This is the marketing paragraph that my publisher wrote for my book, Power of the Invisible Sun:
Through his philanthropic work, Bobby Sager has come face to face with children living in some of the most war-torn areas of the world. His photographs capture their transcendent spirit: the power of the invisible sun. These photographs taken in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Zimbabwe, from September 11, 2001 until early 2009 depict refugees, orphans, child soldiers, and just plain kids living with conflict, disaster, and displacement. Sager’s poignant images are assembled in a visually arresting collection. Including a foreword by Sting, The Power of the Invisible Sun will inspire hope and activism through intimate encounters with these children and the human spirit that defines them.
The following is my one-page introduction to the book that will give you a better sense of the connective tissue that runs through all of the images.
I’m writing this at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, Rwanda (the “Hotel Rwanda”). Ghosts walk these hallways. Yet 14 years after the genocide, Rwanda is bursting with opportunity and possibilities. Writing about hope from within these tortured walls feels a little eerie but very appropriate. Rwanda’s amazing progress is such a poignant example of the power of hope.
Hope is the most important thing that people need to move forward. The slightest ray of hope can ignite the human spirit’s ability to overcome: the power of the invisible sun.
Ten years ago I left my work as an entrepreneur to devote myself to philanthropy full-time. Now, along with my wife, Elaine and my children, Tess and Shane, I travel around the world doing the work of the Sager Family Traveling Foundation and Roadshow.
I met the children in this book during those travels. I photographed them from just weeks after September 11, 2001, until 2009. They live in alleyways, refugee camps, slums, and remote villages from Afghanistan to Rwanda to Nepal. They are refugees, orphans, child soldiers, and just plain kids dealing with war, conflict, natural disaster, abuse, and displacement. I was face-to-face with them because I was there to help, and that’s a big part of the connection you see in their eyes.
These kids face daily challenges that bend my spirit and break my heart. Meeting them has made me more thankful and probably a lot more useful.
Even though I have left the business world and spend much of my time helping people, I’m not a do-gooder. I’m a doer who has figured out that hands-on, eyeball-to-eyeball approach to making a difference is a way to live a very full life. Besides, dealing with revolutionaries, political extremists, and blatant opportunists is nothing compared to some of the corporate lawyers I’ve dealt with.
During my family’s year on the road, spending time with famous people and world leaders had provided many wonderful experiences, but the most transcendent moments have come when we least expected them. They’ve arisen out of the joy and frustration of sharing in ordinary people’s everyday lives. In my photography the same is true.
It turns out with both photography and philanthropy that getting as close as possible gets the best results.
I chose to use only images of children for this book because it is through the strength and possibilities you see in their young eyes that the power of the invisible sun becomes so compelling.
Don’t feel bad for these kids. They don’t want your pity. My motivation in bringing these children together for you to meet is not so you can say, “Oh, look at those poor kids. I want to give them a hug.” Hopefully you will take strength from their strength, feel more thankful in your own life, and, in return, go find ways to give people hope, not by giving money but by giving something of yourself.
Visit these kids and remember the power of the human spirit to overcome. Visit these kids when you need to remember how lucky you are. Visit these kids and ask yourself if you’re doing enough to help.
Everyone has to connect their own dots. I hope the experience of this book , in some small way, helps you to connect yours.
All of these photographs are of kids who live in war zones, refugee camps, or very disrupted communities around the world. These photos will be particularly timely given the worldwide refugee crisis and everyone’s search for a way to respond on both a political level and in people’s everyday lives. How do we confront people thinking in terms of “us” and “them”?
The first three images are of three kids where you can very clearly see me in their eyes, emphasizing the intimate eyeball-to-eyeball situation in which these pictures are taken. All of the portraits are of people looking at and reacting to me.
The next twelve pictures are from places that include Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Rwanda and are used to make the point about living outside of your bubble, stripping away filters, and looking someone you are trying to help in the eye – feeling their humanity and letting them feel yours.
The photo on the left is the first moment of interaction. You can see the distance and suspicion – the veritable wall between the subject and I.
The photograph on the right is just a few seconds later and is filled with openness and opportunity for further connection. The only difference between the one on the left and the one on the right is me making a fart sound with my mouth. Making myself vulnerable, making a human-to-human connection, and creating an incredible range of possibilities as a result.
We live in a hyper-connected and in many ways disconnected world. I am hoping that this group of photos shows the ease of which you can make a connection and the the game changing opportunity that real connection can provide.
The first group of pictures put the viewer in the same place as me, looking eyeball-to-eyeball with these kids.
The second group of photographs showed the power of being eyeball-to-eyeball and stripping away filters.
The third group of images are the portraits that come from the highly intimate way I take photos. These portraits show the power of hope in the eyes of these refugees and victims of war.
I have also included the video that Sting used during his world tour, singing Invisible Sun accompanied by my photographs.
Lastly, here are some portraits that may be included as a fourth group. These are images of poor people from around the world, showing the power of hope, dignity, and the strength of the human spirit.
As I said in my intro, it turns out that with both photography and philanthropy the closer you get the better the result. I am confident that the people who see these images will take strength from these kids, feel more thankful in their own lives, and perhaps be more likely to make a difference in the lives of others. The last line in the book is:
BE SELFISH, GO HELP SOMEONE.