Bridging Past and Present

It”s haunting. Echoes of war all around, but life moves at such a blurring speed it would be easy to not notice.

Yesterday I crossed a bridge where a photograph was made by Chris Hondros during the war. I instantly knew the place because that image had become an icon of the conflict in Liberia. Later it was a Pulitzer finalist. The photographer, Hondros, was killed in Libya in April documenting the conflict there.

The image from the bridge, taken in 2003, of a Liberian militia commander celebrating after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at rebel forces, is hard to forget. His expression, his intensity, his body language. He”s unforgettable. His name is Joseph Duo.

Joseph and Chris met when Hondros returned to cover the elections in 2005. Hondros helped Duo through night school, and Duo wants to start his own organization, in Hondros” name, to help rehabilitate former combatants. We hope to meet with Duo next week and tell his story.

There are stories all around us here. My first day in Monrovia I spent with Nat Bayjay, a reporter and photographer at Front Page Africa. He was recently named the top journalist in Liberia, and he”s sharp, unassuming and committed. I asked Nat how he felt about his job. “I love it. I love it so much!”

As we waited at the Ministry of Justice, Nat told me stories of the war. When it got too dangerous, he and his family left the country and lived as refugees in Ghana and Nigeria. I asked him if he met any journalists during his experience in the camps. No, but he saw many. And he saw little effects from their work. We began to talk about the impact of journalism and what it means for the subjects of photographs and how or if it really affects their lives in a positive way. Then he was called into a press conference with the Minister of Justice.

Later Nat led me across that bridge where Hondros and Duo first met. He took me to his wife”s restaurant, and we feasted on traditional liberian food: rice and meat stew. The meat was everything you can imagine – dried fish, boiled whole fish, and other kinds of intense beef and pork. I ate a lot of fish, had a coke and made some pictures of his 5-year-old daughter.

About Chad Stevens

Chad A. Stevens joined the school in 2009. Most recently, he was an award-winning documentary producer/editor at Mediastorm, a multimedia production company based in New York City. Stevens has also been a faculty member in the visual communication programs at Western Kentucky University, the International Center of Photography and Ohio University. Currently he is working on a feature length documentary film on the conflict over energy extraction in Appalachia.

Stevens has received two Emmy nominations, one Webby Award and many photography and multimedia awards in the Pictures of the Year International and NPPA Best of Photojournalism competitions. While teaching at Western Kentucky University, Stevens won the University Faculty Award for Public Service in 2006.

With a professional foundation in photojournalism and multimedia storytelling, Stevens’ career spans the spectrum of newsroom environments, multimedia production and international experience. While living in Africa, he produced multimedia projects for Save the Children, AIDchild and Literacy and Basic Education.

He is a 1999 graduate of Western Kentucky University and a 2009 graduate of Ohio University, and has interned at National Geographic Magazine, The Hartford Courant, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Jackson Hole Guide. During his time as a student at Western Kentucky University, he traveled to Palestine and other Middle East countries. He was named 1997 College Photographer of the Year.