- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 25, 2001

The assimilation of the world's indigenous cultures can sometimes take a terrible toll on the people affected. Many lands, such as those in Africa, South America and the Far East, contain pockets rich in history and diversity that slowly are being erased by outside forces.

In the hope of enlightening those who spend more time thinking about themselves than others, a group of photojournalists and writers has set up a cyber-stop filled with educational journeys to increase awareness about these areas.

Cultures on the Edge

Site address: www.culturesontheedge.com

Creator:

The privately owned and operated site, based in New York City, combines the expertise of design director Geoff Badner, photojournalist Chris Rainier, producer Susan Shaughnessy and Wade Davis, explorer in residence for National Geographic.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site to provide a visually stunning cultural environment online that encourages an open dialogue about culture in the world today. We hope to create awareness about diversity and similarities existing globally, to encourage communications between cultures around the world," Miss Shaughnessy says.

"People around the world are curious about existing and transforming cultures today, and using imagery and music to tell stories online is one exciting way to share ideas. We've had such a great response from the site. This week I had a 9-year-old boy send me an e-mail asking how he could submit his photos from Morocco. In my opinion, this describes one of the many successes we've had in terms of breaking through cultural and age barriers."

Word from the Webwise:

This elegant Web site is like an educational travel magazine with an editorial edge as it displays the beauty of diversity while telling about how it is being attacked.

Cultures on the Edge updates twice per year and combines pictorial essays with compelling articles filled with even more images. The two main sections, "Gallery" and "Learn," present the travels of seasoned photographers and writers who have witnessed unforgettable people and lands over the years. These daredevil professionals include Steve McCurry, who first published photos of Afghanistan's conflict with Russia; Ron Haviv, who alerted the world to the horrors in Bosnia; and Peter Magubane, author of 12 books on the people of Africa and a crusader against apartheid.

The "Learn" section features essays under "Hot Topics," such as Brett McEwen's look at the war-battered town of Mae Sot, Thailand, and reports such as Scott Fursaro's coverage of Saipan's sweatshops and Toni Greaves' stop in Bhutan under "Articles."

Miss Greaves' article explores the small Buddhist kingdom between the Assam plain of India and the crest of the Himalayan range in Tibet. Visitors learn of the area's beauty through a pop-up window featuring 20 photographs as well as a narrative discussing festivals and thoughts on the area's westernization.

The site really excels in its use of images to tell the most compelling tales, and "Gallery" gives visitors a visual smorgasbord. One series highlights life in the Andes through the lens of Pablo Corral Vega. After reading the introductory text, I clicked on his photo journal to view a window showing a map of his journey as well as numerous photos that can be enlarged to show some stunning sights.

Visitors travel from Patagonia, Argentina, to the Altiplano of Peru and Boliva to see such eye-catching sights as a celebration for the Day of the Holy Cross, a coastal shot from Ecuador and a pre-Colombian ritual from the Salasaca Indians.

Ease of use:

The most amazing aspect of the site is the feeling of hope that pervades it hope that more photojournalists will add more content and hope that someone will do something to preserve the heritage of the people it highlights.

Visitors without speedier Internet connections will want to look around, but everyone entering the site will need Internet Explorer, Macromedia's Flash 4, Adobe Acrobat and Quicktime or Real Player plug-ins.

Don't miss:

Photographer Steve McCurry shares the many powerful moments he has experienced while traveling through South and Southeast Asia for the past 20 years in the essay "South Southeast: The Journey of a Lifetime." Visitors also can see an interview with Mr. McCurry in which he answers questions on such topics as photography and its impact on social change, the experience of the Gulf war, how he chooses subjects to photograph and the most interesting aspects of being a photographer.

Family activity:

The site offers no formal activity for everyone, but I suggest stopping by a natural-history museum to learn about cultures that have become extinct and the reasons why.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Parents should be aware that some of the photos contain nudity of the National Geographic type. Younger children will not find much to do on the site other than look at the amazing pictures, but Miss Shaughnessy hopes that will change soon with the addition of games and quizzes. Until then, students, explorers and activists will be inspired by the presentations, no matter their age.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).


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