For journalist Pete Muller, BA history '05, it's all about the story. And that pursuit has already taken him far beyond American University.
Just days after receiving his degree, Muller took a job as a journalist for a Palestinian news agency. "Journalism and documentary work seemed like the logical thing for me to do," Muller says. "[I have always been] interested in stories and in creating [a record] that will be the primary documentation of what's happening now."
Most recently, Muller's work led him to Uganda and Somalia. As a correspondent for Glimpse, an online international journalism outlet supported in part by National Geographic, Muller traveled to Uganda to document the return of millions of refugees to their homes after more than a decade of internment at Internally Displaced Persons camps.
Muller covered a group of refugees in northern Uganda who had been displaced by the war. Their backgrounds differed: some had been fighters in the rebel army, some members of the government's army, and some had been apolitical refugees. But they had one thing in common: billiards. This eclectic group had banded together to form a billiard team. Deep bonds developed among the refugee teammates, who looked out for one another by dividing winnings and resources.
"I'd go and take photographs of these guys," says Muller, "but I spent 75 percent of my time getting to know them, interviewing them formally and informally, [getting] a sense of their personalities, background, and [what their] circumstances were like—finding out what led them to be in this pool hall."
Muller's work with the refugees led to a contract with the Danish Demining Group to document traditional and alternative mine clearance programs in Uganda and Somalia. In addition to removing mines and unexploded ordinances, these programs provide locked-state storage devices and implement social programs to defuse the status of firearms in the culture.
Muller says his study of history informs his work. "The topics of war, uprising, social movements, and sexuality defined my course of historical study at American University and generated a deep curiosity in the modern aspects of these issues," he says. "Through a combination of photography, text, and audio recordings, I hope to illustrate [these] broader issues through individual stories."
Full photo description of Christine: (from Pete Muller Photography)
"She lives in a return site in Uganda's arid north. Dust cyclones are frequent, sending superstitious children dashing behind grass thatched huts. Her husband, Richard, had his fingers severed by LRA rebels shortly before he was murdered in 2006. Her three children depend on her for everything, which she cannot provide. Their lives are among the most difficult I have ever encountered."
Achet, Northern Uganda, 2008