2009 Honoree: Achievement in Documentary


PeressPhilanthropist, idealist, humanist, architect and extraordinary photographer, REZA (as he is known) lives to shoot another day, sometimes under fire, often under pressure in dangerous situations. Reza has shot winning image after winning image, bringing to life scenes never before seen.

World famous for his intrepid explorer’s style of photographing the world’s most exotic places, Reza has covered most of the globe for the National Geographic Magazine. National Geographic Television has produced several films on Reza’s work, one of them receiving an Emmy award in 2002, another production that traced the history of his life was nominated for the award as well. Reza was the creative director for National Geographic’s most viewed documentary, ‘Inside Mecca’. In May 2008, National Geographic, as part of its ‘Exceptional Journeys’ series, released a DVD that follows Reza’s extensive photographic career and travels, with special features highlighting his work as a humanitarian.

Reza’s award-winning images are iconic. But there’s far more to the man than his camera. He is the founder of Aina (The Mirror), an international non-profit organization dedicated to the education and empowerment of children and women through the use of media and communication. His aim is for them to develop skills that can contribute to the building of a free and open society by supporting sustainable development, promoting human rights, and strengthening national unity. In 1991 Reza acted as a consultant to the United Nations in Afghanistan, helping to distribute food to populations in war-torn parts of the country. For his exemplary dedication to such humanitarian causes and because of his work with Aina in Afghanistan, National Geographic awarded him the prestigious title of National Geographic Explorers Fellow in 2006. The Explorer’s Program embodies the National Geographic Society’s continued quest for knowledge through exploration.

Reza is deeply committed to the education of future generations. He spends much of his time as lecturer, trainer, and visiting professor, giving presentations and running workshops on global issues, his humanitarian work, and photojournalism, in international institutions and universities such as George Washington University, Stanford University, Beijing University and the Sorbonne in Paris.

Reza’s photographs have been displayed in major cities throughout the world. Few examples include: “War+Peace” (2009) at Caen Memorial (Peace Muesum) in Normandy which portrayed thirty years of his photographic journey in search of human stories. “One World, One Tribe” (2006), was the first National Geographic Museum outdoor exhibition in Washington D.C., and “Crossing Destinies” (2003), his landmark exhibition in Paris, drew a million visitors.

Over the last three decades, Reza’s photographs have graced many of National Geographic Magazine’s most noted covers and been published in major international publications. Author of 12 books, his latest book “War & Peace”, is the first book in the new National Geographic series “Master of Photography’.

In1996 Reza won the hope Prize for his contribuation to a joined project with UNICEF;
“ Lost children Portrait” in Rwanda. He was awarded the ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite’, France’s highest civilian honour, in November 2005, for his philanthropic work in children’s education and the empowerment of women in the media. In 2006, Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe presented him with the Prince of Asturias Humanitarian Medal. The same year, he also received the “Honor Medal” from the University of Missouri – Columbia School of Journalism “in recognition of his lifelong contributions, through brilliant photojournalism, to justice, and dignity for the world’s citizens” and “ award of Recognition on his humanitarian service to the Global community and all citizen of the world” from the Chicago University.

In 2008 he was offered the title of Senior fellow of Ashoka Foundation and in May 2009 he received the Honorary Degree of “Doctor Honoris Causa” from the American University of Paris (AUP) for his achievements in the fields of journalism and humanitarian work.

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