Renowned Photojournalist Alexandra Avakian to Speak at FIU

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Venue:FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus, MARC International Pavilion

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The Middle East Studies Program in FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs has invited renowned photojournalist Alexandra Avakian to speak on November 13, 2009, at 2 pm in the Marc International Pavilion, University Park Campus. Avakian will speak about her work in the Middle East and discuss her recently published book Windows of the Soul, where she shares the challenges, insights, and rewards of nearly two decades of photographing the lives of Muslims around the world.

Avakian lived and worked for two years in the Gaza strip, often in Islamic dress, once beaten bloody by Hamas. For several terrifying days in Somalia she was pinned down by sniper fire on the way to her hotel. She careened across the snowy Tien-Shen Mountains with Islamic fundamentalists in an ancient Lada, only to be detained and tossed out by the Uzbek KGB. All the while, she captured some of the most important stories of our time—the famine in Sudan, the violence in Gaza and Somalia, the daily life of Hezbollah. She traveled extensively with Yasser Arafat as one of the only non-Arab photographers given such access. She studied her Armenian roots in Iran and the Muslim culture in America.

Recounted in gripping words and unforgettable images, Avakian’s remarkable experiences draw readers into the Muslim world to meet friends and terrorists, leaders and thieves and everyday people. Her style is always probing, yet compassionate. Given the interest in Muslim culture since the events of 9/11, Avakian’s fascinating photographs and rich personal story will captivate, educate, and linger with us forever.

Avakian has been a National Geographic photographer since 1995. Her assignments have included a cover story on Iran; photographic essays on Gaza, Romania, and Armenia; and intensive photographic projects on Lebanon’s Hezbollah and American Muslims. Her work in Iran was chronicled in an episode of the National Geographic television show Explorer. Her photos have also been published in many National Geographic books, including Women Photographers at National Geographic, Through the Lens, Wide Angle, and The World of Islam. She has also produced three books for Clarkson Potter and has been published in several Time Life books.

Avakian’s exclusive coverage of Lebanon’s Hezbollah appeared as a portfolio in 2006 in Time and Corriere della Sera magazine. It was also published by Der Speigel, and nationalgeographic.com and was featured on an episode of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 news program. Her in-depth study of Muslims in America was published as a portfolio in U.S. News & World Report’s special “Secrets of Islam” issue and Saudi Aramco World magazine in 2005.

She was a top freelancer for Time and The New York Times Magazine between 1988 and 1996. Between 1988 and 1992, Avakian covered the Soviet Union and its fall, including several civil wars, uprisings, and the 1991 coup. Avakian also covered the First Palestinian Intifada for seven years and many other stories in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean. She spent seven months covering the uprising in Haiti and documented the civil war and famine in Somalia and Sudan. Her subjects have also included the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, the funeral of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomenei in 1989, and Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution.”

A book signing will follow the presentation. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event. For more information, please contact the Middle East Studies Program at 305-348-1792 or mesc@fiu.edu.