Matti Friedman & Rita Leistner

koffler.digital conversation | MATTI FRIEDMAN & RITA LEISTNER

Author Matti Friedman joins photographer Rita Leistner at the Two Penny Cafe at Artscape Youngplace to discuss their interdisciplinary and socially engaged approaches to conflict journalism. Moderated by the Koffler's producer of public and literary programs, Mary Anderson.

Matti Friedman's work as a reporter has taken him from Israel to Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, DC, and his writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He is a former Associated Press correspondent and a regular contributor to Tablet Magazine and the Jewish Review of Books.

Rita Leistner's socially and politically engaged documentary photography practice is based on first-hand engagement in the world, in particular on documenting communities in extreme conditions, such as soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, female patients at psychiatric hospitals in war-time, First Nations communities in the Arctic and helicopter loggers on Canada’s west coast.

Audio by Nick Dywelska


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Photo by Mary Anderson

Matti Friedman’s 2016 book Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War was chosen as a New York Times’ Notable Book and as one of Amazon’s 10 best books of the year. Pumpkinflowers was selected as one of the year’s best by Booklist, Mother Jones, Foreign Affairs, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail. It was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize, the Writer’s Trust Prize (Canada), and the Yitzkak Sadeh Prize for military writing (Israel). Pumpkinflowers was also a winner of the 2017 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature. This year’s jury stated the following: Matti Friedman’s powerful writing raises this work of history and journalism to the level of art.


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Photo by Mary Anderson

Rita Leistner studied photography at the International Center of Photography in New York and has a Master of Arts degree in comparative literature in French and English from the University of Toronto (1990), where from 2010-2016 she taught the history of photojournalism and documentary photography. She is an author and co-author of several books and her photographs have been exhibited and published internationally. She has won three Canadian National Magazine Awards Gold Medals and was a 2017 finalist for the prestigious Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography at Harvard. In 2017, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa acquired fifteen years of Rita Leistner’s work from Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan—among the largest additions to the collection by any photographer and the largest by a female photographer.

Most recently, she has been “embedded” with tree planters in the remote and rugged Canadian wilderness in the planting camps of Coast Range Contracting, owned by her friend Garth Hadley, who Leistner planted trees with in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia over 25 years ago. This work is currently exhibited at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto.

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Rita Leistner, Gilbert Gosselin: Tree Planters, 2017
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Rita Leistner, Taviana McLeod: Tree Planters, 2017
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Read an excerpt from Matti Friedman's Pumpkinflowers:

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