Westmont Magazine Still Life: A Mission of Mercy
Colin Finlay ’83 might be called a man with a mission.
A photographer whose work focuses on the plight of children the world over, Colin is gaining international attention. He believes the pictures he makes are by God’s design.
“I’m meant to find these images, and they’re meant to find me,” Colin said. “I’m a fisherman at the back of the boat on the ocean. Christ is on that boat, and He is the captain, and He can take me wherever He wants. I feel He has a journey, and I have a place. He puts me where I need to be.”
So far, that has meant photographic sojourns to the Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, Romania, Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, Egypt, Ireland and other countries. Colin’s photos of children and the effects of strife in these countries have been published in major magazines, including Time, U.S. News & World Report, Sports Illustrated, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Germany’s Der Spiegel and many others.
His photo essay on child labor in Cairo was selected for inclusion in “The Human Condition, Photojournalism ’97,” published by Graphis, and he has won four Picture of the Year awards. A half-hour documentary, “Through the Eyes of Children: The War in Bosnia,” featuring Colin on assignment in Sarajevo, won the Edward R. Murrow Award. His first book, “The Unheard Voice: Portraits of Childhood,” was published in 1996.
He and his partner, Christina Gonzales, have since founded a non-profit organization, the Unheard Voice Foundation. The organization will continue to document suffering and raise funds to pay for another of Colin’s projects: using photography as therapy among the children affected by war and privation. Colin took cameras to Sarajevo last year and asked kids to document their war-torn city. The results were published in Natural History magazine.
Colin was a first-year student at Westmont in 1982-83, then transferred to UCSB where he studied film and religious studies among others. He graduated in 1987 with a degree in liberal studies, and promptly went to work for a large corporation.
It was not until he saw the film, “Dances With Wolves,” in 1990 that he decided to do something more meaningful with his life. He turned to still photography.
Though he took some classes at Brooks Photographic Institute in Santa Barbara, “I’m basically self-taught,” he explained.
One of Colin’s projects is a series on pilgrimages and devotion around the world. “In Search of the Faith of God” considers what people the world over go through to express devotion and faith. He has photographed Buddhist monks in Thailand ministering to victims of AIDS. An annual 48-hour pilgrimage to Cuba’s Church of Saint Lozaro, during which pilgrims walk, crawl and roll to the church, is part of the series. He also photographed the skulls of slaughtered Tutsis on an altar in Rwanda, left by rival Hutu tribesmen as a warning to the predominately Catholic Tutsis.
His latest project is closer to home. Colin, a native of Scotland, is developing a photo series on his own roots. The autobiographical series is titled, “The Salt of the Earth.”