Michael Robinson Chávez has been a photographer at The Los Angeles Times since 2007. Prior to that he worked for The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and the Associated Press. In addition to local stories, he has covered wide-ranging assignments including the 2006 Hezbollah/Israeli war, slum life in India, gold mining in Peru, the conflict in Israel/Palestine and the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Michael won the Scripps Howard Award for Photojournalism in 2008 and won second place Photographer of the Year in Pictures of the Year International. He has twice been named Photographer of the Year by The White House News Photographers’ Association (in 2004 and 2007).
His work has been exhibited widely, including the Visa Pour l'image festival in France, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, Imagenes Havana in Cuba, International Photo Festival in Gijon, Spain, Ojo Ajeno in Lima, Peru, the War Photo Ltd. Gallery in Dubrovnik and at the Museu Memorial de l’Exili in Spain.
In addition he lectures and teaches at workshops and seminars worldwide.
Lebanon, a country so beautiful that it has been likened to a pearl on the Mediterranean, is a tormented land being ripped apart by sectarian differences and proxy wars. The Middle East, while always volatile, is entering a time of massive transition. The Arab Spring has shaken the region to its core: Tunisia and Egypt have sent their autocratic leaders packing, Bahrain’s Shiites struggle to emerge from the shadow of the Saudis and their own Sunni monarchy and most importantly for Lebanon, Syria’s dictatorship is pitched in an increasingly brutal battle for their country.
I was absolutely stunned the first time I visited Beirut. A native Californian, I was immediately reminded of home, Mediterranean climate, snowcapped peaks within sight of the sea and some of the best food to ever land on my palette. The politics of Lebanon however are never far from view, whether it be the scars of civil war or the belligerent words of vying political powers. The country boiled over in summer of 2006 when Hezbollah staged a brazen raid on Israel kidnapping two soldiers and killing seven in the process. The retaliation was swift and relentless. For 34 days Israel pounded the country, especially the south. I was based in Tyre along with some of my colleagues working for The Washington Post. Together we gingerly ventured out onto the destroyed roads in an effort to reach the villages and photograph what was happening to this largely Shiite region, and a stronghold for Hezbollah.
Lebanon is just a scene in a larger twisted play being acted out. As the struggle for dominance in the Middle East evolves further into a clash of Sunni vs. Shiite powers, or nationalistically, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, who knows what other countries and regions will fall under the category of pawns in a bloody chess match. For power. For oil. Let's hope that the bridges can be built before the canyons become too wide.