Photographer and author of, People I Have Shot.
In our disposable, throw-away society caused by excessive production, consumerism, growing global uncertainty, where social media defines our perceptions and influences our version of reality, Sebastian Rich is here to show us that there are important stories to find in every corner of the world. Stories that we need to know so we never forget that every person on this beautiful planet is one of our neighbours.
Rich uses his camera to immortalise the human soul as he documents contemporary history of the human journey. The faces in his photographs reflect the truth about humanity, and inhumanity. They reflect all of us. So, who is Sebastian Rich? On his Instagram account, Sebastian Rich describes himself as a “Photographer of war and peace and a little dance”. He admits to being a non-religious cynic who uses the Instagram handle of @hopefocus. Rich’s summation of what he does, and who he is, is a serious underestimation of the value of his exposure of contemporary living in our interwoven, complex, global village.
Dig deeper and you’ll find there is much more to Sebastian Rich. He is an acclaimed photographer who has been shot at three times. He survived a Sebastian Rich Photographer and author of, People I Have Shot rocket-propelled grenade attack that resulted in him losing a portion of his lower intestine.
He has been kidnapped, held hostage, and forced to participate in a mock execution. He is also a qualified paramedic. He wanted to make sure he could constructively intervene in war zones when he had the opportunity to save another’s life. Sebastian Rich is a photojournalist who produces photographs for the United Nations (including The United Nations High Commission on Refugees, and the National Press Club in Washington, DC).
He is involved in projects as starkly different as collaborations between the UNHCR and the IKEA Foundation, photographing the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Saint Petersburg Eifman Ballet, as well as getting involved in the recent project, “Women With Ink” which is an exhibition of successful, empowered women who have used tattoos on their bodies to express their art and their emotions. His photojournalism – spanning over 40 years – captures contemporary society and what it means to be human now, in all its colours from pure horror to pure love, from diabolical loss and misery to witnessing the grace of humanity, from seeing endings to seeing hope, from sheer helplessness and vulnerability to empowerment. Rich’s discerning eye captures the soul and spirit of what it means to be human. Each photograph tells a vital story. A story you, as an onlooker, can now witness and validate. Each one of Rich’s photographs has a voice and deserves to be heard.
And it is a privilege to explore Rich’s photographs because they pull no punches – they tell you how it really is. Here is a glimpse of some of the stories behind the photographs, that you, the reader, may desire to investigate.
• The Afghan woman with a red head scarf with her baby, who was either dead or dying, wrapped in a blue shawl.
• Rich sharing laughter with an 11-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, who is living in Iran, over reading glasses because they both needed their glasses repaired.
• A four-year-old from South Sudan, suffering from severe malnutrition, who weighs just nine kilograms.
• The ballet dancer thumping herself on the head because she is frustrated at her inability to master a move.
• The female Elder performing FGM (female genital mutilation) on a teenage girl.
• Salma Hayek hugging a young girl while visiting the Saadnayz UNICEF Protection Centre in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
• Witnessing a Syrian refugee giving birth in a hospital in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan.
• Twelve-year-old ex-soldiers, and best friends, from South Sudan, who are now able to live like children.
• The consequences of drought – capturing animals, dead and alive, sharing the same space. • A portrait of Wilma Stone, visual artist and filmmaker.
• The desperate, blank expression of a mother holding her skeletal toddler.
• A portrait of Alma, an Iranian tattoo artist. • A distraught South Sudanese refugee who is exhausted and totally bewildered.
• A prima ballerina taking a smoke break.
• The widow of a man who had just been blown up by an IED (improvised explosive device)
• The list of stories is endless.
Rich comes across as a humble man with a good heart who emphasises the complexities of modern life.
The contrast between warzones and ballet could not be more dramatic. His explanation for this is that it is “…a very creative and beautiful process rather than…being reactionary.” Rich comes across as a humble man with a good heart who emphasises the complexities of modern life. Despite capturing the absolute suffering prevalent in war zones, Rich also captures beauty. He explains it this way, “War does throw up an unexpected and strange kind of beauty sometimes, which I’m always kind of at odds with.” And this is important: Rich reminds us to remember our neighbours across the seas. Their faces may look different to ours, their language and culture may be foreign to us, but their stories are our own because each story reminds us of what the human spirit is all about. It is a story of endurance, and dignity, that shines with beauty. It is a witness to how, like a rising Phoenix, the human spirit is determined to continue. It encourages us to focus on hope. So, do yourself a huge favour and jump on Sebastian Rich’s website. It will help you reconnect with our home, planet earth, and the many neighbours we share it with.