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I’m the fourth generation of a newspaper family. My great-grandfather saw journalism as a public service and passed that journalistic tradition to my grandfather, and then to my father.
As an intern at the family papers, I decided I wanted to be a photojournalist. My career started in Rwanda in 1994 – a sinister time in the country’s history. The human wreckage from the genocide taught me about the brutality that people can inflict on one another.
1994 was the beginning of a decade spent mostly in war zones: Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Chiapas, Russia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan, Gaza and Iraq. As I gained experience, I learned that my photographs could connect people who would never witness violence firsthand to those who are caught in its vortex.
In 2003, days before the invasion of Iraq, I headed to Baghdad. Early in the morning on March 25th, I was surrounded in the hotel lobby by several Iraqi men. They were members of Saddam Hussein’s highly feared Iraqi intelligence.
They held me and four other Westerners at gunpoint and we were driven to a walled compound outside Baghdad – Abu Ghraib. I was stripped of my possessions, given a prison uniform, and placed in solitary confinement. My country was invading theirs. They were accusing me of being a spy. I knew that this might not end well.
Each day I was blindfolded, led by the elbow from my cell down a long concrete path to a carpeted room. Each time I realized it was possible I was being led to my execution. Each time I discovered that it was only for interrogation.
Eventually, after eight days, all five of us were released unharmed. The visceral experience of that week has faded, but how it challenged me remains. I emerged from Abu Ghraib with a fresh appreciation of the brevity of our time on Earth. I found myself reflecting on what my greatest life contribution might be and how I might make it.
Orb was my answer to my questions.
I’ve spent most of my career covering conflict around the world. I’ve seen how societies are shredded – and how it often takes generations to recover.
Our global resources are finite and our population is rising. There’s no disputing the challenge this presents us as a human community. Oftentimes, our world settles disputes about limited resources through conflict.
We are also presented with tremendous opportunities through innovation. As an example – we’re more connected than ever, thanks to the wild digital renaissance of the last thirty years. In order to manage our global opportunities and our risks, we need to be able to collaborate as a single human community.
Nationally and culturally driven narratives in journalism produce a fragmented image of our world, hindering our ability to see that, in spite of our differences, we share a core that profoundly outweighs them. To understand that collaboration is in our own best interests, we need to recognize the reality of how interconnected we truly are.
Journalism has a role to play here. Uniquely tasked with helping us interpret our world – in real time as events unfold – journalism has the power and the responsibility to shape our narrative about our world.
I founded Orb to deliver journalism to a global audience that unifies us around our human story. Orb’s stories reveal the stake we each have in our global challenges and opportunities, and help us see our interconnection more clearly. By demonstrating our interdependence, Orb fosters our sense of membership in one human community.