Sunday, November 22, 2009

US photojournalist Vidar seeks Kurdish support


By Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Jon Vidar is a freelance photographer based out of Los Angeles. He wants to raise enough funding for a three-month summer workshop in southeast Turkey and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. And for this he needs Kurdish support.

Vidar is a regular freelancer for the Associated Press and his work has been published by the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today and NEED Magazine - among many others. In 2009, his work received honors and recognition from Getty Images, FotoWeekDC and Microsoft. He has used his photography and multimedia skills during travels spanning six continents and his work is currently represented by ZUMA Press.

Jon Vidar also currently serves as the Interim Executive Director and the Director of Near East Operations for the Tiziano Project. Tiziano is a not-for-profit that provides the technology and training necessary for youth in underrepresented regions to tell their own stories. In 2007, Jon helped this project establish their first base of operations in Kigali, Rwanda and in the Summer of 2008, he piloted a two-week long multimedia workshop in Northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan). The high school kids from Slemani also reached a success - one of them ended up on CNN.

How did you get to know the Kurds?

At university in the United States, I studied archaeology. This major brought me to the city of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey for excavations for four summers in a row. During this time, I got to experience Kurdish culture on a daily and very personal basis. I was welcomed into the homes and lives of many people that I got to know there -- many of whom I still consider friends today.

During the summer of 2007, I decided to go to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the first time. With the help of my friends Dave Torstenson and Chris Mendez, we conducted a two-week multimedia journalism workshop in the city of Sulaimaniyah, Iraq. Our students were high school students from the School of Medes and were extremely receptive to the project. We completed two major multimedia pieces while we were in Suli -- one on the Chaixana and one on the seropayxana. One of our students was later interviewed on CNN!

What are your future plans?

Our current goal is to raise enough funding to complete a three-month summer workshop in Erbil to provide youth and aspiring journalists with the technology and training necessary to tell their stories and improve their lives. Eventually, we would like to setup a permanent home base where we can provide training throughout southeast Turkey and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The instructions for voting are pretty simple:

1. Go to this page on facebook:

2. "Become a Fan" of Chase Community Giving (You must be a fan for your vote to count!)

3. Select "Vote for Charity" and make sure that the vote count goes up so that you know your vote counted!

4. Please, please pass this along to all of your friends on facebook! We need all the votes we can get! You must have a Facebook account to participate.

Why should Kurds vote?

Chase Bank is giving away $25,000 to the top 100 organizations that receive the most votes. The top 100 organizations will then go on to a second round in which they will compete for up to one million dollars! But really $25,000 will be enough to send a four-person team of American journalists and multimedia specialists to Erbil to complete a three-month workshop on multimedia storytelling.

This workshop will provide youth and aspiring journalists with the technical and journalistic skills necessary to tell their own stories. We will then work with our students to help get the stories that they produce out to mainstream western media. This will help spread awareness about not only Kurdish culture, but also Kurdish causes.

The skills our students learn will also be directly transferable to any other career in new media they should chose to get into. Many of our students have gone on to work for international non-profits to provide multimedia for their causes.

Why Kurdish Journalists are necessary?

Honest and accurate journalism is a key part of any free society. Training Kurdish journalists in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq will help keep the already flourishing region in Iraq honest and on the right course. And hopefully, with a little bit of our help, these Kurdish journalists will help to spread awareness of Kurdish issues through Western media outlets.


Hope and Reflection: Images of Kurdish Culture from Turkey and Iraq

(May 14 - December 3, 2009)

Hope and Reflection: Images of Kurdish Culture from Turkey and Iraq features hopeful images of daily life in a troubled region and intimate portraits of the Kurdish people. The exhibit presents a selection of photographs taken during four visits to Diyarbakir Province, Turkey in the summers between 2005 and 2008 and one month spent in Northern Iraq in 2008. Photographer Jon Vidar developed close relationships with residents of cities and villages throughout the region, capturing a Kurdish culture that is largely unknown by Western observers.

More information:

Hope and Reflection Revisited

Life in the Kurdish Refugee Camps of Iraq

  • Thursday December 3, 2009
  • 5:30 PM
  • Badè Museum Gallery

Join us for a very special follow-up lecture and slide show by photographer Jon Vidar, whose work is featured in the exhibition "Hope and Reflection: Images of Kurdish Culture from Turkey and Iraq" at the Badè Museum through December 3, 2009.

During the summer of 2009, photographer Jon Vidar revisited the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to immerse himself into the world of Kurdish refugee camps. What he found were Kurdish refugees and asylum seekers from Turkey, Syria, and Iran, as well as internally displaced Kurds from Mosul and Kirkuk. Some were hopeful -- while others were beyond hope -- yet, a Kurdish spirit still persisted across all the people he encountered.

Documenting everything from a youth group practicing traditional dance to a six-year-old boy who has been addicted to smoking for two years, Jon Vidar returns to the Badè Museum to share his new experiences. Images from this recent trip depict Kurdish people living in hard situations, while still maintaining the same Kurdish spirit that Mr. Vidar has seen throughout the region and documented in his current exhibition "Hope and Reflection: Images of Kurdish Culture from Turkey and Iraq."