This morning I learned a photographer friend was severely wounded after stepping on a mine in southern Afghanistan. He lost both his legs and is in critical condition.
I'm flooded by feelings of rage, sadness, helplessness, and isolation. I think of my friends and colleagues that have lost their lives while doing their job. It all seems utterly senseless.
Unless you have a personal connection, the war in Afghanistan is an abstraction. After nearly 10 years since the initial invasion, the daily bombings and ongoing violence has become mundane, almost ordinary. It is tempting to become indifferent to the horror and pain. It is much easier to look away from the victims. It is much easier to lead a life without rude interruptions from complex insurgencies in distant lands. But it is when we take this easier path, the suffering becomes of no consequence and therefore meaningless. The anguish becomes invisible, an abstraction. It is when society becomes numb to inhumanity; horror is allowed to spread in darkness.
Visual imagery can be a powerful medium for truth. The images of napalmed girls screaming by Nick Ut, the street execution of a Vietcong prisoner by Eddie Adams, the shell-shocked soldier by Don McCullin - these iconic images have burned into our collective consciousness as reminders of war's consequences.
But, this visual language is dying. The traditional outlets are collapsing. In the midst of this upheaval, we must invent a new language. I am attempting to combine the power of the still image with advanced technology to change the vernacular of photojournalism and filmmaking. Instead of opening a window to glimpse another world, I am attempting to bring the viewer into that world. I believe shared experiences will ultimately build a common humanity.
Through my work I hope to shake people from their indifference to war, and to bridge the disconnect between the realities on the ground and the public consciousness at home. By bearing witness and shedding light on another's pain and despair, I am trying to invoke our humanity and a response to act. Is it possible that war is an archaic and primitive human behavior that society is capable of advancing past? Is it possible that the combination of photojournalism, filmmaking and technology can plead for peace and contribute to this future?
Danfung Dennis, Director/Producer
Since 2006, Danfung Dennis has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His still photographs have been published in Newsweek, TIME, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Le Figaro Magazine, Financial Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Der Spiegel, and The Wall Street Journal.
PBS's Frontline opened its 2009 fall feature program Obama's War using Dennis's footage. The immersive nature of the footage prompted a flurry of comment and inquiry from the Pentagon, the White House, veterans groups, and viewers and the program was nominated for a 2010 Emmy Award.
In 2010, Dennis won the Bayeux-Calvados Award For War Correspondents, was named one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine and one of the 30 New and Emerging Photographers by PDN Magazine.
Dennis directed and filmed his first feature-length documentary on the war in Afghanistan, Hell and Back Again, and is the founder of the immersive video startup Condition ONE. His background is in applied economics and business management. Before working as a photojournalist and filmmaker, he consulted small and medium-sized enterprises in Uganda and South Africa.
Mike Lerner, Producer
Martin Herring, Producer