“The world is our field of vision. We are the storytellers of a humanity whose culture we share. From war to peace, from atrocities to poetry, our testimonies tell these moments of life.”

For the past 30 years, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Reza Deghati has traveled all over the world photographing people in war-torn countries. Listen him while joins Boyd in the studio to talk about his new book at the time (2008), Reza War & Peace: A Photographer’s Journey, a photographic chronicle of his life and travels, a life with full of achievements.

As a philanthropist, idealist, and humanist, Reza’s career began with studies in architecture. He has gone on to become a renowned photojournalist who, for the last three decades, has worked all over the world, notably for National Geographic. His assignments have taken him to over a hundred countries as a witness to humanity’s conflicts and catastrophes. His work is featured in international media (National Geographic, Time Magazine, Stern, Newsweek, El País, and Paris Match), as well as a series of books, exhibitions, and documentaries made for the National Geographic Channel.


During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989), an old Afghan man in exile reads the Koran, seated on a bed in the middle of the mountains at the Afghan-Pakistani border. Afghanistan, 1983. © Reza


In front of the American embassy. Tehran, Iran, November 1979. © Reza

Along with his work as a photographer, since 1983 Reza has been a volunteer committed to the training of youths and women from conflict-ridden societies in the language of images, to help them strive for a better world. In 2001, he founded Aina World in Afghanistan, a new generation NGO which trains populations in information and communications through the development of educational tools and adapted media. While pursuing his reportages for international media outlets, Reza has continued to conduct workshops on the language of images in a variety of formats (onsite and online) through his association Reza Visual Academy. He works with refugees, urban youths in Europe, and others from disadvantaged backgrounds.


During the Rwandan Genocide, a group of refugees build a structure for a new building. Burundi. Lake Cyohoha. Maza Camp. 1994. © Reza


Sahar Dehghan, an Iranian sufi dancer. Etretat, France, 2008. © Reza

After his work, Mémoires d’Exil (“Memories of Exile”) shown at the Louvre Carrousel in 1998, he has shared his humanitarian vision through a series of monumental installations: Crossing Destinies, shown on the grilles of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, One World, One Tribe in Washington DC, and the Parc de la Villette in Paris, War + Peace at the Caen Memorial and on the banks of the Garonne in Toulouse, Hope in Doha (Qatar), Windows of the Soul in Corsica, Soul of Coffee, 250 photographic exhibitions throughout the world, including major installations on the banks of the Seine, or at Kew Gardens in London, Land of Tolerance at the UN Headquarters in New York, the European Parliament in Brussels, as well as UNESCO in Paris.

The camera is the most powerful tool ever invented—it is more powerful than any weapon. Its strength comes from empowering people and multiplying their potential. It is a tool that speaks all the languages and can connect its holder with everyone in the world. It is also a tool that enables each person to share their story and their unique point of view.

Portrait of a Hutu refugee, traumatized by the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Rwanda. Kibuye, 1996. © Reza

In 2014, Azerbaijan: the Elegance of Fire, presented at the Petit Palais revealed a little-known people with an ancestral culture, turned towards modernity. Finally, the giant panorama A Dream of Humanity was featured along the banks of the Seine during the summer of 2015, showing portraits of refugees around the world taken by Reza and photographs taken by refugee children in Iraqi Kurdistan who were trained as “camp reporters” at the workshops organized by Reza Visual Academy.

Author of 29 books, and a recipient of many awards over the course of his career, Reza is a National Geographic explorer, and a Senior Fellow of the Ashoka Foundation. Reza’s work has been recognized by World Press Photo; he has also received the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, the Lucy Award, an honorary medal from the University of Missouri, and the honorary degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the American University of Paris. France has also appointed him a Chevalier of the National Order of Merit.


Cambodia, child soldier. © Reza


Two Kurdish boys cross a road, carrying the frame of a television screen. Doğubayazıt / Turkey, 1993. © Reza


The first step you take as an exile is to leave your country, often at the risk of your own life. After this difficult transition, one begins the subtler process of trying to rebuild. When an exile finds a refuge, their new country becomes a sanctuary where they feel physically safe and have more intellectual freedom, but then they have to deal with the emotional displacement of being a stranger. The memory of your lost country lives on inside you, but, beyond the joy of being free, there remains a sense of mourning for your native land. For an exile, the joys of the present are full of the memories of the past. Afghanistan, 1990. © Reza


Near Mirador de Los Cuchumatanes, Guatemala, December 18, 2012. © Reza


Pakistan. The shipwrecked boats in the harbor of Karachi are the object of everyone’s desire, eyed for their worth as sources of metal. Once dismantled, the carcasses of the boats, their hulls gutted, are the subject of heated bargaining. After they are sold, some of the iron plates from the boats will make the long trip from Karachi to the remote and dangerous tribal zones near the border that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan. Twelve Pashtun tribes have lived in this area, in self-sufficient isolation. Their secluded homeland is a strategic passageway, which has made it a focal point in the global geopolitical game. © Reza

reza deghati

Sahar Dehghan, an Iranian sufi dancer. Etretat, France, 2008. © Reza

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Original interview is published by Copyright © 2015-2016 National Geographic Partners, LLC. on ExplorersAll rights reserved. All photographs here in the article © Reza Deghati