Thursday, May 10, 2012

National Geographic Photographer Ed Kashi Shares His Experience of 30 Years in Global Photography

Photo: Ed Kashi
Photographer Ed Kashi
Image Source:
On Tuesday, April 17, I once again took advantage of living reasonably close to the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC, and attended a talk by photographer Ed Kashi. The topic of the talk was his recent Nat Geo project, on the life of Muslims in Marseille, France. Ed also shared a lot of insight from his years of experience on long-term assignments overseas and away from his family.
(Click Here) to go to the National Geographic Live description of the event.
Marseille is the oldest city in France. Approximately 20% of the one million inhabitants are Muslim. The government there is very secular, which may be part of the reason that the city integrates so many cultures so effectively. Other cultures with major populations in Marseille include Jewish, Tunisian, and Roma.
Ed shared the difficulties he encountered on this assignment, even though he's used to working in less-developed places, like North Africa. In Marseille, his first "handler," which is a local contact to help you work in a foreign place, was a nightmare. Ed said that your handler basically has to be a magician - someone who's comfortable escorting you to the Prime Minister's residence, or getting you into the poorest person's home. After an altercation with his first handler, Ed found a perfect substitute, and the project took root.
Ed now regularly makes a multimedia piece to accompany his still photography projects. At this talk, he showed two - Eye Contact and Photojournalisms.
Eye Contact is a collection of images that were edited out, throughout his career, because someone in the frame was looking at the camera. While his normal style is to achieve scenes where he is basically "invisible," those with eye contact made for a very interesting set of images.
Photojournalisms is a more personal piece, and is based on journal entries that Ed writes to his wife and family while he is away for his work. It is a very heartfelt documentary, and shows the tradeoffs that a traveling photographer makes in pursuit of his or her work.
(Click Here) to go to Ed's website.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ed's work and commentary. He spent a lot of time answering questions from the crowd, and didn't shy away from any subject.
I must say, after attending two of these events, that National Geographic photographers really do concede a lot of their personal lives for their work. Ed was clearly sad about the amount of his children's childhood he missed on assignment. Ed now only takes on shorter trips, and is very focused on his family.
In the first event I attended, by Jodi Cobb, she related some level of regret for the sacrifices she made in her personal life, as well.
(Click Here) to see my review of the Jodi Cobb event.
It is great to have the opportunity to listen to the world's best photographers on a regular weekday evening. It takes me about an hour to get into the city, but the trip is always worth it.