Earlier this month, the State of the World Forum convened in San
Francisco, an event that is meant to inspire discussions on human
rights, global security and social change. In attendance were international
political leaders, Nobel Prize Laureates, world-renowned activists
and a photographer named Lisa Kristine Huff.
It's no surprise that Lisa was invited to show her work at the
State of the World Forum, with her diverse collection of captivating
images of people around of the world. People tend to respond to
her work immediately. Lisa's photos are so intriguing, and so deeply
striking, it's easy to make a sudden connection with a subject halfway
around the globe.
She always had an interest in photography. Even in her early teens,
she enjoyed photographing people. When Lisa was 18, she left the
country and traveled to Greece, Israel and Egypt, then spent over
four years in Asia, where she immersed herself in world philosophies
and religions, all the while taking photos of people whose lives
were the antithesis of her life in America. "The experience of traveling
has always been a great mentor for me," Lisa says, "A far greater
mentor than academia."
Although Lisa has journeyed to more countries than most, her experiences
only feed her desire for more travel. "Our planet is so immensely
interesting. I want to experience it. For me, it's a natural feeling.
I have to travel and I have to share it."
Among her many magnificent portraits is one entitled Red Calm (above),
a photo of a Buddhist monk wearing a crimson robe taken in Bagan,
Burma. Early one morning before dawn, the monk, who had just been
meditating for hours inside of the temple walked beneath a large
hanging tree. Lisa takes a shot, and beautifully captures an image
of flaring and vibrant red, yet paradoxically calm, satiated and
The shot was taken just outside of the Ananda Temple, a masterpiece
of Mon architecture. Completed in 1091, the temple was so beautiful
and unique, King Kyanzittha executed the temple's architect to ensure
that the monument could not be duplicated.
Indian Princess, Rajasthan, India.
Another remarkable photo is Indian Princess (left). The shot was
taken when Lisa visited Rajasthan, India's most visited state. Here
in the land of great palaces and Jain temples, she came across a
procession in honor of Shiva's birthday. A little girl wearing a
gold sari and heavily adorned in jewelry was being carried through
the streets on a small throne. "Although she is inundated by the
crowd throwing marigold flower petals above her head, I could see
that she is very much inside of herself," Lisa says, "She emanates
a royal presence."
To seize the perfect image, Lisa does not shoot rolls of film on
one face. "I just take a few photographs. I don't want the camera
to change the person's attitude. I want them to remain in their
own element and not respond to mine." Undoubtedly, she succeeds.
"I focus on individuals who are in their practice. I look for the
light in somebody, a lived-in face, someone who has lived intensely.
And it doesn't have anything to do with attractiveness or beauty
in an aesthetic sense. It's an intention I see in them."
Her last trip took her to East Africa, where she and a friend visited
Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar and Egypt. In the midst of Ethiopia's
civil war, it was very difficult for Lisa to get around. The bus
lines weren't running and all of the gas was rationed for the military.
Finally, Lisa found a man who was able to escort her through Omo
Valley. "It was a very rugged ride, four wheeling through miles
and miles of land with no roads." They traveled for weeks, in temperatures
that reached 100 degrees even in the shade. "We had to find different
tribesman from place to place to locate our way through."
When they finally reached their destination, Lisa was amazed. "It
was phenomenal to go to a place where the individuals are still
hunters and gatherers. They barter with shells, goat hides and gourds.
They had no longing to change their life in any way. They didn't
care to be like me, or to have what I had. They had so much grace
and so much dignity. It blew me away, how they were living their
life just as they did a millennium ago."
In Africa, Lisa found it necessary to have a translator. "I wanted
to explain to them what a camera was and how I was using that device.
I wanted to share with them what I was doing, not just take their
She recalls a conversation she had in Tanzania with the chief of
the Moran (the warrior stage of the Samburu tribe). "He asked me
what my 'tribe' was like. The fact that he would refer to my people
as my 'tribe' was just marvelous. It's fascinating simply talking
to people and finding out what their priorities are, and how different
they are from yours. We talked about everything from politics to
Certainly the spots she visited in Africa were among the most
remote and inaccessible. The heat was merciless and nearly unbearable.
Many people would shy away from traveling to such places, and Lisa
is often asked if it's safe for a woman to travel alone. "People
are afraid to visit Third World countries, especially countries
where there's poverty." But Lisa feels very safe in other parts
of the world. To some extent, she admits, she even feels safer overseas
than here at home. "Although I love America and I know it is a great
country, we live in a very volatile society. There's a lot of friction
and aggression here. And it isn't based on politics like in other
countries, but rather a disparity of income, and anger that really
has no purpose. I don't feel that when I'm abroad. I find that in
other countries the values are still intact, and so pure."
Lisa's next exploration will take her to Guatemala and Ecuador.
In unfluctuating awe with the people of the world, Lisa continues
to feel at home with the world. And with her photos, she shares
that home with us.
To see more of Lisa's work, visit www.migrationphotography.com.
(Fodor's Travel Publications, 1998)
Southeast Asia. (APA Publications, 1999)
experience of traveling has always been a great mentor for me, a far
greater mentor than academia."