Photos, Insights From Front Lines of Global Health

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Are you optimistic about change in the future?

If we can get over the politics—politics in a very broad sense—then I think there is hope. There are a lot of people on the ground who are dedicating their lives to helping people in whatever arena it may be, for the good of the planet, realizing that we are a planet. We are an island in the solar system. We have to eventually live together or destroy each other.

How do your photographs communicate this?

I used to think that photographs could change the world, but in the twenty-odd years I've been in photography, I haven't seen a whole lot of change. In some ways, photography doesn't do a whole lot other than sing to the choir. There are people who are moved by one image or one story, but I think it really takes a big effort by everybody to decide that they want to make change. Unfortunately, we're in a toxic environment, and I don't just mean environmentally; I mean socially also. Unfortunately, faith is not being used to bring people together; it's being used to separate people from each other.

Do you have a favorite photo in the book?

I've always liked the picture of Fanny, who is the middle-class mother in Macon, Georgia. She got AIDS from her husband and they both have since died. She and her husband had just had a big fight; she's lying on the bed and he has his head in his hands. I debated whether to take that picture, because it was a very private moment, but then I realized that one of the big issues of AIDS is that it disrupts families.

Another picture I like is also related to AIDS—and I don't mean to focus specifically on that—is of a man in a flophouse in San Francisco showing us a picture of his daughter. He died [of AIDS] about two weeks after that picture.

How can Americans who haven't been to the places that you've been get some perspective?

I don't think people realize that there's something beyond their immediate community. If you see that there's a larger world out there, you're not going to have a lot of available space to fill with your own neuroses. You also realize that some problems, like not having the proper cheese or not getting the car you wanted, are not really that important.

I'm hoping that, through my photography, I can expose people to these cultures and the different ways people live. If we had looked more at Middle Eastern culture, and looked at Islam more, we might have had a better understanding so when these unfortunate horrible events have occurred maybe they wouldn't have occurred in the first place, maybe we would've made different moves, maybe our society would've acted differently. I don't know. You need to get information out there that talks about different lives, different cultures, different ways of viewing the world. Not everyone views the world the way we do, and I think it's important to understand that.

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