210 - Moises Saman
Aug 02, 2023 • E210 • 01:23:20
Moises Saman is widely considered to be one of the leading documentary and conflict photographers of his generation and has been a full member of Magnum Photos since 2014. His work has largely focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring and its aftermath.
Moises was born in Lima, Peru, from a mixed Spanish and Peruvian family and grew up in Barcelona, Spain. He studied Communications and Sociology in the United States at California State University, graduating in 1998. It was during his last year in university that Moises first became interested in becoming a photographer, influenced by the work of a number of photojournalists that had been covering the wars in the Balkans.
After graduating, Moises moved to New York City to complete a summer internship at New York Newsday and joined as a Staff Photographer, a position he held until 2007. During his 7 years at Newsday Moises' work focused on covering the fallout of the 9/11 attacks, spending most of his time traveling between Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries. In the Autumn of 2007 Moises left Newsday to become a freelance photographer represented by Panos Pictures. During that time he become a regular contributor for The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, Newsweek, and TIME Magazine, among other international publications.
Over the years Moises' work has received awards from the World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year and the Overseas Press Club and his photographs have been shown in a several exhibitions worldwide. In 2015 Moises received a Guggenheim Fellowship to continue his work.
In 2011, Moises relocated to Cairo, Egypt, where he was based for three years while covering the Arab Spring for The New York Times and other publications, mainly The New Yorker. His first book, Discordia, on which he colloaborated with artist Daria Birang, documents the tumultuous transitions that have taken place in the region. The work featured in Discordia has received numerous awards, including the Eugene Smith Memorial Fund.
Moises’s latest book, Glad Tidings of Benevolence, was published earlier this year by GOST books to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. It brings together Moises’s photographs taken in Iraq during this period and the following years, with documents and texts relating to the war. Exploring the construction—through image and language—of competing narratives of the war, the book represents the culmination of Moises’s twenty years of work across Iraq.
Moises currently lives in Amman, Jordan with his wife and their young daughter.
In episode 210, Moises discusses, among other things:
- The catalyst that was 9/11
- His introduction to photography via his studie in sociology
- The Balkans conflict
- Learning the ropes in Afghanistan
- How his attitude towards photojournalism evolved over time
- The impact of spending eight days in Abu Ghraib prison
- Surviving a helicopter crash
- The myth of objectivity
- Trying to show a more nuanced picture
- Every day life continuing amidst war
- “The framing of the frame”
- Covering The Arab Spring
- Collaborating with artist Daria Birang on Discordia
- Facts, truth and questioning
- Victim vs. perpetrator
- His current project in Amman
“One thing I’ve realised is, at least for me, that perhaps this other approach to the work, the one that’s a little bit quieter and more nuanced, more human really, where you’re also celebrating humanity rather than the lack thereof in this very difficult context, that perhaps is a little more effective. I like to think that.