Winter 2011

A Way to Understand the World

An Essay in Words and Photographs

By Eli Reed

I always have a camera on me or very near so I can keep up a visual diary of my life. Long before my first photographs were published, I explored my surroundings through my photography. It has helped enlarge my understanding of the external world in ways that I perhaps would have found difficult if not for the camera in my hands.

When I embark on creating a photographic essay, all of my energies are propelled in the direction of finding the core of what is happening inside the story and the heart of my subjects. Nothing is more important to me than sitting down with the elements of truth that transport me to places that I have not visited before. The legendary documentary photographer W. Eugene Smith, once stated, "Let truth be the prejudice!" I believe that is still a good way of doing work that is important to me.

Eli Reed, a 1983 Nieman Fellow, has been a photojournalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin since 2005. His photography career started in 1970. Over the years, Reed, a member of Magnum Photo since 1988, photographed around the world for numerous publications, including The New York Times, National Geographic, Time and Life magazines. He has produced two photography books, “Beirut: City of Regrets” and “Black in America.” The text for this photo essay was adapted from what Reed wrote upon hearing that he was the recipient of the Lucie Foundation’s 2011 award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography.

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