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Photojournalist Paula Bronstein, known for covering two decades of life and war in Afghanistan, shared her work and her stories of capturing the right shot with audiences at Dominican University.

With a career spanning 40 years and a history of capturing the people, places and major events around the world, Bronstein was the featured speaker for the 2023 Georgie Anne Geyer Lecture on April 4. She also addressed a group of journalism and political science students earlier in the day.

An award-winning photojournalist, Bronstein published the photo book Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear in 2016 and was nominated as a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for coverage of historic flooding in Pakistan.

“I can’t settle for a mediocre photo,” Bronstein told Dominican students. “I have to go for the best photo I can.”

To do so in war means weighing dangers and gaining access through building trust, she said. In Afghanistan, being female made access to women and documenting their stories possible in a country where a male photographer would be restricted from doing the same, she noted.

In Ukraine, where she has been documenting the war for the last year, many citizens are eager to share their stories and what is happening in their country with the world, Bronstein said. The war has also proven to be extremely unpredictable — making it that much more dangerous for the citizens and the news media alike.

“All of a sudden the Russians will bomb a shopping mall in an area of the country that has never seen a war,” she said.

Being on the front lines in Ukraine has meant documenting the atrocities of the war and the types of war crimes Bronstein said she has never seen before.

“You know you’re photographing something that is unthinkable, but so important that the world has to see it,” she said. “You have to be able to think about how you are getting the photos that tell the story.”

Ellie Heider, a junior studying digital journalism at Dominican, said she found the wartime photos Bronstein shared with students to be impactful.

“A lot of them are very vulnerable and taken up close,” she said. “It’s incredible she was able to get pictures like that. That is really going to stick with me.”

Capturing such real images of people and their situations is important for facilitating change in the world, Heider believes.

“If we didn’t have access to pictures like this, I don’t think any kind of social change could happen,” she said.

“Paula Bronstein’s work over the decades has highlighted through vivid imagery the persistence and dignity of regular people in the face of war and violence,” said journalism professor John Jenks. “I think her visit to Dominican University will inspire our students  — not only to explore the world as journalists, but also to fearlessly tell the stories of those who would otherwise be silenced.” 

The Georgie Anne Geyer Initiative brings renowned reporters to campus and provides experiential learning scholarships for Dominican students aspiring to be foreign correspondents.

Photojournalist Paula Bronstein speaks to a group of faculty and journalism and political science students on April 4.