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Abstract

The main character of our story is Rita Leistner, one of the most famous Canadian war photographers in the world. She studied at the International Center of Photography (New York) and has a Master of Arts degree in French and English (University of Toronto). For six years Rita taught the history of photojournalism and documentary photography (UoT). She is the co-author of several books, such as Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on Iraq, and The Edward Curtis Project: A Modern Picture Story. Her first monograph, Looking for Marshall McLuhan in Afghanistan, a work on photography, technology and war, was a finalist for the Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology (2015).

However, her activities are not only related to photography. She defines herself as a “socially and politically engaged” person. And no matter if we speak about her photographs, articles, social media activities or books – there is a spirit of struggle for human rights in them. This is the first of the arguments supporting the opinion that Rita’s work is a very important voice in the discourse on contemporary times and the today’s meaning of “humanity.” This voice often does not need words, since Leistner is above all a photographer. For more than twenty years, she traveled around the world and covered military conflicts: Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. She described lives of soldiers involved in warfare and life of civilians facing results of such conflicts. Thanks to her works we learn stories that we would never otherwise have an opportunity to get to know about, such as the everyday life of female patients from Baghdad’s al Rashad Psychiatric Hospital in the war-torn capital of Iraq. However, war is not the only form of combat Leister talks about. She also discusses inner personal and intimate struggles that give testimony to the hidden powers of human beings: she presents drug addicts from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, female wrestlers, people planting trees in northern Canada, or North American aborigines. When asked why she is involved in all these issues, she answers “to lead many lives.”

In this article, we will also present a narrative analysis of Rita’s work with Basetrack project. In the first place, we want to show the main subjects she is involved with and how she interprets them.

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