The annus horribilis of 2011 is coming to a close – a year that will go down as one of dramatic upheaval and revolution alongside 1789, 1848, 1917, 1989, and now, this year. In Egypt, young revolutionaries overthrew the government of Hosni Mubarak after 31 years of subservience to a one-party state bolstered by an omnipresent muhabarata, or secret service, further bolstered by an overreaching military, after Egyptians witnessed similar events in Tunisia lead to the removal of that country’s former leader Ben Ali. Consequently, the domino theory made a surprise return as events in Egypt triggered revolts elsewhere in Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Of these, only Libya’s leader fell after rebels received aerial support from NATO war planes; Qaddafi was found hiding in a drainage canal near his hometown of Sirte (or Surt, depending on your news source and spelling) and subsequently dragged through the streets, sodomized with a knife and otherwise tormented before being shot in the head. In the Libyan conflict three photographers lost their lives, including Chris Hondros who was the first ever news and conflict photographer willing to sit down and meet with me about the profession of photojournalism and talk to me about his career and the one I had yet to really embark on, with only one internship, one fellowship, and a freelance gig in Ethiopia under my belt. He was a nice man and it was nice of him to pick up that round of drinks in late 2007 at the Downtown Bar and Grill on Court Street in Brooklyn, which included two Aldaris Latvian beers for me, and happens to be where I found myself eating lunch with a friend before his memorial service, an image of which is included in this year’s best of images, a small gesture of thanks for the support and inspiration while Chris was still around creating images. Stateside, things similarly devolved after a sit-in demonstration began on Wall Street, spawning similar movements first across America and then throughout the world. Who knows precisely where the world is going in 2012, but with few leaders of genuine mass support around among the political class or the activists in opposition, it is all the more difficult to say much more than come what may, it will come.
Most of these stories, though, other photographers, closer to events, told better. For me, this was a year of observation and learning. I received a master’s degree in Georgetown in May in security studies after spending months holed up in my Brooklyn apartment reading for my master’s thesis on military-media relations in the United States the nonfiction of three defining conflicts in recent U.S. history: the Second World War, Vietnam, and the post-September 11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this time, I covered a sea change in the politics of my hometown of Chicago as Mayor Richard M. Daley, whom many believed would be “mayor for life” since he served 22 years in office just as his father, Richard J. Daley, who died in 1976 in office after serving 21 years as mayor of Chicago. The younger Daley was replaced by his chosen successor, Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff who resigned from the position and was subsequently replace by Richard M. Daley’s brother William “Bill” Daley. Following my graduation from Georgetown, I spent several months drifting and couch surfing, first in Chicago, then in the Czech Republic (thank you to all of my amazing friends who put me up, put up with me and supported me in this time – I owe each of you for the piece of sanity and sleeping space you provided), I moved to Baku, Azerbaijan with the assistance of a Fulbright grant in photography to begin work on a year-long project documenting the role of women in Azerbaijan. Included in this year’s portfolio of my best work is a sneak peak at a few of my favorite images from the project this fall. I hope you enjoy and I hope, as a new year’s resolution, to be moving more and more towards the center of global and geopolitical events in not just the coming year but the year’s ahead.
Happy new year and see you in 2012!