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SFi by Ami Vitale

Vita *

Name: Ami Vitale

Profession: Photojournalist

Did you know?

She has visited more than 75 countries.

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Ami Vitale's journey as a photojournalist has taken her to more than 75 countries. She has witnessed civil unrest, poverty, destruction of life, and unspeakable violence. But she has also experienced surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit, and she is committed to highlighting the surprising and subtle similarities between cultures. Her photographs have been exhibited around the world in museums and agencies including the UN, Human Rights Watch, MSF, Oxfam, the Open Society Institute, The Nature Conservancy and many others.

Her work has garnered multiple awards from various groups including Photographer of the Year International award, the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism, Lucie awards, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and the Magazine Photographer of the Year award. Photo District News recognized her as one of 30 image makers of the future.

Her stories have been awarded grants including the first-ever Inge Morath grant by the prestigious Magnum Photos, The Canon female photojournalist award for her work in Kashmir, and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace for her work in West Africa.

Vitale’s photographs have been exhibited around the world and published in prestigious international magazines. Now based in Montana, Vitale is a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine, she is also a member of Rippleeffectimages.org and is a senior producer for the Knight Center for International Media. Currently she is working on a film about climate change and a book of the stories behind her images.

9 Works / projects

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3 questions

Biggest hurdle overcomed?

I look back on experiences I had and now wonder how I got through them. They were sometimes unimaginable, often lonely and occasionally utterly terrifying. On the other hand, these experiences changed my life, showed me all the possibilities that exist and inspired me.

There is an upside to being vulnerable. From the conflicts in far away places like the Balkans, Angola, Sierra Leone, Palestine and Israel or, Gujarat and Kashmir, these have affected me deeply but I believe, also made me a better person.

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Greatest moment?

I had the rare opportunity to live in a remote village in the West African country of Guinea Bissau. I shared a hut and the daily responsibilities with 2 co-wives and their children in a remote village of Fulani's, once a nomadic group of herders. Fama and Uma did not speak English but their children taught me Pulaar and opened up a new and different perception of the planet. Together we gathered water and firewood, collected cashews and mangoes and slowly they introduced me to their intricate and complex society.

So much of Africa is only known for its civil wars and poverty but beyond the paved roads and beaten orange paths, there exists a beautiful culture still in touch with the nature around it. It was in this village, that I discovered a place that is rarely reported in mainstream press. It was not the Africa of war and famines and plagues, nor was it the idealized world of safaris and exotic animals. Instead it was a look into the simplicity and beauty of how the majority of people on this planet live. There, every day is a struggle but there was much to be learned.

Through it all, I was reminded of how similar we all are despite the distances between us. One memory in particular reminds me of this-- My last evening in the small village I sat with a group of children beneath a sea of stars talking into the night about my return home. One of the children, Alio, innocently asked me if we had a moon in America. It seemed so symbolic and touching that he should feel like America was a separate world, and serves as a constant reminder that we are all tied together in an intricate web, whether we believe it or not.

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What next?

Traditional journalism is certainly changing and I'm embracing the changes, learning new skills and finding so many new opportunities. The medium is changing and video is now playing a much bigger role in what we do. I am making films now for tv and the web as well as shooting photo stories for magazines.

I'm also teaching workshops in India and Vietnam, have exhibit openings at the Field Museum and Millennium park in Chicago and several other galleries in the US.

Finally, I am writing a book and a member of RippleEffectImages.org, a group of scientists, writers, filmmakers and photographers who are working to tell the stories of how women are being affected by climate change.

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