As part of the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium, award-winning photojournalist Zoriah Miller, commonly known as Zoriah, gave a “glimpse behind the headlines” to a full-house in the Geneva Room earlier this month in his presentation titled “Photographic Images and Work in Conflict, Crisis and Genocide Situations.”
Zoriah’s slideshow of stunning photos represented a decade of fieldwork documenting underreported conflicts and crises around the world, including Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, Gaza and the West Bank, refugee camps in Kenya, and AIDS victims in Asia. He also showed photos from his time as an embedded photographer with the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan, hauntingly honest about the grittiness of the lives of the soldiers, Marines, and the local people.
In describing his work, Zoriah said he tries to depict “not just details, but emotions” because photography gives a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. “Even with its imperfections, photography can capture life,” he said.
In many of his photos, he achieves this by making eye contact with people, and often looks at their hands. He never shies away from heart-rending subjects, instead rendering them powerfully, with emotions erupting in the images. In even the relatively quiet photos, emotions seep through the barriers that people put up under distress.
Zoriah has worked in places of natural disasters as well as conflicts or war zones. He described natural disasters as “uplifting” because the human spirit comes through as people work together, help each other, and use humor to cope. He added that conflict is very hard for him, but for that reason he considers it to be very important to document.
In addition, Zoriah led a workshop exploring visual storytelling in the Fisher Center the previous afternoon. He showed various examples of storytelling through images. The Symposium also hosted an open round-table discussion where students had the opportunity to ask Zoriah questions and engage in conversation with him.
His photographs have been published in countless magazines, journals and newspapers including the New York Times, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, BBC News, NPR, Rolling Stone, The United Nations and Fortune. His work has garnered numerous awards including Top Photojournalist of All Time by Infinit Posterous, the Grand Prize in the 2009 PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Awards, and Photojournalist of the Year in 2006 by Morepraxis. Zoriah has held exhibitions in more than 40 locations internationally and has lectured at universities and conferences throughout the world.
Zoriah is the third speaker that the Human Rights and Genocide Symposium has brought to campus this fall. Professor Stephen Berk of Union College visited in September, and Professor Björn Krondorfer of Northern Arizona University spoke in October. The Human Rights and Genocide Symposium is funded in part by the generous support of Dr. Edward Franks ’72. This year their chosen theme is reconciliation, justice and witnessing.