this photograph be used?’ There was an intense negative reaction to the camera.” At his presentation Kashi plans to share a short video “think” piece called “Eye Contact” which he created in response to the challenge of shooting in Marseille.

Kashi feels keenly that his images should make some kind of difference. “I think about the implications of my work obsessively,” he said. “I used to think in terms of needing a certain type of photograph, a great one, or a gritty one. Now I think about the world in a broader sense and about whether it’s ok to go to these places to make photos that possibly reinforce stereotypes. We have to be more responsible. We have to ask what good are we doing, and how can we do work that makes the world a better place.”

Photo: Ed Kashi

“The Changing Face of Marseille” is the 16th magazine piece Ed Kashi has photographed for National Geographic over the past twenty years. Respected as someone whose work helps define the sociopolitical issues of our day, Kashi has also begun to mine his personal experiences. For decades, Kashi’s career has demanded long absences from his family and home in Montclair, New Jersey. To cope and stay connected he wrote to his wife in journals that record the toll of separation and the vivid, compelling realities of his day-to-day work. Now Kashi has assembled entries from these journals into a book called “Witness Number 8: Photojournalisms.”

An experimental multimedia piece that serves as a companion to this new book will premiere at Kashi’s upcoming talk. Itself titled “Photojournalisms,” the 8-minute film features personal reflections on Kashi’s years of unceasing travel. “The depth of my feelings, touched so deeply and so often by the realities I witness, are the testimony I want this collection to reveal,” he writes.

On April 17th, at 7:30 pm, a Washington-area audience will have an opportunity to get know these two sides of Ed Kashi – both the award-winning photojournalist who covers the world, and the intensely personal husband, father and man who longs for home. Get tickets now.

Human Journey