Firstly, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my first blog post here on my new website. The last blog I wrote was seven years ago, ahead of a trip to Afghanistan to photograph children in an orphanage in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul. Those who read it appeared both intrigued and enraged by the doctrine inflicted by the Taliban on the Afghan people and particularly the Hazaras. Naively, I thought I was doing a good thing. People needed to know and understand what was happening there.
About a week before my departure, I attended the Australian Davos Connection’s Future Summit in Melbourne where I had the privilege of meeting an Army General with four tours in Afghanistan under his belt. A generous man, he gave up two hours of his time to tell me how to stay safe on the ground. The two most salient pieces of advice were to travel off book and keep a low profile. I was going with an Afghan family so I would not be listed on any Non-Government or Government agency manifest – tick! Low profile – err, maybe that blog wasn’t such a good idea. I hadn’t considered the Taliban would be monitoring social media. Needless to say, my blog came down the following night, leaving my followers disappointed but like me, they too had learnt a valuable lesson.
For many years, my photography focussed on these most marginalised people, including Tibetan monks, refugees from Darfur, and former refugees resettled here in Australia. The common thread among all of these individuals was a loss of dignity. Many I met said that the need to be heard was an essential part of the healing process. Without it, moving on became impossible. Images were no longer enough.
If I was asked to use one word to describe the people I met in the worst hellholes on earth, without question, my response would be ‘proud’. Many had an inner strength and dignity I could barely comprehend that appeared at odds with everything they had endured. Inconceivably, they were imbued with hope. These trips were great levellers and always a clear reminder of what mattered in life.
My aim with this blog was to share some of those stories, but also to recognise those individuals who are, without great fanfare, working in many different ways to support these marginalised groups. They will include photographers, journalists, aid workers, philanthropists, celebrity ambassadors, the world’s most successful entrepreneur and even a former President. I will investigate philanthropic foundations, books, movies, TV series and all manner of things pertaining to the right to live a peaceful, dignified life.
Next time, I’ll introduce you to my three favourite men: Bill, Bill and George.
Until then – thank you,