2007 Lange-Taylor Prize: Kurt Pitzer and Roger LeMoyne, "After War"

Thursday, November 1, 2007 - 2:15pm

Kurt Pitzer

Roger LeMoyne

The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University has awarded the seventeenth Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize to photographer Roger LeMoyne, a Canadian, and writer Kurt Pitzer, an American. The $20,000 award is given annually to encourage collaboration in documentary work in the tradition of acclaimed American photographer Dorothea Lange and writer and social scientist Paul Taylor. Lange and Taylor worked together for many years, most notably on fieldwork that resulted in American Exodus (1941), a seminal work in documentary studies.

Pitzer and LeMoyne's project, "After War," will explore questions about the lasting effects of war on ordinary civilians of the former Yugoslavia. They write, "When armed conflict erupts in a country, journalists rush in with cameras and laptops, and for the rest of the world the troubles become front-page stuff. Then, inevitably, a new disaster strikes and public attention moves on. But what about the people left behind? What marks has war left on their lives and their psyches? How do they heal? What acts of remembrance become ritual?

"Having spent much of the past decade covering current events for the media, we want to take a longer, more reflective, look at the human cost of conflict, to consider what happens in that period of time between memory and history. The wars of the 1990s tore apart the identity of every citizen of Tito's former state. All who considered themselves Yugoslavs had their identities shattered. Who are they now? How has their sense of self changed? Is a new national character developing among the splintered states? Most of all, what does 'recovery' mean?"

Pitzer and LeMoyne both began covering conflicts when they reported from the Balkans, though they didn't meet until 2003 when they traveled with the 3rd Infantry Division from Kuwait to Baghdad airport during the invasion of Iraq. Over several weeks, as they continued their coverage of the chaos in Baghdad, they discovered they were both nagged, as Pitzer and LeMoyne say, "by the same questions about the emotional and psychological legacy a conflict leaves on a place and its people." They add, "We feel this subject is timeless but also of the moment. The situation in the former Yugoslavia is still not resolved: borders remain uncertain; crimes are still being prosecuted and, in some cases, still being unearthed. We would complete this project around the time of the ten-year anniversary of NATO's intervention in Kosovo and as the province moves toward independence."

Together, they "will weave their histories in the Balkans into a joint itinerary," revisiting three different regions, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to find people they met years ago as well as develop new relationships in such places as Pristina, Mitrovica, Belgrade, Serbrenica, and villages outside of Sarajevo. Their collaboration will result in oral histories and color photographs that explore "this distinct time in the recollection of the conflicts, in which the memory of what happened is fresh and yet people have had some years to transform and reflect."

Of their collaboration, Pitzer and LeMoyne say, "By working together closely (and reviewing digital photographs and notes at the end of each day), we can ensure that the work each of us does enhances the other's while also keeping a certain amount of distance, so as to leave breathing room for the interplay of ideas. The final product will be layered, primarily about emotions and resonance, and only second, about geography and ethnicity. In this way the similarities of individual experiences can emerge on the other side of war's divisiveness and approach a sort of emotional truth."

Roger LeMoyne is a freelance photographer with Redux Pictures. He has received an Alexia Foundation grant and an Ernst Haas Golden Light Award, as well as awards from World Press Photo, Photo District News, American Photo, Pictures of the Year International, the National Press Photographers Association, Communications Arts, and Concours Bayeux-Calvados pour Correspondents de Guerre. LeMoyne's photographs have appeared in the Globe and Mail, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Marie-Claire, Maclean's, Paris Match, American Photo, Stern, Time, and Life. His book Détails Obscurs (Les 400 Coups, 2005), which features 52 black-and-white images of civilians during recent conflicts, was awarded prizes in Canada, France, and the United States. LeMoyne's work can also be seen in the Alexia Foundation's Eyes on the World, a book that features the work of 18 past grant winners.

Kurt Pitzer is an author and journalist who has written for many publications, including the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, and People. A former commercial long-line fisherman and relief worker, he has in recent years reported in-depth stories on Serbs and Albanians during the war in Kosovo, Afghan warlords during the last days of Taliban rule, earthquake survivors in Turkey, key figures on both sides of the Middle East conflict, and gangsters behind India's Bollywood film industry. In the days after the fall of Baghdad, he met Saddam Hussein's former top nuclear engineer, Mahdi Obeidi, with whom he published The Bomb in My Garden: The Secrets of Saddam's Nuclear Mastermind (Wiley, 2004). Pitzer's experiences in Iraq are being made into a feature film. He is currently at work on a screenplay set in Afghanistan and a collection of short stories.