This past winter I had an idea for a project about people who live on opposing sides of violent conflicts around the world. After a lot of thought I decided to go ahead with the idea.
I’m calling the project ENEMIES. Specifically I am planning on photographing pairs of families from opposing sides of violent conflicts who have lost loved ones in those conflicts. My artistic vision for this is complex and I will write and post more about that later. In short I envision the photographs displayed side by side, and in at least one case I hope to be able to photograph the two families together. This will be an intense experience, and it will take me in a completely different direction from most of the photographic work I have done over the last five years. So it will be a serious exploration in many senses of the word, and I plan to write about it as well.
Why on earth would I want to do this?? I have spent a lot of my life exploring and photographing the wilderness, and now there is something driving me to understand the wilderness of the soul. I recently went through a very difficult separation, which led me to places of anger and dark emotions that I had never experienced. Now I want to understand the extremes of these dark places. What drives people to do horrendous things to other people? How does it happen? What are the consequences? What does it mean to everyone else and to the planet?
Potential partners: Next week I am meeting with three potential partners in this project: the US Institute for Peace (USIP), the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and Madre, a non-profit that helps women in developing countries around the world. Since contacting people in these organizations, things are suddenly moving much faster than I anticipated. There is no funding for the project yet, but I have decided to self-fund the travel part of the first trip with frequent flier miles in hope that more funding will materialize.
After a first set of phone conversations with Madre and USIP, I had planned on a trip this August/September to start the project in Kenya and Sudan. Kenya has had a rash of election violence over the last five years in which many people were killed. Sudan just came out of a decade long civil war with vote to separate the country in two. I’m writing this post from my friends’ house in the mountains of West Virginia. The forest up here is peaceful – filled with the soft singing of crickets in the evenings and the bright calls of hawks in the morning. Lulu, one of the two friends I came to visit here in these mountains is dying of cancer and is now in hospice care. He has lived an amazing life and has no regrets. And yet death comes in many forms. As I write this Sudan is falling into civil war again (news here). It is hard to imagine.
What am I getting myself into?
Btw: The photo at the top is a small balance I did above Chaco Canyon, NM on my way home from my artist residency at the Archie Bray Foundation after being on the road for 7 months. Chaco Canyon is an amazing place that you should go to.