Special to The Independent
Larry Towell was embedded with the Ukranian troops on the front lines this winter.
“The Ukranian army had so little, I helped them get gasoline,” says the 62-year-old photojournalist whose home base is a 75-acre farm in Dawn-Euphemia.
From the sweat shops in Bangladesh to the gang activity dogging migrants at the southern Mexican border, Towell travels the world, photographing, videoing, and collecting sound from the field.
“I go to exteme areas,” he says. “I try to give people who are struggling a voice. I mostly look at the strength of the human spirit to rise above.
“My work is not mainstream. It’s experimental, combining all these medias with a certain amount of improvisation.”
Towell has established himself as a world class photographer, having been published in a long list of esteemed magazines including LIFE, The New York Times, Esquire, and Rolling Stone.
He’s the only Canadian member of Magnum, a prestigious photo agency, and he’s published 13 books. His books reflect his experiences in places like El Salvador, Palestine, Afghanistan and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.
He has 35 international awards honouring his achievements in photojournalism, filmmaking and photo books. Towell’s accomplishments are many, yet he manages to do all this and stay rooted in Lambton County.
“This is home to me,” he says. “When I began as a photojournalist, all my friends said to move to Paris, New York or London, England. But I think the hard work it takes to do well can happen anywhere, especially these days.
“What I do is in my DNA. Art is between me and the blank page. Besides, I have an agency with offices in the city.”
Every two to three years, Towell creates a multi-media show that reflects his work in other countries. The public presentations are an opportunity for him to voice his frustration, his anger and his joy, he says.
His latest live performance is called Hot Food Free and is an evening of ballads and pictures. Towell is also a musician, songwriter and poet.
“It’s something I do on my own and is a collage of video and audio elements from my travels,” he says.
TheStory at 179 Christina St. N. is hosting Hot Food Free this Saturday at 8 pm.
“I think it’s amazing that Larry comes from Lambton County and tackles world issues with his art and songs,” says Spokesman Nathan Colquhoun. “We’re glad we can provide a venue so people in Sarnia can see what he does.”
Towell is also presenting Hot Food Free in Toronto and in London, England.