In the summer of 1988 I was a photojournalist for a pioneering cultural exchange between Soviet and American high school kids in the Republic of Latvia. This was the era of Gorbachev, the era of Glasnost and Perestroika, the beginning of the end of the Cold War with the “Evil Empire”. Through the catalyst of a musical play called “Peace Child”, these 15 American and 15 Latvian high school students dealt with the (then) very real fear of nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Their play toured through Latvia and brought audiences to tears. And the participants developed a friendship so strong that they had to be torn apart when saying good-bye just so they could make the departing train. If there was ever a great way to bring two warring countries together, exchanges like this are a wonderful and meaningful way to start.
Armed with my cameras, a tape recorder, and about 100 rolls of film, I documented the exchange with the intent of telling this important story back in America. The multi-media presentation that resulted has won awards and has moved American audiences to tears as well. Good stories can do that.
Now, nearing the 20th anniversary of this historic event, the show is now available for viewing as a web-based slide show (run time: 20 minutes). Make sure you have the gear icon on the youtube player set to 1080p for maximum quality!
1) This work was done in 1988, back when the term “multi-media” meant two slide projectors and synchronized music (and I kept the narration live just to give the show a sense of presence). I am probably the only photographer in the world to have also designed and built his own slide projector dissolve unit from scratch, including hardware design and assembly language programming, because the units available at the time did not meet my needs. You can read about how I did it in Chapter 10 of my 1987 book, “Control the World with HP-IL“.
2) For the inagural article in Cameracraft magazine, I wrote more about this trip, added some historical perspective, and gave some behind-the-scenes stories on what it took to capture this story (and all of the things that went wrong). You can read that here (.pdf file).
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