Thursday, September 25, 2008

Photography's Role in Advocating for Social Change

It was standing room only at Tuesday night's New York event hosted by Revenue Watch Institute and the Open Society Documentary Photography Project.

Distinguished panelists including Ina Howard-Parker, Antoine Heuty, Omoyele Sowore, Micahel Watts, and our own Ed Kashi met to discuss the atrocities of "political gangsterism, corruption, and poverty" that have converged in the Niger Delta over the past 5 decades.

Questions addressed by the forum: Can pictures help bring about peace and democracy in the world's sixth largest oil producing country? Are the poor of Nigeria devoid of their rights as human beings due to the "scramble for African oil"?

We'd love to hear from those fortunate to have been in attendance at the event and for those who were not there, learn more from the sites below:

Open Society Institute

Revenue Watch Institute


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RayKo Gallery to Show Curse Images in Upcoming Exhibition

Greetings and please note that my work from the book Curse of the Black Gold will be exhibited along with Lou Dematteis' work on oil in Ecuador at San Francisco's RayKo Gallery. Please see the link below for more details. The opening is Friday, November 7, and I'll be in San Francisco for this and a series of events until November 15th, culminating in a public lecture with myself and Lou at the SF Public Library. Hope to see you all there.

RayKo Gallery

Additional comments about the RayKo Exhibit:
Deborah Coleman
Bowoto v Chevron Trial


Saturday, September 20, 2008

San Francisco Public Library Lecture in November

I will be giving a public lecture with photographer Lou Dematteis on Saturday, November 15th, from 2-5pm at the San Francisco Public Library on the subject of oil in Ecuador and Nigeria. Joining us will be professor Michael Watts and activists working on issues around these two troubled places where oil is produced.

Lecture Info


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Escalating Violence!

News of increased fighting between MEND and the Nigerian military continues to emerge from the Niger Delta. Hear and read the latest from Reuters.

Voxant newsroom


Photojournalists Explore Social Issues

A compilation of photo essays by world-renowned photojournalists hit bookshelves yesterday in David Elliot Cohen's new book What Matters. In Cohen's words, “Great photojournalism changed the world in the past, and it can do it again. I want people to see these images, get angry, and act on that anger.” Take a look at Ed Kashi's contribution to this visual representation of some of today's most problematic social concerns. Action time!

Vanity Fair


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How Much Is Enough?

Considering that between 2004 and 2007, the profits of the major six oil companies totaled $494.8 billion, who do we believe - the Nigerian government representing the oil companies or the impoverished Nigerian people? In follow-up to previous info, an article in yesterday's New York Times brings to light the difference in stories emerging from the Niger Delta about the "oil war" that is sweeping the area. What does the ongoing conflict mean for the rest of the world?

The New York Times


Monday, September 15, 2008

Oil War?

If you’re concerned about rising gas costs, check this out! Yesterday’s Bloomberg article highlights the escalating tensions in the Niger Delta between the Nigerian government's military forces, supporting foreign oil producers, and opposing heavily armed fighters from MEND (the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta).

According to a MEND spokesperson, Jomo Gbomo, “The operation [attacks on the oil industry in Rivers state] will continue until the government of Nigeria appreciates that the solution to peace in the Niger Delta is justice, respect and dialogue.”

Aside from the world’s dependence on Nigeria’s rich oil reserves, what about the death, destruction and devastation wrought on this impoverished area? How many more civilian lives will be lost? Is a full scale “oil war” imminent? What about international ramifications? Let us know your thoughts and concerns.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Doubts About New Peace Initiative in Niger Delta

Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has announced that a new ministry will be created to deal with the problems of the oil-rich Niger Delta. Read on to learn more, but so far the idea has been met with skepticism and doubts.
BBC in Africa


Friday, September 5, 2008

Filmmaker Andrew Berends and his Translator are Freed In Niger Delta


*****************CONTAINS UPDATES***********************

CONTACT Aaron Soffin, Storyteller Productions Phone: 917.887.4063
/ 212.712.2781 Email:

