A Compassionate Eye With An Educational Intent; The Photography Of Ron Haviv Page 2

He says, "My experience there created the second pillar of understanding, the first being what I had learned in Panama, which was that photography does have an impact. Here I was seeing the exact opposite, where we were documenting what's going on. People and soldiers were talking about it but they were not reacting to it. This is where I learned about the power of photography in another way. It must be a document of evidence that holds people responsible for their actions, not only the soldiers or the politicians but those in power who have the ability to impact through embargoes or actual military actions.

"I have a very strong belief that photography plays a big role in that. My photographs from Yugoslavia were used in the War Crimes Tribunal as actual pieces of evidence to help indict war criminals. It was the 1990s and people were beginning to become aware of their political responsibility."

In Iraq Haviv joined with the marines during the invasion and for the following three months. He returned two years later. Currently he has been working on a story in Abu Ghraib and is planning to return to work at the prison shortly. "It's a difficult story for a foreign journalist to cover outside of being embedded with the military," he says, "and there are many angles to the story."

US Prisons In Iraq

General Geoffrey Miller, former commander of Guantànamo and current head of the Abu Ghraib prison, speaks to Iraqi detainees.
© 2004, Ron Haviv / VII, All Rights Reserved

Haviv is an original member of "VII," a small group of world-renowned photojournalists. Working individually, however, Haviv has taken on the project of connecting students with peer group survivors in Bosnia and Rwanda and believes that photography is a special tool in the field of education.

"It makes everything much more real to the students," Haviv says. "We bring photo exhibitions and media presentations into schools. Students are able to relate so much better to the detail rather than if they were just reading about these things in a textbook.

"I have just had our pilot program in a high school in New York and the program will go national next year, moving to four more high schools. I am so overwhelmed and inspired by the response, especially when the students see kids their own age from Bosnia and Rwanda. It is all so much more real and more powerful than listening to a teacher. When kids look at photographs from Bosnia or Rwanda in color and listen to the voices of these kids they can more easily relate to them. They understand it in a more personal way. One of the most amazing things is in one high school after the program ran its course the kids started a fundraising drive for Darfur and wrote about it."


A child in Northern Alliance territory plays amid tanks destroyed in previous battles.
© 2001, Ron Haviv / VII, All Rights Reserved

These are the things that inspire Haviv today, the role of photography in conjunction with an educational and innovative curriculum.

"Hopefully when the time comes for them to vote they will understand how to make proper choices and perhaps some of these kids will go into government and be in positions of power where they will have an impact on the future."

For Haviv, education is a big component of his photography. The New York Photo Festival started by VII with powerHouse Books as a partner have produced photo exhibitions such as "Doctors Without Borders" as well as with the Stanley Foundation and UNICEF.

At the time of our interview Haviv was on his way to Sri Lanka to do a project for UNICEF to raise awareness of what is happening to children impacted by war.

"There are a huge number of child soldiers on both sides," Haviv says. "With my photographs I am trying to show what is going on so there will be more pressure on the government and on the rebel side to decommission these thousands of child soldiers in Africa, Uganda, the Congo, and Darfur."

There is always an emotional connection to Haviv's work. Often hard to look at, the images personify the finest in the field of photographic journalism. It is not easy to see a photograph of a soldier kicking a woman in the head as she lay dying on the street--but it happens. I look at the clenched hands of a soldier as he stands watching for the enemy and it is hard to look away from the photograph--I am watching and waiting, too.

To see more of Ron Haviv's work, visit his website at: www.ronhaviv.com.