DPP Home Profiles Alison Wright - Master Of Disaster

Monday, November 26, 2007

Alison Wright - Master Of Disaster

Sure, you've heard of Murphy's Law, but what about Wright's Law?

Fighting a dog in Tibet wasn't so easy. On one assignment, she had a dog clamped on her leg so severely that a monk was forced to beat it off with a plank. “I had to fly back to Katmandu for rabies shots,” recalls Wright. “Did I mention that I hate dogs?”

Between accidents and mishaps, Wright has carved out a living as a respected photojournalist. Her thought-provoking images of people span Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. “It's important to me to travel and photograph the real survivors—the at-risk women, the kids, the refugees,” says Wright of her impressive oeuvre.

But it was Wright herself who took on the role of survivor after a near-fatal accident on the dusty roads of Laos. Wright was in a bus when it was hit and sheared in half by a logging truck. She instantly broke her back, pelvis, coccyx and ribs. Her left arm was shredded to the bone, her spleen sliced in half, her diaphragm and lungs punctured and her heart, stomach and intestines torn loose.

“After 10 hours on the side of the road completely eviscerated, I wrote a letter to my family, telling them how I died,” says Wright. “But it just wasn't my time.”

A young Laotian boy managed to sew up her shattered arm, and by pure chance a British aid worker driving past picked her up and took her to a hospital in Thailand. After 14 hours with no medical help and dealing with the most excruciating pain imaginable, Wright was safe.

“When I got back home to San Francisco, they told me I'd never walk properly again,” says Wright. “But in total defiance, I decided I'd prepare to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for my 40th birthday.”

After 20 surgeries and numerous bouts of physical therapy, Wright had enough stamina and perseverance to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Today, she's writing a book, Learning to Breathe, to be released next year by Penguin Books. “The book is a symbol of all the spiritual and physical challenges I've faced up to now,” says Wright.

Her photographic path since the accident has covered the tsunami in Sri Lanka, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and an in-depth look at poverty in America. “Going through this hardship has only worked to bring more empathy to my photography,” adds Wright. “You either completely change your life or stay on your path. I stayed on mine. In fact, it made me want to do it even more.”

Wright also runs workshops for National Geographic. Travelers have the opportunity to photograph and research the traditions of endangered cultures and learn how those traditions are threatened in the modern world.

To see more of Alison Wright's photography, visit www.alisonwright.com.



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