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Jakarta Post

Kadir van Lohuizen: Putting stories into perspective

  • Andreas D. Arditya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, January 9, 2014   /  01:59 pm
Kadir van Lohuizen: Putting stories into perspective (JP/Jerry Adiguna) (JP/Jerry Adiguna)

(JP/Jerry Adiguna)

Photojournalist Kadir van Lohuizen feels that there are many big stories around the world that need to be told and that it is his responsibility to tell them in the right way.

The celebrated Dutch photographer has covered conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, but he is best known for his long-term projects, which have included stories on the seven rivers of the world, the diamond industry and migration in the Americas.

His works have won him lots praise and prizes, including two World Press Photo awards.

He is preparing to publish his next big project Where Will They Go, a story on the immediate impact of rising sea levels across the globe, in March.

'€œIt'€™s a project that I started in 2012. In the project, I look into consequences of sea-level rise in the world. I went to different regions that have been or will be affected quite soon by the rise. I also researched where people will have to relocate,'€ Kadir says.

Kadir was in Jakarta last month to give an exclusive workshop at the Permata Photojournalist Grant (PPG), which was held by Bank Permata in cooperation with Dutch cultural center Erasmus Huis.

For the project, Kadir visited Bangladesh, Panama, Fiji, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea, and is planning to go to the US, UK and Maldives.

The 50-year-old photographer said he started the project after visiting a delta area in Bangladesh around three years ago, where he was struck by the apparent impact of rising sea levels.

'€œI became aware of how serious the issue was. Bangladesh expects to evacuate 30 million people by 2050 due to rising sea levels,'€ he says.

'€œIn my previous project, I went to Panama and saw a number of islands that had already been affected and people had already been evacuated. The issue is more urgent than most people assume; it'€™s very much knocking on our doors.'€

For the project, Kadir is collaborating with the New York Times.

'€œI think this is going to be big, which is a good thing because it is important for people to become aware of the issue,'€ he said.

'€œToo often we start to think about the problem when it has happened, but not before.'€

Aiming to raise awareness in the general audience, Kadir hoped that the message would also reach politicians and policymakers.

'€œIt'€™s going to be the biggest problem of the century. It'€™s not just islands disappearing but also sea water seeping into the mainland, causing soil to become saline, rendering people unable to grow crops and having more difficulty accessing clean water,'€ he said.

Kadir said his projects always start small. '€œI never wake up one morning and think I'€™m going to do a big project,'€

'€œIt always starts when I end up somewhere and realize what'€™s going on, then think that it should be bigger than just one story,'€ he said.

One such incident led to his Diamond Matters photobook, which details the progress of diamonds from the mines of Africa to the world of fashion.

In the early 1990s, he worked as a photojournalist in many conflict areas in Africa, including Angola, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Liberia and Congo. From 1990 to 1994, he covered the transition in South Africa from apartheid to democracy.

'€œIt was during that time that I started to realize that there'€™s a connection between mineral resources and the conflicts,'€ he said.

In 2004, he went back to Angola, Sierra Leone and Congo to portray the diamond industry, following the diamonds from the mines to the consumer markets in the western world. The exhibitions that resulted from this project were not only shown in Europe and the US, but also in the mining areas of Congo, Angola and Sierra Leone.

The book was awarded the prestigious Dutch Dick Scherpenzeel Prize for Best Reporting On The Developing World and the project was recognized with a World Press Photo Award.

Always attracted to the visual aspects of things, Kadir took his first pictures when he was 10. He then learned to develop film when he was 16.

'€œI built a darkroom in a cupboard of my parent'€™s home,'€ he recalled the days.

He then decided to study photography after completing high school in 1982.

'€œBut I was rejected at the admission test, probably because of poor quality and motivation,'€ he said.

'€œAfter the rejection, I did not touch the camera for a few years; I was pissed off,'€ he added, smirking.

Kadir then got a job as a sailor and started a shelter for the homeless during the stint. After saving up enough money, he traveled to China in 1985.

After his far east travels, he picked up his camera again and discovered the power of the tool.

'€œI discovered that a lot of stories were not being told and that the camera can actually be a powerful weapon to tell story. Important moments in history are usually remembered in pictures not film or, sorry to say, written story,'€ he said.

As a journalist, Kadir feels as though he is just doing his part.

'€œI probably won'€™t be able change the world, but I can contribute something to better understanding,'€ he said.

Kadir wants to continue what he has been doing as long as he is capable of doing it.

'€œI have no retirement plan. I will stop when I'€™m physically not able anymore,'€ he says. '€œI hope that will take a long time.'€

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