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Kurtis Beavers
IU School of Journalism

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011

National Geographic photojournalist to speak Jan. 27 at IU about her 'journeys in the Muslim world'

Jan. 18, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Alexandra Avakian, an acclaimed photojournalist whose images have appeared in National Geographic, Time and Life magazines, will present a lecture at the Indiana University School of Journalism on Jan. 27.

Avakian Photo

Avakian's visit will include a lecture and an exhibit of her photographs. The lecture, "Windows of the Soul: My Journeys in the Muslim World," will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Ernie Pyle Hall Auditorium, 940 E. Seventh St. She also will appear at Pictura Gallery, 122 W. Sixth St., from 6-8 p.m., on Jan. 28, where she will sign copies of her book by the same name. An exhibit of her photographs is on display at Pictura Gallery until that date. Both events are free and open to the public.

A photojournalist since 1984, Avakian will discuss the challenges, insights and rewards of nearly two decades spent photographing Muslims around the world -- often in lands torn by poverty, repression and conflict, in regions and cultures often misunderstood in the West.

Her visit to IU is sponsored by the IU School of Journalism and Voices and Visions: Islam and Muslims From a Global Perspective.

Avakian Photo

In her book, Avakian wrote that for many years she "felt the need to photograph refugees, uprisings, fights for freedom . . . I longed to learn more about the lengths to which people go to change their living conditions and achieve basic human rights. I was less interested in ideology than in the human capacity for bravery in the fight for freedom."

Her photography has evolved to convey an intimacy and complexity beyond the conflict and upheaval commonly portrayed in daily news reports.

"I began distancing myself from death and funerals. The violent conflicts that had fascinated me were taking their toll. I felt lucky to be alive and in one piece -- and ready to celebrate the beauty of life in the subjects I chose," she wrote.

Her work also has been published in the New York Times Magazine and was featured in "Iran: Behind the Veil," an episode of National Geographic Television's "Explorer" series. Her photos can be found in many National Geographic books, including Women Photographers at National Geographic, Through the Lens, Wide Angle and The World of Islam. She has been with the society since 1995.

Alexandra Avakian

Alexandra Avakian

In addition to her work in the Muslim world, Avakian covered the Soviet Union, its fall and the aftermath, including several civil wars, uprisings and the 1991 coup. She spent seven months covering Haiti in 1986-87 and documented civil wars and famine in Somalia and Sudan. She also chronicled the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution and the funeral of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989.

Her work received honors from Pictures of the Year International, the New York Foundation for the Arts and American Photographer. She has been a senior member of the distinguished photo agency Contact Press Images since 1991.

Avakian continues to shoot stories worldwide and presents workshops and lectures at universities. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and also studied at the International Center of Photography and the New School.