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Book Launch explores AIDS pandemic in Africa

I Am Because We Are
Prepared by:
Kristen Ashburn - I Am Because We Are

Jenifer Howard


For Immediate Release
Award-Winning Photojournalist Kristen Ashburn Releases New Photography Book - A Companion Volume to Acclaimed Documentary Film by Madonna and Nathan Rissman

Book Provides Intimate Look at the Lives of Malawian Children and Reveals the Harsh Reality of the AIDS Pandemic Throughout Southern Africa
Author Proceeds From Book Sales Donated to Raising Malawi


"As you read the pages and look at the breathtaking photography of Kristen Ashburn,
I hope that you too will be inspired by the paradox of beauty and tragedy
that exists today in Malawi, and in many other countries in Africa...
I am grateful to Kristen Ashburn for her remarkable ability to capture the truth."
-Madonna, musician, actress, entrepreneur, humanitarian

(NEW YORK) -- Through breathtaking images and the poignant voices of its subjects, I AM BECAUSE WE ARE (PowerHouse Books, $49.95), by award-winning photojournalist Kristen Ashburn, provides an intimate look at the AIDS pandemic in Africa. The book is a companion to the documentary film by the same title written and produced by Madonna and directed by Nathan Rissman.

The book will officially launch at the PowerHouse Arena, 37 Main Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn on Thursday, April 2, 2009, with a photo exhibition and fundraiser for the charitable organization Raising Malawi. This event is by invitation only. The exhibition is open to the public from March 25. All proceeds from the launch party will go to The Raising Malawi Academy for Girls.

"I AM BECAUSE WE ARE is a book that touches the heart. In photographing the grieving, devastated, still beautiful, children of Malawi, victims of the AIDS epidemic that has murdered their parents, Kristen Ashburn gives everyone on the planet the opportunity to come to the aid of those most bereaved and helpless in this world," said Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple. "It is a rare gift she gives: for we know in our deepest emotions that without the world coming to the defense and care of these children, the least of these, there will be no world peace."

Both the book and film share the stories and images of seven children living with the effects of HIV/AIDS. These children are just a handful of the 1 million AIDS orphans in Malawi, a country of only 13 million people.

Joyce, a 12-year-old, is forced to care for her younger siblings while her parents die of AIDS; Fanzio, an orphan at 14, declares that he will rise above his own difficulties and ultimately finds help to do so; Sinode, an HIV-positive 6-year old, is carried for hours by bicycle to get the care he needs. Each child's story is accompanied by a series of powerful photographs by photojournalist Kristen Ashburn, images that - in the words of Madonna - capture "the paradox of beauty and tragedy that exists today in Malawi and many other countries in Africa." Ashburn has photographed the impact of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa for almost a decade and brings her passion for the issue to bear on every image.

I AM BECAUSE WE ARE takes its title from the traditional African philosophy of ubuntu which speaks to the interconnectedness of humanity, reminding us that the fate of AIDS orphans in Malawi is inextricably tied into our own, that we all rise or fall together.

Additional Quotes
"Ashburn's photos drive home the devastation that HIV/AIDS has wrought on individuals, families and communities in Africa. In the children's faces, we see their pain but also their promise. Their future is ours and ours is theirs. This book is a call to action for us to take part in our shared future."
-John Legend, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter

I Am Because We Are
Kristen Ashburn has the rare gift of finding dignity in the midst of suffering, and strength in what ought to be despair. I Am Because We Are should not be hopeful. But it is.
-Malcolm Gladwell, Author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliners

"The first time I saw Kristen Ashburn's photographs was when a friend emailed me a short slideshow of her work. I casually opened it, but then stopped everything I was doing and sat mesmerized, tears welling up. Her pictures are extraordinary, taking us to the depths of suffering, but at the same time somehow managing to bring a sense of humanity, hope and-yes-beauty. It is this startling combination that enables them to inspire not just admiration, but a desire to respond. This book is physical proof of the power of photography to move hearts and minds in our ever more interconnected world."
-Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference

"I AM BECAUSE WE ARE is an extraordinarily affecting work of photojournalism. Kristen Ashburn, moving easily between photography and biography, allows us to understand the toll taken by AIDS in Malawi. It's one thing to read about "child-headed households" but quite different to see these households through her lens. Ashburn brings us into the lives of her subjects without exoticizing them; she stares down the barrel of tragedy without negating the dignity of these children and their families, all of them trying to survive, and thrive, in seemingly impossible situations. Ashburn's clearest message-that she "could have saved one person" if she had done things differently, that we've run out of excuses not to act-reminds readers of the value of every single life, and of the vast potential of human solidarity."
-Paul Farmer, MD, Partners In Health, Harvard Medical School
Kristen Ashburn About the Author
Kristen Ashburn is a documentary photographer who has received numerous honors including a nomination for the 28th Annual Emmy Awards (2007), NPPA- Best of Photojournalism (2007, 2006, 2003), the John Faber Award- Overseas Press Club of America (2006) and two World Press Photo prizes (2005, 2003). The Getty Grant 2006, Canon's Female Photojournalist Award in 2004, and the Marty Forscher Fellowship for Humanistic Photography 2003. In 2004 she was recognized as one of Photo District News '30 under 30 photographers' and participated in the prestigious World Press Photo "Joop Swart" Master Class. In 2003 she was a speaker at the TED Conference

Ashburn began to photograph the impact of AIDS in southern Africa in 2001. Her work has also taken her to Iraq a year following the US-led invasion; Israel and the Palestinian Territories; Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami; and Russia to cover the spread of MDR-tuberculosis in the penal system. Her work has appeared in many publications including Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Life and others. She lives in New York.

About the Charity
Raising Malawi is dedicated to bringing an end to the extreme poverty and hardship endured by Malawi's one million orphans. Co-founded by Madonna and Michael Berg, the organization uses a community-based approach to provide immediate direct physical assistance to create long-term sustainability. Author proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the charity for their extensive work with orphans throughout Malawi. For more information on Raising Malawi, please see

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