Doha, Qatar – February 14, 2018 – The only way to know the truth is to see it with your own eyes. That is what Julia Leeb, a filmmaker and photographer, shared with a roomful of media and communication students, along with faculty, and staff from Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).
At an NU-Q Community Meeting, Leeb shared her experiences working in areas that are some of the most dangerous and remote places in the world. From documenting political upheaval in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan to capturing the everyday life in North Korea and Sudan, Leeb says that she has “lived her life discovering others’.”
“Ms. Leeb’s work is both courageous and inspiring,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO. “Her projects are examples of how film and photography can be a window into an entirely new world and consequently bring positive change to people’s lives, which is what many of our students plan to achieve.”
Leeb also produces virtual reality and 360-degree content about remote regions, including Transnistria in Moldova, and the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. In 2014, the photographs from her visits to North Korea were published in her book North Korea: Anonymous Country.
“What I love most about my work is the power it has to give back,” Leeb said. “By capturing the struggles and hardship of others, I am making a difference by raising awareness about important, untouched issues, which can drive people to take action and help those in need,” adding, “Never underestimate the power of a picture.”
On choosing her stories and news angles, Leeb says that she stays away from sensational news and chooses to cover undocumented stories that give viewers a real taste of how people live their daily lives. This, she said, makes her projects unique and her stories effective.
“I identify stories that are not trending,” explained Leeb. “I go to places where media coverage is low or non-existent and where most people would be scared to go. And now, through 360-degree technology, I can bring other people’s reality to life so anyone around the world can see what it is like, without being manipulated.”
During a question and answer period, students asked about the challenges she faced as a woman in hostile environments and as an outsider trying to connect with complete strangers.
“Despite all the challenges, it’s an extremely rewarding job because I get to meet with and learn from so many wonderful people,” said Leeb. “They are my motivation, and their strength and perseverance is what keeps me going and wanting to explore more.”
Leeb advised students to “create various forms of your story. Use different mediums to create a better picture, and always be as transparent and honest as you can.”
During her visit to NU-Q, Leeb also attended classes to discuss content creation and innovation, as well as share some of her personal experiences and what she has learned traveling the world, and screened some of her films.
Elle magazine listed Leeb as one of the top 80 international characters and Refinery29 named her as one of the most inspiring women in Germany.