Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Here I Am

The book is basically finished, galleys have been sent out to reviewers, and we're on track for publication and release in mid-March 2013. Here's the publisher's promo (at A compelling portrait of the award-winning British-American photojournalist and codirector of Restrepo, Tim Hetherington, who died while covering the 2011 Libyan uprising. Here I Am: The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer By Alan Huffman 978-0-8021-2090-8 • $25.00 • Forthcoming in Cloth • Mar. 2013 Biography (Military) Tim Hetherington (1970–2011) was one of the world’s most distinguished and dedicated photojournalists, whose career was tragically cut short when he died in a mortar blast while covering the Libyan civil war. Someone far less interested in professional glory than revealing to the world the realities of people living in extremely difficult circumstances, Tim nonetheless won many awards for his war reporting, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his critically acclaimed documentary, Restrepo. Hetherington’s dedication to his career led him time after time into war zones, and unlike some other journalists, he did not pack up after the story had broken. After the civil war ended in Liberia, West Africa, Tim stayed on for three years, helping the United Nations track down human rights criminals. His commitment to getting the story out and his compassion for those affected by war was unrivaled. In Here I Am, journalist and freelance writer Alan Huffman tells Hetherington’s life story, and through it analyzes what it means to be a war reporter in the twenty-first century. Huffman recounts Hetherington’s life from his first interest in photography and war reporting, through his critical role in reporting the Liberian civil war, to his tragic death in Libya. Huffman also traces Hetherington’s photographic milestones, from his iconic and prize-winning photographs of Liberian children, to the celebrated portraits of sleeping U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Here I Am explores the risks, challenges, and thrills of war reporting, and is a testament to the unique work of people like Hetherington, who travel into the most dangerous parts of the world, risking their lives to give a voice to those devastated by conflict.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Abdelkader Fasok

Abdelkader has been missing since Saturday, when he was abducted with fellow Tabacs TV cameraman Yousif Badi while covering the first national election in Libya in 60 years. Abdelkader and I met a little over a week ago while helping a friend, photographer Andre Liohn, stage a photo exhibition in Misrata, Libya, called Almost Dawn in Libya. The exhibition, which moves to Tripoli this week, was conceived as a way to help heal Libya through shared imagery of the war. By all rights Abdelkader should not have been there. As we hung photos I noticed a prominent scar on his neck, and when I asked about it he told an amazing story of personal survival during the 2011 war. Abdelkader is a slightly-built guy, 26, who worked as a documentary cameraman for the rebels during Misrata’s five-month military siege. Last June, as he turned his head while filming, he was shot in the neck by a Kalashnikov at close range. His scar bisects his throat, and there is a corresponding, hand-size exit-wound scar on the back of his shoulder. It was the third time he’d been shot during the war. His cousin fashioned a compress over the wound using his headscarf and they got Abdelkader to the field hospital in time. Along the way, he dreamed of people he knew who have died. He was in a coma for a week. Abdelkader is a bright, hard-working, cheerful guy whose face invariably lights up in greeting. During the exhibition I met one of his brothers, who favors him and has the same high-pitched voice, and when I mentioned Abdelkader’s remarkable survival, he smiled and said, “It was a kind of magic.”
On Saturday, Abdelkader and Yousif were kidnapped by militiamen near the town of Ben Walid while covering the elections there. Their captors have since demanded release of prisoners held in Misrata -- or so it is said; the details are sketchy. There is no effective government in Libya right now, and the National Transitional Council has limited control over the militias that rule the cities and countryside, some of which supported the revolution and some of which didn’t. The consensus among my friends and contacts is that the abduction was an outgrowth of an old feud between Misrata and the Bani Walid-Warfalla desert faction. An attack by the Misrata militia has been discussed as a way to attempt their release, but at this point there are few hard facts aside from the abduction itself. The video his captors posted of Abdelkader trying to negotiate with them is distressing, to say the least. No one expected recreating Libya to be an easy ride, but abducting journalists covering the first elections in 60 years isn’t a good way to start. Illustration by Ahmed Shlak

