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Two sides of courage: 'only after I left the foreign battlefields and returned to the United States did I discover the quiet part of courage in what it is I try to do.'.

War zones test only a part of hotojournalists' courage. it's the noisy part, filled with an odd mixture of bravado, determination and hope, layered onto an intense focus on the day-to-clay job of bearing witness to brutality that is impossible to comprehend. Enduring such danger is one reliable way for photographers to build their reputations and get their pictures used. Only after I left the foreign battlefields and returned to the United States did I discover the quiet part of courage in what it is I try to do.

As my early mentor, Donald Greenhaus, told me, for the photographer willing to chance rejection, and possibly ridicule, from those who hold the power to accept or reject his work, the opportunities are boundless. To bear witness to what isn't shown with the purpose of revealing an aspect of life no one expects to see is the challenge I took on. In an urban environment linked in people's minds to violence, there can be courage in a photographer's willingness to reject those anticipated images in favor of showing some of the more affirming, unexpected moments of youngsters' daily life.

Easier to sell into a marketplace hungry for verification of what already is known about poverty and racism are the guns and blood, the street corner hangouts, and the swollen bellies of teenage girls. More enlightening, however, might be visual evocations of those quieter moments when what is revealed becomes worth knowing.

Eli Reed, a 1983 Nieman Fellow, is a Magnum photojournalist and professor at the University of Texas at Austin. In his long career, he has covered civil wars and other events in El Salvador, Beirut, Haiti and Panama, as well as work documenting the black experience in America and Africa.


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Title Annotation:Courage: United States
Author:Reed, Eli
Publication:Nieman Reports
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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