Ron B. Wilson has spent more than a decade and a half working with wedding photography studios in the US and has photographed over 500 weddings around the globe.
A self-admitted story teller at heart, he concentrates on a documentary style of photography emphasising on environmental portraits. "But after shooting recent projects in Guyana, Ukraine, India, Botswana and Guatemala for Photographers Without Borders, I realised that photography literally has the power to change the world, and that’s what I intend to do with this life and career," he says in an interview with Friday.
How difficult is it for him to disconnect from what he is capturing?
"I see the camera as an introduction, a way to connect with people," says Ron, who has won many awards at the Professional Photographer of America’s Imaging USA and WPPI conferences. "I find people often open up to me when I want to take their photo. That said, the most important moments of personal connection often happen when the camera is down, and I’m not shooting."
Ron admits to feeling a personal connection to the places he visits. "But it’s not a coincidence. I look for those connections."
For instance when he was in Morocco during the anniversary of 9/11, he used it as an opportunity to reflect on the relationship between the US and the Muslim world. When Photographers Without Borders sent him to Botswana, he reflected on all the people he had known personally who suffered from HIV and AIDS. "Connecting personal ideas and telling personal stories will help you connect with your viewer," he says.
However, one of the most defining moments in his career occurred when he was in New York photographing the events of September 11, 2001. "I take the responsibility of this story very seriously. To be part of it, even in the smallest way, was my destiny – the most consequential day of my life," he says.
"For me, the one word that describes that day, and the 20 years since, is ‘resilience’. It describes the emergency personnel, New York City itself and its residents, as well as my life and career. In fact, resilience defines all of my photography assignments: from 9/11, the struggles throughout India, the fallout in Chernobyl to the lack of quality education in Central America."
Ron is looking forward to sharing these among other stories during the expo in Sharjah.
What is his take on smartphones and social media? Have they democratised photography or have they diluted the art form?
"Photographers tell stories, document history, and influence people to be more engaged with global events," says the cameraman who recently won an award from National Geographic for his work in Cali, Colombia.
The difference between the 20th century and today is that few wait for a weekly magazine to hit the newsstands to learn about the world. "Everything is on Instagram and Twitter. I find this incredibly exciting: so many people are now budding photographers, armed with smartphones and an eagerness to share their experiences with the world. We are all storytellers. We are all photographers. And because of that, we all have the power to change the world," he feels.
The photojournalist, who has used his lenses to capture several crucial moments of history, from the tragedy of 9/11 to the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, spent the recent quarantine period to write his first book Resilience, which blends his travel stories from places such as Cuba and India to South Africa and Morocco.
"The common theme that binds all the stories in this book has been undefeatable resilience," he says.
"Hopefully, my journey will inspire readers to live, learn and better understand the everyday struggles of communities across our vast planet. Photographers eager to learn more about their craft will find practical lessons accompanying every story, and non-photographers can appreciate the life lessons that come from the art of capturing the human condition."
Xposure International Photography Festival in Sharjah
Ron B. Wilson will be among a spectacular array of acclaimed photographers who will be sharing their thoughts and experiences at Sharjah’s Xposure International Photography Festival, the first-of-its-kind event in the region from February 10-13 at the Expo Centre.
A platform for professional photographers from around the world, the festival will offer photography lovers a chance to network, learn about latest developments and exchange views with their peers. Xposure gets together award-winning photographers and film-makers from around the globe to share their work, experiences and knowledge. Xposure also offers fully or partially subsidised workshops for all levels. More details at xposure.ae.