Joel Nsadha and the “Soul of Man”

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By: Anthony Del Vecchio

Staff Reporter

As part of The Human Journey Colloquia Series for Fall 2016, photographer Joel Nsadha presented and discussed his ongoing photography project on Wednesday, Nov. 15 in the University Commons Auditorium.

Nsadha’s project is a black and white portrait series which seeks to capture the shared humanity and dignity throughout the world by focusing on a variety of different faces from different places.

“I chose to do black and white because it simplifies our differences,” said Nsadha after his presentation. “It makes it easier to accept these differences without the distraction of color.”

Nsadha was born in Jinja, Uganda and lived in Uganda until 2015. He is now based in Vestal, New York but has lived and travelled to many countries including: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Kenya, and different regions of Eastern Africa.

After attending the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, Nsadha also studied at the International People’s College in Helsingore, Denmark.

For the past 10 years, Nsadha has shared his passion of being a photographer of “people and places” while also focusing on non-profit documentary work with commercial clients.

His work has gone on to make him seven-time award winner of the Uganda Press Photo Award. He also won first place in National Geographic’s “People” category for the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest for his photo titled “At the Playground.”

“I thought it was very interesting how all those photos were taken all over the world,” said junior Mike Nick. “It’s like each image told a different story.”

Before the end of Nsadha’s presentation, he opened the floor for anyone in the audience who wanted to ask questions. He was asked what he found intriguing about the human face and what made him focus on it.

“As humans, our eyes tell so many stories,” said Nsadha. “Showing all these different faces best tells the story I am telling and [helps]others focus on the human thread that cuts across us all.”

By talking to strangers, planning photo shoots and travelling, Nsadha has had plenty of stories about the encounters he has had while doing this project… stories that he hoped students and faculty members could connect with.

“Society is changing and by coming to things like this and seeing such diversity, it really does change your perspective on life,” said sophomore Alexandra Keelan. “Everyone is equal. Seeing all of those pictures in black and white just makes you see we are all the same, we are all human.”

Nsadha doesn’t predominately work in black and white, but for the series, he thinks it really captures the message of equality and togetherness.

“What impressed me about this is that it didn’t want what culture or country these people came from. When you focus on the human face, you see the universality of what it means to be them,” said Adjunct Instructor of Catholic Studies and English Joseph Nagy. “We have a shared humanity.”

The personal element Nsadha has brought to his work is one reason why his work can be seen galleries, malls and online. His pictures have also been published for print and online publications for National Geographic, CNN, The Guardian and more.

“I am so lucky to have met so many people and to have made friends from these places,” said Nsadha. “It’s one of the best things about being a photographer.”

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