Two weeks ago, I found myself in the lobby of Cosby Hall at Spelman College taking a photo of Andre Lambertson. Those who aren’t familiar with Lambertson’s work and legacy in photo-journalism won’t understand the significance of the moment. Per his website, Lambertson “has presented his photo essays on social issues including HIV/AIDS, war, violence against children, sexual slavery and equity for magazines, books, foundations, advocacy organizations and museums including Time, US News & World Report, Life, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, The Ford Foundation, The George Soros Foundation and The Smithsonian Museum.” All of that, and there I was standing there with my iPhone attempting to look confident. Lambertson, a sweetheart with a kind soul that shines through a beautiful brown exterior, made light of the circumstance. “I can’t believe you want my picture,” he said smiling.
The photo served as the closing of a long day I spent hosting Lambertson and Pulitzer Center Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow Rebecca Kaplan, Ph.D. at Spelman College. Kaplan and Lambertson were on campus to kick off the college’s $10,000 partnership with the Pulitzer Center. As members of the Pulitzer Center’s College Consortium, Spelman will have access to world-renowned journalists who will visit the campus; further, students will compete for a $2,000 crisis reporting fellowship. An afternoon forum that featured Lambertson’s work and words from the college’s provost and Kaplan about the program, welcomed dozens of interested students and closed with a luncheon.
Clearly, Lambertson was the star. His photo presentation provided a compelling glimpse of humanity at its best and worst. Images of violence and death, resilience and overcoming in the US and abroad presented students with a visual of human suffering and triumph. Most rewarding was listening to Lambertson discuss each of his subjects quite personally. He said, “I know their names” when explaining that he tries to get to know his subjects, building a partnership between himself and the narratives presented in human images in his photos. Having taught at the collegiate level for more than a decade, I am confident the students were impacted by his work, candor and dedication. A new journalist was born that day.
Following the forum, I met with co-organizer Dr. Alexandria Lockett and we agreed: we want Lambertson to come back.
See pictures below.