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Photojournalist Reza Reflects on Conflict and the Human Soul


Pakistan, 1986: Jubilant supporters throw rose petals at Benazir Bhutto during her election campaign.
Photo by Reza

Award-winning photojournalist and humanitarian Reza has devoted his career to covering wars, revolutions, uprisings, and natural disasters.

“The most brutality and cruelty you can ever see is in war,” Reza told me recently, while he was here at National Geographic headquarters in Washington to finalize the launch of his new book “Reza War + Peace.”

“I have also seen the sometimes incredible human relationships and friendship,” he added. “People … wanting to sacrifice themselves for their friends, for their families, showing the incredible soul that is inside the human even in the worst time of war.” (Watch Reza discuss this in the video below.)

Video by David Braun/NG News

It is this yin and yang of human nature that threads through Reza’s newest photography book.

war+peace_cover.jpgIn “Reza War + Peace” (National Geographic Focal Point; November 18, 2008; $75), a 30-year retrospective of his work, Reza chronicles his career in places of conflict through images that pair turmoil with hope, joy with despair.

As a photojournalist for National Geographic, Newsweek, Time, and other publications, Reza’s journey has taken him from his native Iran, where he was jailed and tortured because of his photography, to dozens of countries gripped by turmoil: Kurdistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, China, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Africa, and more.

While he focuses on the costs of war and the universal human condition, his message is ultimately hopeful.

“My camera is always looking for the truth that often hides in the shadows,” Reza writes. “Being patient, staying right in the thick of wars, celebrations, tears, screams, the core events of life, and becoming nothing but a visual resonance chamber — that is my role.”

reza_p142-143[1].jpgDemocratic Republic of the Congo, 1995: Mothers look through a photo exhibit of children who had become lost during the ethnic conflicts.

Photo by Reza

By acting as a witness, Reza is contributing “to building a world where

the word ‘war’ will belong in the past. I believe that, one day,

humanity will remember these conflicts as a form of behavior practiced

by its primitive ancestors. Then, peace will have triumphed.”

Here is a selection of photos from “Reza War + Peace.” Scroll to the

bottom of the page for additional information about the photographer.


Afghanistan, 1985: A group of village children imitate Reza, playing at being photographers.
Photo by Reza


Tanta, Egypt, 1996: A crowd of pilgrims arrives at the mosque in Tanta for Ragabiya, a three-day festival honoring the most venerated saint in Egypt, Sidi Ahmad Al-Badawi.
Photo by Reza


Dogubayazit, Turkey, 1993: Near a mountain on the Iranian border, two boys pass by, holding a hollow television set.
Photo by Reza


Afghanistan, 1985: “Ahmad Shah Massoud loved his people, and his people loved him. He
was a great listener, remembering every detail, every name, every request.” — Reza
Photo by Reza


China, 1999: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real
war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” — Mohandas Gandhi
Photo by Reza


Iran, 1980: “At last, I had the opportunity to photograph Ayatollah Khomeini in an intimate, private setting. This would be my chance to try to gain some understanding of this man who had become such a powrful enigma.” — Reza
Photo by Reza


Sudan, 1989: “I saw his feet, scarred by chains that alsobound his hands. His eyes were resigned, his violence
contained.” — Reza

Photo by Reza


Afghanistan, 2002 : Women read Malalai, the fi rst women’s magazine published by Aïna
Photo by Manoocher/Aina

Describing himself as “a pilgrim seeking a world in which the best of

humanity blossoms and flourishes,” Reza is committed also to taking


In 2001 he founded Aïna, the Afghan Media and Cultural Center,

an international nonprofit organization devoted to developing a free

press in Afghanistan. It helps ensure that journalists, intellectuals

and artists can speak freely, provides training in media and

communications for women and offers educational programs for children.

reza_rachel_photo[1].jpgParis, France, February 2008: Reza and his wife, Rachel

Photo by Gérard Rancinan

As part of National Geographic Live!‘s fall lecture program, Reza will

give a lecture about his book at National Geographic headquarters on

Tuesday, December 2, at 7:30 p.m.

Additional information:

Reza is a National Geographic Fellow and renowned photojournalist, who

has captured the world in photographs for many leading publications and

in more than 15 books.

In 2005 Reza was honored with the Chevalier de

l’Ordre du Mérite, the French award for distinguished services in a

public or private capacity. In 2006 he received the University of

Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism Honor Medal for Distinguished

Service in Journalism “in recognition of his lifelong contributions,

through brilliant photojournalism, to justice and dignity for the

world’s citizens.”

Photographer Tells of Iraqi Kurds “In Agony” (National Geographic News)

Photographer: Reza (National Geographic Web page)

Reza War + Peace (official book site)