“I love working with light, but as a journalist, I still want to tell a powerful story,” said National Geographic photographer Karen Kasmauski who lectured on global health issues last Friday for the School of Communication and Theatre. Kasmauski has spent more than a decade telling stories for the magazine.
Kasmauski started the lecture with a short introduction of herself before moving on to a slide show of photographs depicting health issues. Her photographs displayed a multitude of topics from young Brazilian children suffering, yellow fever and the homeless in San Diego. She also spoke of her experiences covering AIDS in San Francisco and Puerto Rico.
“A chance encounter in Brazil saved a little boy’s life and changed mine,” said Kasmauski of how her passion for global health issues was ignited.
While covering a story on viruses in Brazil, Kasmauski realized the power of the press. When her presence in a small clinic as a foreign journalist prompted the doctor to administer life-saving drugs to a little boy suffering from yellow-fever who was otherwise unable to afford the drug, she realized the impact her presence made.
“Simple intervention can make great impact,” she said of this experience that threw her into pursuing global health and social change.
Kasmauski talked about the ethical issues she faced as a journalist while working in disease infested and poverty ridden conditions. Her travels have taken her around the globe from the brothels of Bombay, India to the bars in Cambodia.
“You have to have a certain level of insecurity,” she replied when asked about the fear factor.
Kasmauski shared her insight on being a journalist with the class. “I think if you are a curious person, you will be a good journalist,” she said. “I get very few stories given to me. I pitch my own ideas.”
Kasmauski has been working for National Geographic since 1984. Prior to joining National Geographic, Kasmauski was a photographer at The Virginia-Pilot where her work won top honors. She has covered health issues in over 14 countries often working under dangerous situations. She has worked among AIDS patients, prostitutes and life threatening diseases where the conditions are not only physically but also emotionally demanding.
Born on a U.S airbase in Japan, Kasmauski spent her childhood on military bases. She holds a degree in anthropology and religion from University of Michigan. She has written several books, her most recent being, “Impact: On the Frontlines of Global Health.”
Jinal Shah can be reached at email@example.com.