Michael, why was creating Courage such an important undertaking for you? What inspired the project?
Art is always a reflection of the current world we live in. We are in a world that is greatly divided. As Mother Teresa would say, ”We have forgotten that we belong to each other.” It takes courage to rise above our self to reach out to others with compassion, tolerance and kindness. To heal the wounds of poverty, racism and injustice. I am inspired of all people of good will.
Why is courage so important?
As Maya Angelou said:” Courage is the most important of all of the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Courage enables us to grow to our full human potential, leading to a life that is well lived in the service of others filled with joy and fulfillment.
In Courage, you have included such an eclectic range of individuals from around the world. What was your thought process in curating the book’s participants?
First I wanted this to include the people i have been blessed to know through my 40 years of portrait photography. I wanted a diversity of ethnicity, religious, political and social accomplishment to reflect the world that all of us live in. This is a book of their accomplishments and life examples. We can learn from these people.
Courage is your third book, and one that feels like a vibrant evolution from your previous release, Architects of Peace. How did Architects of Peace inform your work for this book?
The individuals in Architects of Peace are united with those in Courage because they have chosen to find themselves and dedicate their lives in the service of others.
In the preface of the book you explain how some often stray from the courage they exemplify in their work toward peace. Why do you think it can be so difficult to stay the courageous course?
We are all contradictions and have sometimes great human failings but that is exactly the reason that brings us together in kinship within the thread of the human family. To be human is also to be flawed. Those who seem to traverse a little better than others seem to have a disciplined, simple life that is free of self and focused fully on the well being of others.
You have had a successful career capturing many of the world’s most prominent movers and shakers. What were some of the challenges you faced in deciding who you would include in Courage?
My challenge in assembling a diverse list of courageous individuals was to look closely also at the ways in which these same people had failed to live up to great acts of courage. Although probably not succeeding completely in accomplishing that goal, I did decide to not include some subjects because of strong feelings I had during that deliberation. One individual was Aung San Suu Kyi. I was one of the first portrait photographer’s to take a portrait of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after she was released from house arrest. Years after, while assuming her role in parliament as a state counsellor in Myanmar, she remained silent over the persecution of Rohingya people in Myanmar. I felt this inaction was clearly unacceptable and remained an obstacle for her inclusion.
What is your hope regarding the impact the book will have for those who experience it?
My hope is to look at these individuals as a reflection of ourselves in the hope and promise for a more unified family.
Art can often provoke the comfortable, or comfort the provoked. How do you view your work on this spectrum? What advice do you have for other artists finding their voice?
I see my art focusing on individuals of accomplishment who have achieved a certain success. My hope is that these are people that can inspire and educate others. In order to find your own voice you need to possess the courage to believe in yourself and to express yourself fully, embracing equally failure and success, rising above any obstacles that may entangle and hinder your freedom to create.
Who are a few of the courageous individuals who inspired your life’s work?
My Parents, My Wife, My Sons, Mother Teresa, John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, most in my book…
Where can the book be purchased?
A Limited Edition of Courage can be purchased at architectsofpeace.org, where you can also stay up to date on our upcoming projects. Thank you.