Pete Muller is an award-winning photographer and multimedia producer based in Nairobi, Kenya. His work explores issues of nationalism, conflict, and postcolonial states. From 2009 through 2012, he was based in South Sudan working on a long-term project that examines the South’s complex transition to independence. He contributes to The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek Magazine, TIME Magazine, and others. He has partnered on advocacy campaigns with UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other organizations.
In 2011, he was named Wire Photographer of the Year by TIME Magazine. In 2012, he was awarded the John Faber Award for Best Photographic News Reporting from the Overseas Press Club of America. In 2013 his work on gun culture in the United States was awarded 3rd place in the Sony World Photography Awards and he received Honorable Mention for his coverage of the border conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.
Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past positions.
To the greatest extent possible, I try to examine issues that are connected to policy decisions. As a photographer, I believe in the power of images to humanize conversations about global challenges that often sterile and detached. Policy is, in essence, a conversation about interests that often disregards the human element. Through the organizations and outlets with which I work, I aim to create sensitive, primary source material that policy makers and citizens can use to better understand distant and often complex issues.
What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the work I have contributed to the land mine action community. For several years I worked in partnership with the Danish Demining Group to document the arduous battle to clear the world of mines and unexploded ordinance. I documented DDG’s efforts in Afghanistan, Somalia, northern Uganda, and South Sudan, and these images have been exhibited at land mine policy summits across the world. I am also pleased to have repeatedly partnered with Amnesty International on advocacy campaigns ranging from humanitarian crises in South Sudan to LGBTI issues in East Africa.
What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?
A policy landscape in which the United States is less beholden to special interest groups that safeguard their own agendas rather than American interests.
What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy? What leadership traits are needed for this?
The population must become more informed as to international developments and dynamics. Fundamentally, policy is endorsed or rejected at a local level—by congressmen that must answer to their constituents. Unless more Americans begin to thoughtfully understand the world beyond our borders and become able to critically review proposed action, our policy will continue to be dictated by special interest groups whose interests do not always reflect America’s.
The views in all interviews published in the Top 99 Under 33 feature represent those of their respective owners and not of their place of employment or the U.S. government.