Photography and Film

Matt Leder ’22:  Petri Dish, USA

Matt Leder (’22) is a Government and Film Studies major with a sequence in Holocaust & Human Rights. He has a passion for documentary filmmaking and has collaborated with the Mgrublian Center on multiple projects throughout his four years at CMC. His latest project, Petri Dish, USA, is a 30-minute documentary short. It tells the story of three families struggling to ensure the safety of their incarcerated loved ones during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Capturing the inhumanity of our nation’s criminal legal system, Petri Dish, USA is tragic, moving, and ultimately inspiring for much-needed change ahead. The Mgrublian Center sponsored the premiere of Petri Dish, USA in March 2022, and the full film is now available online.

Adam Jones: Evoking Genocide in Photography

Genocide scholar, visiting professor, and William F. Podlich Distinguished Fellow, Adam Jones, is the author of the widely-used textbook Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction and the upcoming book, Sites of Genocide (May 2022). Jones is also an avid photographer whose Global Photo Archive comprises some 25,000 color photos from over 70 countries. Posted under a Creative Commons license, these images are used by authors and publishers, academics, students, media outlets, NGOs, and government agencies worldwide. Jones’s work highlights the themes of genocide, war, and human rights and spans decades and regions around the globe capturing, and portraying the haunted places and survivors impacted by extreme histories of violence.  In February 2022, Jones presented and discussed ten selected photos from his collection and described the challenges of visually evoking the realities and legacies of genocides and mass conflicts, both past and present.

Eli Reed:  A Retrospective

In the summer of 2020 the Center’s Director developed a new course: HIST197 Racism Today and Human Rights Abuses, Historical Dimensions and Redress in response to CMC’s Presidential Initiative on Anti-Racism and the Black Experience in America.  In this course (which was subsequently taught in the fall of 2020), students developed a deeper historical knowledge of the ideas and practices of racism in order to better understand the challenges facing people of color around the world and especially black communities in America today. Students had the opportunity to directly apply this knowledge toward possible redress and reforms. In addition to weekly readings and discussions on the history of racial violence and injustice, students formed research teams assigned to collect data for current legal investigations of police brutality, and to present research on historical crimes that have not been redressed such as slavery, the pattern of race riots (massacres) in Omaha, Atlanta, Tulsa, Harlem, Detroit, Chicago, and the 2020 response to the murder of George Floyd. With the additional involvement of human rights lawyers affiliated with the Mgrublian Center, students learned about qualified immunity, bodycam regulations and other hindrances to exposing and prosecuting violators. Campaigns led by BLM and the Innocence Project on the prison-industrial complex and other forms of institutionalized racism were evaluated and students were encouraged to analyze individual prisoner cases. As part of this investigative approach to contemporary events, students also met virtually to interview prominent and local witnesses, such as the eminent black photojournalist Eli Reed.

Pulitzer Prize Finalist and Magnum photographer, Eli Reed’s iconic images have become part of our history and memory of the civil rights movement, black life in America, as well as of human rights conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. In Reed’s words, “without witnesses there is no history.” Using his camera, Reed has captured history in intimate settings and in portraits that are haunting and illuminating.  In conjunction with Professor Lower’s HIST 197 course, the Center hosted an exclusive interview and virtual photography exhibit with Mr. Reed which allowed students and audience members the opportunity to study his life’s work with him, to learn about the stories behind each image, and his observations of racism in America today (including his recent coverage of George Floyd’s funeral).  The interview and selections of Mr. Reed’s photography have been compiled into a special website dedicated to this event titled “Eli Reed: A Retrospective”.