Christian Long

Ryan Lobo: Photographing the Hidden Story

In TED Talks on April 12, 2010 at 7:42 am

Reflection by CARL K.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Ryan Lobo: Photographing the Hidden Story

Photography is much more than just taking pictures of yourself, posing in front of your bathroom mirror, to be uploaded as your profile picture on Facebook. Its more than taking pictures of a leader, and rendering it into mass propaganda, to spread a powerful message across the citizens of a country. Photography is an art. It is the art of storytelling, the most powerful art that has been bestowed on us humans. Photography is the art of capturing a moment of time, that tells us a story through the physical and emotional appearance conveyed on a photo.

Over time, photography has transcended culture, and some, like Ryan, sees it as a language.

He sees photography to express the intangible and gives voice to people and stories without. Through the artful language of photographs, Ryan has told us 3 such unique and wonderful stories, and his camera was used to capture and explore humanity’s darker and lighter sides, and the beauty of nature. He reframed these controversial subjects with empathy, so that we can see the pain of a Liberian war criminal, the quiet strength of UN women peacekeepers and the perseverance of Delhi’s underappreciated firefighters.

And from these 3 stories, Ryan feels like these truly exemplify, what he calls his work, “compassionate storytelling.”

In his first story, Ryan express the darker and lighter sides Human nature, as he talks about a brutal Liberian warlord, named General Butt Naked. In the first photograph, he shows General Butt Naked standing in a jail-cell, one of the places where he killed and massacred thousands of people, including children. The following photograph depicts a haunting image the general standing in an empty cell, with the shadow of child implanted on the wall, leaving behind the memory of his mass genocide of a young generation. The following 2 photos describe the profound anquish and despair he had brought upon the Liberian people. The photograph of the woman expresses her spirit as if it were a shattered vase, after she witnessed her brother being murdered by the general’s hands, and the boys’ faces all share an emotion of hopelessness. Each of them have fallen victims to fighting as child soldiers, and to the affects of drugs, such as heroine. Ryan asks himself, “How do you live with yourself when you know you’ve committed horrific crimes?” In the next picture, you see Joshua, General Butt Naked, being washed away of his sins and renewing his body in purity. The rest of the slideshow of pictures shows his now compassionate side, and him asking forgiveness from the people in the same villages he once massacred all those people. You would think that people would kill him on sight, however, a lot of people actually forgive the man.

From listening to this story, I find human nature more compelling than how I’ve perceived it before. It’s amazing how one day you find one man killing thousands of people, then the next, he has converted to the Christian ways and asks for forgiveness. That, to me, definitely expresses the greatest examples of light and dark.


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