From the Midwest to the Middle East with Photojournalist @alexkpotter

To see more photographs by Alex, follow @alexkpotter on Instagram.

As a nursing student from a small town in the American Midwest, Alex Potter (@alexkpotter) might not have imagined living through airstrikes and civil war in the Middle East. But a university trip to Jordan sparked an interest in learning Arabic and led her to Yemen, where she now, at the age of 25, works as a freelance photographer and writer. In Alex’s alternate life during her occasional visits to the United States, she still works stints as a registered nurse.

Alex describes her path and her professions:

“There is an expression here that says, ‘If time doesn’t teach you, Yemen will.’ And taught me it has. Everyone who comes here learns so much about themselves, the power of faith, family, community and politics — and the good and bad that goes along with all of those. Yemen mostly has two kinds of journalists that inhabit it — those who come for a week, and those who come for life.

Life isn’t always enjoyable. Prices have doubled, there is no petrol (lines are days long). Many families are in the line of fire and can’t even afford or access their next meal. Most places in the country have no electricity, so people must rely on generators (for which there is no petrol) and solar panels (which are thousands of dollars). My neighbors burn wood for cooking, and everyone (myself included) has to carry buckets of water from public tanks donated by philanthropic Yemenis. Ramadan just finished, and many people can’t afford gifts for their children for Eid, much less the elaborate celebrations usually put on. Yet amid the sounds of airstrikes and long lines for waiting for petrol, people do their best to make the situation as normal as possible: sharing food, recycling gifts and spending time together.

As far as working here, I have found it the easiest place I have ever worked, especially as a woman. I dress like a local to respect the culture and speak the local dialect, so that helps, but everyone wants their photo taken all the time. Usually, my biggest problem is not enough memory in my camera! Yemenis are so welcoming and loving, and really do care about foreigners living in their midst — as long as you respect them first. As a foreign woman, as in much of the Muslim world, I have access to all parts of society. This has changed a bit with the war — people are more wary about photography, so I just have to do a bit more explaining. Logistically, I now have many more safety concerns to take in hand — planning, security, accountability, et cetera, but no more than in any other conflict zone or unstable region.

I go back to Minnesota to do some nursing work, center myself and see family and friends. Personal relationships are important to me, and it’s difficult but essential to stay connected to those who know me the best, especially in this line of work.”


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