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Turn the World Around: A Photojournalist Discovers Paths to Peace Traveling a War-torn Planet Paperback – January 8, 2013
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About the Author
Blair Seitz is the photographer of 21 books and many magazine articles that feature his photographs. Publications include Pacific Magazine, NY Times Magazine, The Guardian, The New Internationalist and many other magazines and newspapers. Books he has photographed include Philadelphia and its Countryside, Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania Yesterday and Today. Seitz traveled on photo and writing assignments in Africa, Asia and Israel/Palestine over twelve years based in Manila, Nairobi and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Seitz also completed assignments for UNICEF and the World Health Organization. His photographs have been exhibited by the Natural History Museum, NY, the Virginia Museum and the World Exhibition of Photography. He is a grant recipient of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His memoir, Turn the World Around: A Photojournalist Discovers Paths to Peace Traveling on a War-torn Planet, includes photojournalism adventures in more than twenty countries as well as his transformational experiences abroad and in the U.S.
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This is a remarkable memoir of a world that has stagnated, regressed, but mostly evolved in the decades since his 1965 student experience in Kenya when Blair's adventures started. Many of his photos do not appear to be dated and could have been taken yesterday. Others are startling reminders of the not-so-distant past and famous leaders who now mingle with the dust or the angels, depending on your deification preference. Haile Selassie and Pope John Paul II to name two.
Set during the Golden Era of the Great African Dictators (1970s), Blair took a young wife and baby daughter into harm's way, in countries rife with social chaos and violence. This is either incredible naiveté on his part or just plain ballsy. The saying in Africa during the 70's was, "It is only dangerous where the shooting is." This wasn't true, as disease was only a slower bullet.
Perhaps Blair's underlying belief that they were blessed and no real harm would come to them, gave him the spiritual carte blanche to roam into African malarial backwaters controlled by despotic Marxist thugs. Though, as a young family traveling in grim, forsaken territories, desperately far from any conveniences, they had their fair share of sickness, toil, and trouble.
Any pre-digital photographer who has worked with the 35mm, silver bromide process will appreciate the ongoing hassle of developing film in less than ideal conditions. When your family's livelihood depends on the quality of your images processed under the pressure of international press deadlines, there is no room for error. Though frustration always comes with African and Asian travel visas, Blair has what takes to get the demanding job of photo-journalism done; keeping his cool under pressure and setting up the shots that publication editors clamor for.
Blair offsets this rugged journey into the past by constantly updating the reader as to the political progression of different countries and where they stand in 2012. This is a wonderful learning device in terms of understanding human geography and making the past fully relevant.
There is a curious irony in Blair's quest for a photographer's gold ring, a National Geographic assignment. He lands the assignment but then loses it because he can't secure a visa into Laos, possibly because of a very public gaff he made when covering another story in this war-torn country that loathed Americans.
You can only do this sort of rough and tumble life-style when you are young, tough, and chancy. The purposeful search for a better world outside the American comfort zone of all things familiar, facing the challenge of other realities and cultures. In the end these transformative journeys defined Blair and Ruth Seitz as positive American emissaries with a global consciousness, always recording the element of good in the humanity they encountered, through images and writing . "Turn the World Around" chronicles those travels, it is an intense photographic expedition to the other side of the globe that will leave you awestruck and thinking.
Turn the World Around changes everything. Our eyes are opened to the real world in a very personal encounter with realistic challenges that we thought had been mastered. Seitz brings us not only the daily joys, pathos, and tragedies of the lives of real people but also the emotional response and reason of a wise, insightful traveler. Blair brings a certain dignity to all the struggling people he met in his simple prose and photos. He reminds us that, even now, hopeful families and whole peoples are still struggling to stay afloat and remain safe. Seitz vision reveals a courage to enter the unknown, to go where peace and understanding are needed. It's getting harder and harder to claim ignorance.