Kael Alford – Profile

Kael Alford is an American photojournalist and documentary photographer and videographer. She commenced her media career during the tumultuous wars in the Balkans between 1996 and 2003 that occurred with the fracturing of Yugoslavia. She documented the conflicts in the Middle East and the Iraq War (2003-2004) as unembedded journalist which gave her a different perspective than those who worked in conjunction with the American military. Her photographs from Iraq are included in the book Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq.

Since 2005 she has been documenting the effects of erosion and the oil industry upon the wetlands, coasts, landscapes and the communities of Louisiana that are dependent upon marine resources. Two of the communities she has concentrated on, Isle de Jean Charles and Pointe-aux-Chenes, were used as contexts for the recent film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” with social issues and poverty that are so evident in the film. The selection of the area and long term documentation is interesting in retrospect as the area has been affected radically by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (April 2010). Alford’s photographs in her series “Bottom of 'da Boot" provide a legacy of a time and place which has deep roots but is being affected by pressures from the energy industry outside the control of the populations that live there.

In addition to taking photographs Kael Alford has been actively involved in teaching and examining ways in which documentary projects can be used and disseminated. She teaches in the Foundry Photo Workshop, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University (2009) and has taught in the art department of Southern Methodist University (2011-2013). In 2011 she won the highly competitive Knight Luce Fellowship for Reporting on Global Religion. This award is to produce a series of character-driven multimedia pieces, photo essays and texts about the political and personal place of religion in the lives of Iraqis – a study in the complexity of everyday humanity. She also won the 2012 Michael P. Smith Fund For Documentary Photography Award.

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For Your Bookshelf

Cover of "Unembedded"

Photojournalists Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, Kael Alford, Thorne Anderson, and Rita Leistner set out to document the War on Iraq outside of the scope of United States Embedded Journalists. Unembedded is a collection of their photographs and stories.

Our interview with Kael Alford