Navigate / search

Beauty and The Beast

How does a sixteen-year-old American potential literary genius of a woman and a grizzled sixty year old, burnt out British war photographer with absolutely no education at all come to collaborate on a project that I hope will warm your heart?

A little about the Beast

My name is Sebastian Stefan Rich born in central London England 1953 and I am a so-called war photographer. I ran away from school at the age of fifteen branded as terminally stupid by my teachers! No one had heard of acute Dyslexia in the fifties and sixties! So rather than using a pen I somewhat naturally picked up a camera to tell stories. The irony of collaborating with a highly educated and extremely well versed young woman is not lost on me!

Rather than a potted biography of myself, which is, lets face it,  just statistics and dates, how boring is that!? Here is just one thought process of many that has brought me to this point in life’s path. Plus a paradox that might hopefully give you a little insight into my fractured character.

For over forty years I have been photographing the very worst that mankind has had to offer my lens. But here is the paradox, on many occasion an image I capture of someone in his or her most quintessential moment of loss or terror, in some disgusting war, is an image that has later been remarked on as ‘beautiful’.

This well meaning and flattering remark to my photography sits very uneasily with me. I get it and at the same time I don’t!

In my youth, as an arrogant young photographer, I thought that the people I was photographing were there for no reason other than to further my career. So then, to hear the compliment of “it’s beautiful”,  was most rewarding.

As the years moved on – in some respects I grew up, not all, but some.

It took a catastrophe to knock the stupidity and arrogance from my young bones.

A catastrophe that killed two soldiers and sent hot screaming metal through my stomach. I became the victim, the photographed, the exploited, and the frightened.

Now I spend time with my subjects, maybe too much time, as one of my clients just recently remarked! I listen to their stories in great detail, as sometimes I am the only one who will listen or remotely care.

At some point I will take their photograph. I will hardly notice that I have done so, nor will they. Maybe it’s a technique, but if it is, it’s a subconscious one.
Why does poverty, war, famine throw up such sharp hard beauty! I have no idea, as photography is so utterly subjective. The only possible reason might be that the person being photographed in that one moment of loss or terror has nothing in their expression.

Maybe it’s the beauty of a human being stripped of all they know. Is that beauty or is that art or is it both or am I talking esoteric nonsense? I fear I may be the wrong person to ask.

All I do know is that I will photograph and will continue do so till they day I drop, hopefully telling the stories of those who can’t.

But politicians and Generals alike be aware I will photograph you doing something good and I will photograph you doing something bad.

The Beauty
Emerson Rose Tenney

Let’s get the film star mom angle out of the way! It’s there and would be deemed strange if it was ignored.

Emerson is the daughter of the famous Hollywood film actress Teri Hatcher. Through the twists and whimsical turns of life Teri and I connected a few years ago. So it was inevitable that I would learn about a project close to Emerson’s heart, ‘The Catalyst.”

Emerson and Teri could not love each other more even if the word love was reinvented just for them! I have never seen before such a close bond between mother and daughter in my life.

But this is not about Hollywood and its stars and we will leave that here.

Emerson is a talented author and a shining star in her own right.

I refer to Em as the Beauty! Of course should you meet her or spot an image of her in a magazine she is stunningly beautiful and will, I can assure you, break many a heart! But it was the beauty and the talent within this young author that lured me away just for a wonderful while from the worlds war torn frontlines.

Her writing is beautiful, crafted without the confines of structure.

Passionate, enquiring, and at times painfully sad. You laugh, and then you want to cry!

I use the word beautiful and beauty a lot! I make no apologies for this repetition it is just that bloody beautiful!

I will let her tell you in depth about “The Catalyst”, it is her passion and creation and I would only, with my limited grasp and scribbling skills, kill that great and wonderful passion!

Em is fully aware that she is very privileged living ‘The life” in Los Angeles and has a great desire to explore the not so privileged lives of people her age from around the world. To learn about their lives and to tell their stories to you all in her own special way.

Emerson hit a note with me!

I have worked with many NGO’s, UNICEF, Save The Children, and the like. These well meaning agencies do fantastic work but their age mandate for the well being of children is on average only up until the age of seventeen!

Teenagers around the world in trouble and despair, through no fault of their own, are largely ignored. I had never thought of this. Sometimes one is so close to ones work that you don’t see the glaringly obvious; I was hooked on the project.

Where to go first, just where do you start with all the troubles in the world! Although Em and her mother were totally game to go anywhere, anywhere at all, I had to take their safety into paramount consideration.

In the end, we decided to, as a start, look at the world of the children who lived and worked in the Buenos Aires subway system. A world of choking fumes, terrible accidents, child trafficking, and other horrors.

We also visited the slums, soup kitchens, and Barrios of Buenos Aires.

Not happy with just the stories of the lives of inner city children, Emerson dragged me to the jungles of northern Argentina to document the rather sad lives of the indigenous Indian children marginalised by successive governments.

I also had my sixtieth birthday while on location in the jungles of Argentina with Teri and Em. Somehow they produced a birthday cake with the diplomatic single candle out of nowhere. Not often do I choke!

I have worked with many very famous correspondents all over the world and to be brutally honest I find their take on life now to be cynical and mostly without hope.
Emerson’s fresh look at our planets problems has given me a new and refreshing insight to my own journalism and my goodness, how it needs an injection of vigor and enquiring mind of youth. I will no doubt, in the very near future, be cowering in a mud filled trench taking cover from whatever hell some army has unleashed and

Em will be there, notebook in hand, to tell us all how ashamed we all should be.

Em tell us your stories …………

Sebastion Rich

Sebastion Rich

Sebastian Rich has been an award winning photographer/cameraman in hard news, documentary for 30 years. British journalist Jon Snow described him as "The finest news cameramen of his time." Sebastian has fimed and photographed every major war and conflict from El Salvador to Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and many more. One notable characteristic of his work is the poignant, sensative images of children suffering in war and famine. His most recent book is "Where Fools Rush In"

Leave a comment