LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- Executive Producer Brian Brodeur recently spoke with Thomas Franklin, multimedia journalist, about his latest project, “Seeking Refuge,” a virtual exhibit featuring personal and collective tales of people seeking safety in foreign lands. Franklin, an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University, is perhaps best known for his iconic flag-raising photograph taken at Ground Zero, which was depicted on a U.S. Postage stamp, and for which he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Franklin’s Seeking Refuge project began in 2015 after he was commissioned by Vice magazine to write an opinion piece about how iconic photos influence public opinion. One of the most notable photos of that time was of a Syrian child who drowned while his family was trying to reach the European Union. “My opinion was that that photograph was really, really hard to look at, and stark,” Franklin said. But at the same time, it “really grabbed the world’s attention.” And after writing that piece for Vice, Franklin began to focus on the larger topic of forced migration.
Franklin said that part of the goal of the exhibit is to focus on how global issues affect local communities, and with New Jersey having a large Syrian population, “it wasn’t very difficult to connect the dots from what was happening in Syria to Greece to here in New Jersey.”
The exhibit was intended to be an in-person event held at the Paterson Museum, but due to COVID-19, the museum has been closed, and so it was moved online. “I strategized about creating this virtual exhibit,” Franklin said, who worked closely with the museum curator and a web designer, ”that would present this six-year project in a way that would be both meaningful as well as easy to consume and understand.”
“One of the things about photojournalism I really love is that it marries the reporting part with the creative part,” Franklin said. “That has always appealed to me.”