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:: Photo by Daniel Pepper

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Peer Review ::

Open Mike

A freelancer’s life

Freelance photographer and journalist Daniel Pepper, AB’02, is almost always on the move. His trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan, pre- and postwar Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, and the Congo have spawned articles and photographs in Newsweek, Time, Harper’s magazine, the New York Times Magazine, and National Geographic Adventure, among other publications. Spending the first half of November 2007 in Africa, Pepper covered the latest chapter in Rwanda’s genocide trials (expected to end in early 2008) “and the problems,” such as corrupt judges, ”that various human-rights organizations have been voicing about the trials.” He stopped for two weeks in New York City—“I come back [to the United States] at least once a year to speak with editors face-to-face”—before returning in early December to New Delhi, where he has lived for the last year and a half. “A lot of my stories have been based in India,” he says. “They are generally reflective of the failure of the government to institute sensible, sustainable, or even coherent policies, and how that hurts their own people.”—R.E.K.

In 2004 Pepper photographed inmates in Mexico City’s Reclusorio Norte, home to 10,000 prisoners.

From camera to keyboard: It’s not that I decided to pursue [photojournalism] exclusively; it just became the way that I could work on stories that I was passionate about. …I didn’t really start writing until 2005 when I went to Darfur for the second time. I had a visa to Sudan—there wasn’t a great deal of interest in just photojournalism, and there was interest in the articles coming out of there. So I decided to put pen to paper.

Limited awareness: The pictures from Darfur that I’ve taken have been widely distributed and utilized in consciousness-raising campaigns by Save Darfur and by other organizations that try to raise the profiles of human-rights abuses in Darfur. Objectively speaking, those photographs have perhaps had greater impact than some others I’ve taken that people haven’t really paid attention to, like child labor in Ghana or in South Asia.

Images with a life of their own: I was walking down the street in Brooklyn, and I saw a big banner in front of a church, and there were three of my photographs on that banner. They’ve been distributed on Atlantic Avenue. That was a bit weird.

Passport problems: The last time I tried to go to Burma my visa was rejected, so it’s not always that easy to go back to places where you’ve worked before. I don’t even know if I’m allowed back to Rwanda after the stories I wrote about the government.

Playing it safe: You just have to kind of be smart about where you go and who[m] you speak to. And also you have to be aware of the risks that you’re putting other people into when you go and speak to, let’s say, human-rights activists or opposition members of government in these countries.

Market value: Afghanistan and Iraq are the two stories that are dominating the news pages. It’s a huge struggle to get anything else in newspapers’or magazines’foreign pages.

If it were up to him: There’s more interest in news out of Africa. If it weren’t so expensive to travel there as a freelancer, I’d probably be in Africa right now.