Smoking Helps

Filed under: About Artists,Life,Uncategorized; Author: mas; Posted: November 19, 2008 at 11:51 pm;

Back in 2000, when I was on my way to Pine Ridge to start work on a photo project, I was advised to take tobacco as gifts, the rationale being that any member of the tribe who accepted such a gift would then feel obliged to do me a favor.  It was a way of bonding.

Tonight, while attending my first meeting of a camera club in Minneapolis, I got to meet this man.

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Sean Higgins is an impassioned photographer who is also somewhat of a loose cannon.  According to his introduction by noted photographer, Tom Arndt, Sean started shooting professionally in Ireland at age 16 and has been shooting ever since.  He joined the military as a war photography so that he could learn to shoot in conflict situations.  Sean told us that he worked for Nat Geo for six months before getting fired and that he joined Magnum for another six months but quit for personal reasons.

According to Sean he has been working on assignment for years for Paris Match and Stern.  Several years ago he was beat up so badly while shooting in Kosovo (I think), that he ended up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Epilepsy, and a myriad of other life changing ailments.

Earlier this month he found himself on the Gaza Strip after the Israelis closed it to journalists.  When they tried to arrest him to make him leave, he started fighting, smashed his camera over one of the soldiers’ heads and woke up 4 days later in a hospital.  Some of his photographer buddies paid his way back to Minnesota where he has family.  Paris Match, for whom he was shooting, is paying all his medical expenses and paying for him to have live in nursing care.

He told me most of this during two trips outside to smoke.  Part of the damage to his person was to his brain.  One of the effects is that he can’t sit still, so outside it was.  I can relate to the brain problems, having experienced similar damage from past experiences.

After getting off the elevator to come back to the meeting, we met up with a young ROTC man who wanted to ask his advice about being a war photographer.  Sean made a major point that working on assignment for a major international magazine was not romantic.
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I will be getting together with Sean in the next few weeks, and we have discussed working together on my project with the African refugees.  It will give him something constructive to do and provide me with valuable insight. I hope to learn as much as possible from him .  Beyond that, all I know is that Sean has a long row to hoe, and I hope I can be of some small assistance.

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