Monday, October 15, 2007

Global Peace Travels

This blog focuses on my travels to fascinating countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe. Since 2001, most of my foreign travel has focused peace and humanitarian issues. Because of the unusual destinations and the depth of these experiences, I think you will find my observations interesting and unique.

As peace increasingly has become a focus of my travel, I have been exploring ways to use my photography and travel anecdotes to promote greater understanding of unfamiliar and controversial places. Part of that involves a dedication to giving a fuller picture of cultures and dispelling steroetypes. With pervasive negative impressions of the Middle East, it may be surprising to know that in traveling to over 50 countries, the Middle East is where I have experienced the most hospitality. This hospitality has seemed genuine as it frequently has been initiated by strangers. My photos attempt to show some of that hospitality and broaden the range of images of people from the Middle East beyond stereotypes of "terrorist" and "victim".

In my experience, seeing another side of a culture has not required extraordinary access. Just being open and interested can lead to wonderful interactions with local people. Sharing tea or a meal with unfamiliar people in a foreign country unavoidably creates opportunities for connection. Seeing a variety of homes, schools, cultural centers and neighborhoods gives a sense of daily life. Meeting dedicated people who are leading their communities inspires hope for the future.

Through my photography, I also want to examine the experience of people on both sides of a conflict. In the case of Northern Ireland, I attempt to show some of the murals Catholics and Protestants display in their respective neighborhoods. Collectively they tell amazing stories of past struggles and loss, but neither side tends to visit the murals of the other. In showing them together, I encourage looking at both sides.

In examining all of the cultures presented here, I do not seek to deny other truths or perspectives. My hope is to help broaden perspectives and question stereotypes. In some of the slide shows below, I present stereotypical images first in order to contrast those with other images which show another side of the people and culture.

Several of the photographs from the slide shows on Afghanistan, Palestinian refugees and a variety of Middle Eastern countries were featured in the following exhibits at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, California: "Another Side of Afghanistan" (November, 2006 - February, 2007), Seeing Palestinian Refugees" (November - December, 2005) and "The Veil and the Burka" (March, 2006). Some of the photographs below have appeared in fundraising and educational projects for non profit organizations such as The Middle East Children's Alliance, Global Exchange and The Palestinian American Women's Association. The photograph of me above was taken by Susan Hall in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy this armchair travel!