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Postus interruptus

To those of you who've emailed to ask why I've neglected this site in recent months, I appreciate your interest and apologize for the long lapses. I've been consumed with the book tour for We're With Nobody, which I co-authored with Michael Rejebian (that's us in the green room with Jon Stewart before our appearance on "The Daily Show," which was by far the highlight of the tour). Most of my posts have been for the book's website, The tour is over, and I had expected to get back in the saddle here, but a new book project has presented itself, so my posts will no doubt concern that, though they will likewise be sporadic because the book project is on a very tight deadline.
The new book is about the work of photographer Tim Hetherington, a great man who was killed in a mortar attack in Misrata, Libya, on April 20, 2011. That's Tim, above, climbing out of a building in Misrata shortly before he was killed. I'll be traveling to Misrata in June, and hope to be able to post from there. For now, I'm immersed in research, so I probably won't be posting much. I appreciate everyone's interest, and again, apologize for the long lapses.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Warren County moves to demolish listed historic plantation house

Ceres Plantation, a rare surviving example of a pre-Civil War plantation house complex, is slated for demolition despite its 2011 listing by the Mississippi Heritage Trust among the state's 10 Most Endangered Historic Properties -- and despite efforts of preservationists to find a buyer to restore or move the buildings.

The Warren County Port Commission in the 1980s bought Ceres Plantation, located near the I-20 crossing of the Big Black River in the community of Flowers, Mississippi, with plans to develop the property into an industrial park, using the Greek Revival house as its centerpiece, hopefully for a corporate headquarters. Afterward, the Port Commission abandoned the house and allowed it to deteriorate, and in 2010 announced its plans to demolish the house and outbuildings.

It quickly became obvious that the commission had little interest in working with preservationists to save the structure, which remains in sound condition despite superficial rot that has occurred in the last decade. That led the Trust to include Ceres in its endangered list.

As preservationists continued searching for a buyer to restore or move the house, the Port Commission announced, though a series of nondescript ads in the classified section of the Vicksburg Post, that it will take bids for "demolition and removal" of Ceres and ancillary buildings. The commission posted the request for bids on March 6, 2012, though the opening date appears to be April 12.

Ceres anchored a large, working cotton plantation as recently as the early 1980s -- one of the few remaining examples in Mississippi where an antebellum home retained the archetypal view of broad cotton fields from its wide front gallery. The resulting Ceres industrial park was largely a boondoggle, with most of its sites still undeveloped after almost three decades. The Ceres house, despite its proximity to the Flowers exit on I-20, affording it a high-profile location for potential appropriate development, was allowed to languish.

Now, unless preservationists can intervene, the house appears doomed, despite the fact that the industrial park was built with federal funds, which cannot be used to destroy a federally listed historic property. The Port Commission has resisted any effort to have the house listed in the National Register of Historic Places, though it is likely eligible, and in many, if not most cases, eligible properties are afforded the same level of protection as structures that are already listed. In addition to its architectural significance, Ceres was used as a refuge by several notable Vicksburg residents during that city's Civil War siege. The plantation was founded in the 1820s by the Flowers family, who sold the house and land to the Port Commission in 1986 for an ultimately underutilized project named the Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex.

To contact the Warren County Port Commission: 601/631-0555; P.O. Box 820363, Vicksburg MS 39182. The executive director of the Port Commission is Wayne Mansfield. The board of directors, two of which are appointed by the county supervisors, two by the mayor of Vicksburg, and one by the governor, are Johnny Moss, Oren Bailess, John Ferguson, Mike Cappaert and Russell Hawkins. Note: The sad end to this story can be found here:

Monday, January 9, 2012

We're With Nobody the book: Open Season: Politics, America, and Two Guys Chasing the Truth

If you haven't checked out the website for my new book with coauthor Michael Rejebian, you can find out about it (and watch the book trailer) here: The book, which is about doing political opposition research across the U.S., will be published by HarperCollins on Jan. 24.