Summer 2009: From Iraq to Chicago

May 6, 2009
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The Kiss - A girl in the Moqoble Refugee camp just outside of Dohuk, Iraq.
Above: A girl in the Moqoble Refugee camp just outside of Dohuk, Iraq.

I just wanted to post a quick update and let everyone know what I'll be up to this summer. A LOT is going on, but the quick highlights are: I'm now serving as the Executive Director for the Tiziano Project; my first solo photography exhibit opens at UC Berkeley next week; I'm leaving to Iraq in three weeks; and I will be spending two months in Chicago for a Journalism Fellowship at Northwestern University! Now for the details:

Tiziano Update

As you all know, we did not win the Microsoft contest. But, that is alright. The exposure we gained through the contest in the Kurdish community is truly invaluable and the effort that I have put in over the last few months has led the Founder of the organization to ask me to serve as the Executive Director.

This means that, while the Turkey/Iraq project will still be my baby, I will actually be helping to organize and develop the non-profit as a whole. I will be responsible for a lot more broad vision planning and have already started working on developing several plans to help get us to where we want to go. My roommate Chris has also stepped into my old role as Director of Technology and Tory is going to be heading up our Advancement and Outreach. If anyone has any ideas or wants to be involved let me know!

David Torstenson teaches for the Tiziano Project in Iraqi Kurdistan
In regards to getting the Near East program off the ground, the Committee to Protect Journalists just released a letter detailing press violations in Iraqi Kurdistan. This letter makes it more clear to me than ever that our program is needed to help provide a voice in this still troubled region. You can read the full letter here:

Our efforts have raised almost one thousand dollars since our last fundraiser and we have two camera donations pledged! However, we still have a looooong way to go. Many of you have expressed interest in supporting the project... Every little bit helps, but to give you an idea:

$130 will buy one digital camera for a student

$175 will buy one video camera for a student

$500 will help support one teacher for a month

$1000 will help support a fellowship for a local student to continue teaching their peers after we leave

We are also accepting technology donations and frequent flyer mileage to help get a three person team to the region. If you would like to make a donation please contact me or visit our new campaign on Pledgie:

Click here to lend your support to: Tiziano Project: Near East and make a donation at !

Hope and Reflection: Images of Kurdish Culture from Turkey and Iraq

My good friend Cat is the curator of the Badé Museum of Biblical Archaeology at the University of California Berkeley. Cat works with me at Kenan Tepe, the excavation in Southeast Turkey I have been involved with for several years now. We've been talking for quite some time about hosting an exhibit at her museum featuring images that I have made while in the region. Well, it's finally going to happen! Hope and Reflection: Images of Kurdish Culture from Turkey and Iraq will open on May 14th with a brief lecture and reception from 5pm-7pm. Let me know if you can make it!

Hope and Reflection Exhibit

Headed back to Iraq

Some of the photos from my brief visit to the Moqoble Refugee camp last summer were recently featured on NEED Magazine's Blog:

In 2008, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identified over 2.4 million displaced people living in Iraq - the largest urban refugee situation that the organization has ever encountered. More than forty thousand individuals were specifically identified as refugees supported by the UNHCR and Kurdish refugees make up almost 65% of this number.

In just under three weeks, I will be going back to Iraq for a month specifically to look deeper at these refugee camps. NEED Magazine has already expressed interest in publishing the story and I will be working closely with them during the development.

I also just picked up a ton of new gear, including the Canon 5D Mark II camera that records full HD video, so during this trip I will be attempting to practice what I preach and develop some comprehensive multimedia stories around the camps.

My travel dates are May 25th through June 20th and I'll be checking email / buying a SIM card while there.

The Academy for Alternative Journalism

I'm not sure if I told everyone about this yet or not, but I was one of only seven selected out of over 300 applicants to join the 2009 Fellowship class of the Academy for Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University. The program is specifically geared towards long form journalism for alternative weeklies. Over the two months that I will be in Chicago, I will be developing one long-term, in-depth story and several smaller pieces. I'm planning to develop multimedia around the longer story as well, and overall I am just hoping that the program will help make me a more well-rounded, complete package journalist.

I'll be in the windy city from June 20th through August 16th. Let me know if you will be in town and I'll go ahead and offer up my girlfriend's air mattress now! Oh right, I should point out that my girlfriend, Tory, is conveniently attending Northwestern for a Master's in Journalism. Purely coincidence.

The Kiss - A girl in the Moqoble Refugee camp just outside of Dohuk, Iraq.

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1 Comment

Kamiran Dizayee | May 7, 2009 6:52 AM | Reply

I am glad that every thing worked well for you Jon, wish you and Tory good luck and all the best in your life.


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