It is the daily life of schools, churches, education, home life, and street
life that draws Ed Kashi. Looking at his photographs we are strongly aware of
the man behind the camera, a man with strong questions and feelings about a
place and its people.
Currently published worldwide, one of his best-known works includes a recent
publication, Aging in America: The Years Ahead. The photographs, taken over
a seven-year period, speak of the expansion in the population of older Americans.
Other notable series show the life of Jewish settlers on the West Bank in Israel
and of the Protestant Loyalist community in Ireland as well as an extensive
coverage of the Kurds through their plight in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon,
Germany, and London after the genocidal campaigns waged against them by Saddam
Hussein from 1975-1991.
he retired, Lenard Walker, 68, can finally live his dream of
the professional rodeo thanks to the NSPRA (National Senior
Pro Rodeo Association). His wife runs a concession booth on
the side at rodeo events.
All Photos © 2005, Ed Kashi, All Rights Reserved
In the series on Jewish settlers living on the West Bank Kashi photographed
a man bearing a rifle as he sits guard on a stone wall. The cold starkness of
the scene is unsettling, the photographer's powerful images giving a voice
to the 400 Jews trying to maintain and rebuild a 2000-year-old heritage and
the thousands of Arabs unwilling to relinquish the land.
For the major documentary on the Protestants in Ireland, which was three years
in the making, Kashi received an NEA grant, enabling him to self-publish the
book, The Protestants: No Surrender.
The story of the Kurds became a National Geographic cover story and when it
first appeared in Turkey, all of the issues were confiscated and the media banned
from the courts. One outstanding image shows a Kurdish woman standing trial
in a terrorist court in Turkey, the woman's face reflecting the broader
implication of what was taking place as she solemnly stands accused of being
a member of the PKK, the Kurdistan Worker's Party. "For me that
picture continues to stand out and resonate because of the pride she displays,"
Kashi says, "and I would like to believe she inspires peoples' interest
to learn more."
US troops on Operation Valiant Guardian in Afghanistan, on the
hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taliban, do house to house and hut to
hut searches in the village of Loy Kariz, near Spin Boldak.
Returning To The Scene
Along with his need for communication there is for Kashi a repetitive idea of
coming back to tell a story by looking at a group of people that in some way
represent a social or political issue of our time. In the Aging in America series
one of his most poignant images shows a dying woman in West Virginia. The message
is about family and about dignity at the end of a life. The image is from the
Hospice section, which was part of a story within the aging project.
"It was the second visit I had made to photograph a family reunion and
Maxine passed in the middle of that week," Kashi recalls. "The image
shows the concerned family surrounding the dying woman, a tender and sad moment
as she lies surrounded by her loved ones." The documentary on aging in
West Virginia took second place in the World Press Competition in 2001.
Kashi works with a lot of heart. He is not a rapacious journalist and there
are many times he makes the decision not to photograph rather than cause discomfort
or intrude upon his subject.
Then there are the periods when Kashi switches his role to photojournalist.
"I become an adrenaline junkie," he admits, referring to his work
in war zones, such as on one recent assignment from the New York Times last
year to travel with the troops in Afghanistan hunting for Al-Qaeda and searching
the villages for weapons, enemy safe houses and Al-Qaeda or Taliban operations.
That same year he traveled the deserts of Kuwait, documenting the miles of digital
satellite systems, Ethernet cables, and computer terminals that monitor the
A man selling snacks along the Turkish roadside. Kurdish life
The Image As Collective Memory
Kashi's hope is that when people look at these photographs they will see
the humanity and the things they do not know about in a powerful and humanistic
way, or in a new light. "My work is about contributing to our collective
memory and that is what is so beautiful about photography. We can contribute
to the collective memory of our family, our community, our nation, or ultimately
to the world.
"We are living in a dark time now," he says, as he speaks of his
most recent trip to Iraq where he covered a story on the Iraqi police force.
"It is important that we learn and understand the issues the rest of the
world is dealing with, the things people are going through. My camera is not
some palette to use and make art with," he says. "What is happening
is very real as we learned on 9/11 and it can come back to roost on our doorstep."
woman stands trial in Diyarbakir, Turkey.
Sources Of Inspiration
Kashi refers to the work of his inspiration, Charles Moore, who created a body
of work during the Civil Rights Movement and who is a lesson in terms of Kashi's
own purpose and intention. Many of Kashi's works are the offspring of
Bresson, Brassai, and Kertesz with their whimsy and poeticism. But those who
loom above him constantly are Sebastião Selgado, Eugene Richards, Gilles
Peress, and Jim Nachtwey, "all of whom," he says, "have that
great, powerful esthetic that is connected like a laser beam to their content.
This is what makes great art--when the esthetic and the content is meaningful
and says something."