Catching a glimpse of daily life in the Middle East is a key component of understanding Middle Eastern culture, according to professor emeritus Steve Raymer.
Raymer featured images of daily life across 40 years of his photography in the region during his talk, “The Middle East: A Photojournalist’s Perspective, 1975-2016,” Feb. 10 at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.
Raymer said the photos opened up an “opportunity to help humanize this area that is on everyone’s minds.”
Raymer retired last year after 20 years teaching journalism. But teaching was his second act; he spent more than 25 years as a photojournalist at the National Geographic before turning to teaching. Even in retirement, he has blended teaching with traveling and photojournalism. He spent last fall as a visiting professor at Zayed University in Dubai.
“I think the idea of giving a voice to the voiceless is so important in the work we do,” he said.
His photos showed a range of life experiences and moments in the Middle East. Some photos featured conflict. In one, a sniper casually pauses in front of the camera in Djbouti.
In others, Middle Eastern life looks not so different from that of the Western world. A street in Istanbul looks similar to Oxford Street in London, Raymer noted. An ISIS bomber later destroyed part of it, though, he said.
“So much for peaceful Istanbul,” Raymer said.
Many photos show a calmer Middle East often overlooked by the media, he said, such as one of a mosque.
“You go to the mosque, and it’s a great social leveler,” he said. People gathered to pray, regardless of background, united by religion.
While Raymer’s photo series can help viewers get an intimate look at diverse life in the Middle East, Raymer said he hopes young people there will do the talking for themselves in the near future, something made easier with social media and the internet.
“I’m really reassured by this generation of young people in the Middle East who have taken up the camera,” he said.
As that generation continues to rise, Raymer shares his own photos, hoping to show people that our societies really aren’t so different.
“People want for themselves and their families the same things we want,” he said.