Ron is a legend, one of the best there is. He is a photographer who often works in conflict zones. Going to these exceedingly dangerous places, he masterfully makes amazingly powerful photographs under very tense circumstances, some of which have been influential enough to actually move the political dialogue around a conflict. His goal is to create impact, not just with his images, but also through the schools he helps create. Impact, in its various forms, sounds like a pretty good goal for all of us.
When I met Ron this past summer at the Monacle conference in Madrid, what struck me was that he was the least judgemental listener I had ever encountered. Most people have an obvious internal conversation running while listening; he didn’t seem to. As I thought about it, if one were in a tent with an AK47s-carrying gang, a seeming lack of judgment would go a long way towards increasing one’s life expectancy.
Conflict photographers are a whole other animal than most of the photographers I know. We are sheltered. We work in studios, with nice lunches and are surrounded by highly-skilled aesthetes making beautiful images. The idea of working while having someone shoot at us is unimaginable. People in Ron’s line of work seem superhuman.
At 54, he is now not only doing photography. He has taken on a leading role in VII Academy, which is the educational branch of the VII Foundation. He is also doing a couple of films, among other things we ask him about:
Promoting Peace and Human Justice Through a Lens
How did you come to become a conflict photographer?
To be honest, I was just looking for a job where I didn’t have to sit in an office for 8 hours a day. Journalistic photography seemed kind of cool. My first foreign assignment was Panama, during the election there in 1989. The dictator nullified the election, which led to street protests. I took a photograph of Guillermo Ford whose bodyguards had just been killed. The next day, this photograph was on the front of a number of newspapers and then the covers of Time, US News and Newsweek – all the same week. It was an explosion for my career.