142 - Michael Christopher Brown


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American photographer Michael Christopher Brown was raised in the Skagit Valley, a farming community in Washington. After moving to New York City in 2005, he joined the Italian photo agency Grazia Neri in 2006. He then moved to Beijing, China, in 2009 and over the next two years put together a series of works from road and train trips across the country.

In 2010 Michael began taking pictures with an iPhone, driving around eastern China in his Jinbei van. Since then he has produced iPhone photographs in Libya, Egypt, Congo, Central African Republic, Cuba and Palestine. Michael's ability to capture critical moments with an iPhone has led to his involvement with Time, The New York Times Magazine, and National Geographic's Instagram platforms.

In 2011, Michael spent seven months in Libya photographing the Libyan Revolution, exploring ethical distance and the iconography of warfare. He covered several battles along the coast, was ambushed several times in Eastern Libya and injured twice. In early March, on the frontline near the eastern town of Bin Jawad, he was shot in the leg during a Government offensive. Six weeks later, while covering the Siege of Misrata, he was injured by incoming mortar fire, losing nearly half the blood in his body and requiring two transfusions. His colleagues Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were both killed in the same attack and Guy Martin was also badly injured. Michael returned to Libya twice in 2012 and was the subject of the Michael Mann directed HBO documentary series Witness: Libya.

A contributing photographer at National Geographic since 2005, Michael is also a contributor to The New York Times Magazine and other publications. Since 2006 his photographs have been published in dozens of international publications. He joined Magnum Photos as a nominee in 2013 and was an associate from 2015 until leaving the agency in June 2017.

Michael's book Libyan Sugar won the Paris Photo First Photobook Award and the International Center of Photography's 2017 Infinity Award for Artist's Book.

In 2015 and 2016 Michael produced Paradiso, a multimedia project on the electronica music and youth scene in Havana, Cuba, part of which was exhibited in 2017 during the Cuba IS show at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

In 2018 Michael released the book Yo Soy Fidel, which follows the cortège of Fidel Castro, former Cuban revolutionary and politician, over a period of several days in late 2016.

Michael has also documented conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2012 and was based in Goma from late 2012 until early 2014. A three book series of images from that time, both his and those he collected from numerous Congolese photographers, is forthcoming, entitled Congo Sunrise.

On episode 142, Michael discusses, among other things:

  • His new podcast, The Searcher, and the reasons for starting it.
  • The controversy surrounding his story on Skid Row in L.A. for National Geographic.
  • The PTSD that took nearly six years to manifest itself and the efficacy of psychedelic drugs as a treatment.
  • His thoughts on the inclusion of gory images of war in his book Libyan Sugar.
  • His forthcoming book project, Congo Sunrise, featuring collected images from Congolese photographers.
  • Reasons for shooting with the iPhone.
  • Recent personal challenges, including his partner Lauren’s brain surgery.
  • Being a ‘connector’.


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“In an age of so much bullshit and so many lies, where we don’t know what’s real and what’s not, it’s just so important to show the way the world actually looks.”

148 episodes