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Hands of a Displaced Sudan
December 2, 2004

A stunning display of photography has opened at the Center Art Gallery at Calvin College.

"Hands of a Displaced Sudan: A Cry for Compassion" is an exhibit of some 60 photos made by recent Calvin graduate Ryan Spencer Reed. The exhibit has been generously underwritten by Grand Gallery.

Reed's haunting photographs depict the impact of nearly 22 years of brutal civil war on the Sudanese population.

Hands of a Displaced Sudan: A Cry for Compassion by Ryan Reed
Hands of a Displaced Sudan: A Cry for Compassion
Photography by Ryan Spencer Reed
December 1-18, 2004
Reed began his quest to illustrate the pathos and passion of Sudan shortly after his May 2002 graduation from Calvin. He decided he didn’t want to spend years waiting for his one big opportunity. So he jumped on a plane and traveled to Sudan with his camera, some lenses and not much money.

Some might think him impetuous, impatient, even foolish. But Reed describes himself as a true product of Calvin.

"Calvin shaped me," he says. "What I have tried to do is a microcosm of Calvin's perspective about redeeming all areas of life."

Reed spent seven months in Africa, mostly in and around Sudan, taking pictures - 90,000 of them to be exact - in an attempt to create images that would raise people's social consciousness.

"I see myself," he says, "as a very privileged member of the Western world who has a responsibility to do something about the injustices in the world."

So Reed created images of children playing with guns, of dirty hospital conditions, of a smiling woman sitting in a marketplace with nothing to sell, of a baby girl's funeral - life in a country torn by civil unrest for more than two decades.

He sold some of his pictures to wire services and daily publications while in Africa, but believes images like his belong in publications every day.

"They should be in the dailies, the weeklies, the monthlies," he says, "to stop you, grip you and make you think."

While many of the photos reflect dire circumstances, Reed is quick to point out that his work is not about hardening people.

"I think what should be made clear is more options," he says. "We need to offer more hope. It's not about some dark mountain that can never be leveled. We have more rights than anyone in this universe. We should use them."

But without the images it's easy to forget.

That's why Reed is so excited about the upcoming exhibit at Calvin.

"I would feel terrible if these were just stepping stones, something in my portfolio, to get me a job," he says. "If I didn’t do anything to help these people, that would weigh heavily on my conscience."

As part of the upcoming exhibit, there will be a special talk on Friday, December 3 at 7 pm by Reed on "Sudan and the Coverage of Critical Social Issues in the New Age of Media." Also on hand for that December 3 talk will be Sudanese "Lost Boys" from West Michigan who will answer questions and share their stories.

The barrier-free Center Art Gallery, located on the lower level of the Spoelhof College Center, is open 9 to 9 Monday through Thursday, 9 to 5 Fridays and 12 to 4 Saturdays. There is no admission charge.