B&H Feature: Ami Vitale Advocates for Mother Earth

B&H published an in-depth feature on Ami Vitale, covering the story of her career trajectory from conflict photographer to documenting the natural world. Thanks to one well-timed assignment focusing on people’s relationship to nature in remote locations worldwide, Ami’s whole photographic career shifted.

“That chance for reflection, to look at the natural world, helped me put all the pieces together,” Vitale says of this project. “I realized that all the conflicts I had been covering were ultimately about our resources. That the biggest story, which I had been missing, was our natural world and what we’re doing to it. It was one of the most transformative moments in my career.”

After receiving a Master’s degree in filmmaking, the scope of Ami’s work expanded further, which the story explores along with sharing her advice for other photographers and information on the gear she prefers. It emphasizes her mission to share stories of hope and to encourage people everywhere to take action to preserve the world for future generations.

Read the full feature here.

REI: Wild Ideas Worth Living

Ami Vitale was a recent guest on REI’s podcast, “Wild Ideas Worth Living.” Her wild idea? To use photography to help people from around the world understand each other and connect. To raise awareness about cultures, communities, animals, and the environment.

Ami is a world-class photographer who has traveled the world on assignment for publications like National Geographic and the Associated Press. She got her start in journalism working as a war correspondent, and now focuses on stories, videos, and photos about culture, wildlife and the environment. As a storyteller, she’s traveled to over 90 countries, lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and even donned a panda suit.

To listen to the full podcast, visit here.

Covering Conflicts

With the events unfolding across the Middle East, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma contacted myself and several other journalists who have worked in conflict zones to better understand what you can do to cover volatile street protests without getting injured. Here are my comments and please look at this link to see some intelligent advice from a  few well-known, seasoned journalists who have collectively covered many of the most dangerous hot spots on the globe.

1) First find a safe place that gives a clear view of what is happening without putting you in the middle of the fighting. For example, go on top of a building above to analyze what is happening below. Take time to watch how the police/military   and crowds are reacting. Do they have live ammunition? Are events escalating quickly? Its important to understand what might happen and how to find a safe place to cover unfolding events.

2) Go with someone who knows the city well if you do not.  Know where there are some exit points. For example, don’t get caught in between a crowd and the police on a bridge. There is nowhere to escape if it turns violent. If it’s in a city, look for doorways and alleys to slip into if you need a quick escape.

3) Understand there is no reasoning with mobs. My own personal experience was in Palestine when a mob of angry young men thought I might be an agent of a foreign government. The only thing that saved me was because I had spent the day with a group of women in their home and they saw the angry mob and came to rescue me. Because they felt they knew me and trusted me, they got involved. If I had only showed up to cover this event and had known anyone, there is a good chance I would not have made it out alive. Mobs are angry, there is no reasoning with them and they often want to see blood in order to avenge someone.

4) Understand visual cliches and try to get past stereotypes in a fast-breaking story. For example, I will often try to find quieter ways of telling a violent, sensational story. The violence often overshadows the deeper message.

Return to Sierra Leone

I am leaving tomorrow to Freetown, Sierra Leone filled with feelings of anxiety as well as hope. The last time I was there was just a few months after the brutal civil war ended in 2002 that claimed tens of thousands of lives and left more than a third of its population displaced. Yet it is the unspeakable atrocities that are so haunting. I remember back in 1999, Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, a friend and extremely committed journalist, who was later killed covering the conflict, told me stories of rebels offering their victims the choice between a “long sleeve” or “short sleeve” just as they were about to hack off their victims’ arms. When I arrived, three years later, I saw faces devoid of expression, weighed down by these horrific memories. The goal was not just to kill people but to terrorize an entire population.

Today security and the politics are steadily improving but there is a quieter battle still going on.  One in eight women are dying giving birth. The government recently announced free health care to pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and children under five beginning on April 27. With only about 170 doctors for more than 5 million people, this will be a daunting task.  I hope this documentary can raise awareness, promote change and help. The doctors, health workers and government are working hard to change the statistics.

If you are interested in learning more about this or want to donate, the following links are to organizations working there.

Unicef

Marie Stopes International

Doctors Without Borders

Amnesty International

Israel/Palestine

A young teenage Palestinian couple defy a curfew and dance together during their wedding ceremony  in the West Bank city of Nablus. A British non-governmental agency recently reported that Palestinians are currently living in a state of extreme, worsening poverty and fear for their future. Almost three-quarters of Palestinians now live on less than US$2 a day, below the United Nations poverty line.