World Leaders & Global Citizens Photographs by Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator

World Leaders & Global Citizens Photographs by Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator

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Patrick Leahy’s photo of a Tibetan father and son holding a forbidden picture of the Dalai Lama attests to the power of photography to forge in the viewer immediate, emotional connections to the world. The image of the Dalai Lama, revealed for a moment, is recaptured alongside the faces of two generations of believers denied their faith and culture. Leahy’s photograph is more remarkable considering that the man showed his picture to a United States Senator who was on an official tour. It was an act of defiance — an act of faith. It brings the viewer a bit closer to understanding the spirit, tenacity, dignity, vulnerability, and hope of a family half a world away.

The son of a printer, Leahy possesses a deep understanding of “the power of the printed word and the printed image.” He began taking pictures at the age of six or seven, after his parents gave him a Hopalong Cassidy box camera. Born blind in one eye, he came to the early conclusion that “photography is something I can do. You only need one eye. It’s like target shooting.”

A seven-term US Senator with a camera almost always slung over his shoulder, Leahy has a unique vantage point on world events. At more than six feet tall, he also has an opportunity to shoot at dramatic angles over the heads and shoulders of the cast of characters on the political stage. Many of his photographs capture world leaders at significant moments. The difference between his photos and those of a photo journalist is a matter of perspective. No commercial photographer will ever stand behind the President to preserve for all time the act of signing, the document being signed, and the signature.

Leahy’s bird’s-eye view of history has produced many accomplished and interesting images, a few of which have made their way to the Associated Press and other media outlets. But the photographs that astonish me are those like the Tibetan father and son. These photographs document the richness and complexity, as well as the joy or the terror, of lives lived out of the spotlight.

Perhaps the darkest aspect of history that Leahy has focused attention on is the terrible toll that land mines take on civilians around the world. From the moment he and his wife, Marcelle, first encountered victims of this low-tech scourge in the late 1980s, they have been tireless  advocates around the globe in the movement to ban land mines. In 1989 Leahy’s fellow senators renamed an innovative program he launched to help victims of war “The Leahy War Victims Fund,” in recognition of his work to assist those scarred by land mines.

For more than 25 years, Leahy has led the fight for the United States of America to join the Ottawa Treaty, the international treaty banning antipersonnel land mines, that opened for signing in December 1997 and currently is signed by 161 nations. Leahy brings his images of land mine victims to the Senate floor each time he delivers a speech urging the President and Congress to join the treaty.

Although Senator Patrick Leahy’s impassioned arguments and powerful images have yet to convince every naysayer on the land mines issue, they will live in the historical record as a testament to a world leader who is also a global citizen.

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