American filmmaker provisionally released from Nigerian custody to US embassy personnel

NEW YORK, September 5, 2008 – American filmmaker Andrew Berends is being provisionally released to US embassy personnel late Friday night, but is required to return to the State Security Services on Monday for what is expected to be routine final processing. Berends was moved Friday from the SSS offices in Port Harcourt to the Nigerian capital of Abuja. His translator, Samuel George and a Port Harcourt businessman have apparently also been provisionally released in Port Harcourt and must return to the SSS there on Monday.

"Andrew's family, friends and colleagues are relieved and happy to hear of this progress and appreciate the hard work on many fronts to get to this point," said Aaron Soffin, Berends' colleague and coordinator of the release efforts. "We trust that his final processing on Monday will be expedient and routine. We are anxious for confirmation that he is safely on his way out of the country."

When she heard the news Polly Berends, his mother, said, "Nothing will make me happier than to hear his voice, except to hug him."

Hearing of Berends' arrest Senator Charles Schumer, D-New York and Senator Hillary Clinton, D-New York, each responded with a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling for Berends' immediate release. Several other US lawmakers, including Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, have also been actively engaged in advocating for Berends.

Berends was arrested at approximately 6 pm on Sunday, August 31st, by the Nigerian military along with his translator, Samuel George. Andrew entered Nigeria legally in April 2008 to complete a documentary film.

Aaron Soffin


Curse of the Black Gold Multimedia on Slate.Com

Hey has published our multimedia piece on Curse of the Black Gold....check it out.



Thursday, September 4, 2008

Filmmaker Andrew Berends Arrested In Niger Delta

Having been through this myself in June of 2006, I know only too well what a harrowing and deeply disturbing experience this is. The Nigeria authorities do not want foreign journalists to report what is going on in the Niger Delta but it is our duty to report these kinds of stories. Andrew is a gifted filmmaker who has been working in the Niger Delta for some time and devoted vast amounts of time there to create his new film. If anyone can offer help to him please read below.

Dear friends and family,

Our dear friend and colleague, Andrew Berends, has been arrested while reporting from Nigeria. Below, and attached, you can read the details of his detainment. First, I ask you to keep him in your hopes and prayers. Second, as the news of this breaks today, I ask you to think about who you know in the media or in the Senate/House who can help bring more attention to Andrew's situation. Please call them on Andrew's behalf, and please forward the press statement below as widely as possible. The more attention this gets, the better. Third, some of you may receive calls from reporters. I urge you to say only what is written below, a carefully worded statement to protect Andrew in this difficult moment. Finally, please respond to this address only if you have high level contacts in the US government, the media, or the Nigerian government. Otherwise, please send any notes, or prayers for Andy to this e-mail address:

May Andrew hear your prayers on his behalf.
Aaron Soffin


Aaron Soffin, Storyteller Productions
Phone: 917.887.4063 / 212.712.2781

American documentary filmmaker detained in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

NEW YORK, September 2, 2008 – Andrew Berends, an established, award-winning American filmmaker and journalist from New York, was detained Sunday August 31st by the Nigerian military along with his translator, Samuel George, and Joe Bussio, the manager of a local bar. Andrew entered Nigeria legally in April 2008 to complete a documentary film.

Andrew was held in custody without food, sleep, or representation, and with limited water for 36 hours. He was questioned by the army, the police, and the State Security Services in Port Harcourt. He was then temporarily released, with an order to the SSS office at 9AM Tuesday morning. The State Security Services has confiscated his passport and personal property. Andrew's translator, Samuel George, remained in custody over night.

The US State Department is aware of the situation, and an attorney has been retained on Andrew's behalf. We, Andrew's friends, family, and colleagues, are deeply concerned that he has been held without cause and are calling for his safe treatment and immediate release.