Bearing Witness to History

Documentary Visions
Photos by Steve Lehman

From political upheavals to ethnic unrest, photojournalist Steve Lehman '86 has been on the scene--and behind the scenes--of the stories that shape our world.

On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwanda's president was shot down by Hutu extremists, sparking ethnic genocide that killed an estimated 500,000 people. The ensuing war forced more than four million people to flee their homes, creating a refugee crisis unparalleled in modern history. In top photo, a Rwandan baby dying of cholera reaches out to his parents; below, a man clutching food distributed by relief agencies flees from former militia members.

At left, an annual street festival commemorates the ancestry of Thailand's sizable Chinese population.
The massacre at Wounded Knee a century ago marked the end of the Lakota people's traditional nomadic way of life on the plains of North America. But, during a nine-month stay on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Lehman documented a resurgen of Lakota traditional ways. Below, a Lakota holds sage used in traditional healing ceremonies. At the Mount Rushmore gift shop, left, tourists try on manufactured acoutrements of the Native American lifestyle.

The Ju/'hoan Bushmen of Namibia were the last self-sustaining hunters and gatherers in Southern Africa until the late Fifties. Since then, they have been dispossessed of 90 percent of their land, making it impossible for them to survive by traditional means. During Namibia's war for independence, they were rounded up and froced to settle in government created towns. In top photo, children of farm laborers learn to write; the school curriculum does not include classes in Ju/'hoan language, focusing instead on assimilation into mainstream culture. A family crosses the Namibia-Botswana border to visit relatives, right.
Since China's occupation of Tibet in 1959, a million Tibetans have died and 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed. Under the current policies of the Chinese government, the Tibetan people are severely limited in the practice of their culture and face the constant threat of assimilation and military repression. At left, monks run through the burning ruins of a Chinese police station to rescue their compatriots, who were beaten and jailed for peaceful demonstrations.
In the shadow of new construction sits the Potala Palace, right, former residence of the exiled Dalai Lama. Now a museum, the palace is controlled by the Chinese.

In 1991, Lehman spent three months documenting the United States' postwar occupation of Iraq, the reconstruction of Kuwait, and the environmental crisis caused by burning oil wells. Here, environmental workers take soil samples from the fiery earth.
Steve Lehman '86 began his career in photojournalism in 1987. His photographs have appeared on the front pages of nearly every major newspaper in the world. He frequently works on assignment for such publications as Newsweek, The New York Times, TIME, U.S. News & World Report, Der Spiegel, GEO, and Stern. As a Program II major at Duke, he combined his interest in Asian studies and documentary photography. Lehman is based in Los Angeles.
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