I already posted about my interview, but I did not include all my interviews or all that ultimately happened as this post was written early on. So I’ve decided to summarize everything here.
After having problems finding the email to Zahra Kazemi’s son, I decided to email photojournalists who worked in the same areas as her. Following a lot of Google searches, I sent fifteen emails. Four photojournalists replied: two whose schedules didn’t match mine and two who I was able to interview.
- Roger Lemoyne, a photojournalist from Montreal, offered me a twenty minute phone conversation. I used the full time allotment and he was very helpful, answering my questions in detail. Part of his willingness to be interview may have come from the fact that he had two kids himself.
- Keith Bedford, another photojournalist, replied to all my original questions by email. He then offered to answer any other questions I had so I sent him a second set and he answered those as well. Although I did not get as much information from these interviews as they were by email and not by phone, they were still very helpful.
I finally found a working email address for Stephan Kazemi and received a response about two weeks before Night of the Notables. He sent me an extremely nice email and offered a phone interview. After a few more back and forths, we settled on Remembrance Day as I was home from school all day.
What I had expected to be another twenty minute interview turned into an hour and fifteen minute interview. As long as I kept prompting him, Stephan Kazemi would talk for several minutes, weaving between different topics and storied about his mother. He would even verify a few answers with his friend, apparently in the same room. At the end of the interview, Stephan Kazemi told me that I was the first person to ask about his mother as a person, not just interview him about her death. This may have been a big part of the reason he was willing to spend so much time with me.
Even after the interview, he continued to answer any questions I had. He also asked to edit my speech for acuracy before I presented it, which he did in great detail. In total, he has sent me seven emails.
Though Stephan Kazemi’s interview was by far the best, I am very glad I had all three. The comparison between the different approaches to photojournalism gave me an even greater appreciation for Zahra Kazemi. While Keith Bredford in particular talked about trying to get as many assignments as possible, Zahra Kazemi worked exclusively on the stories she thought were important to tell, never those she was assigned to cover. For her, it was not about money. The same can’t be said for my other interviewees.
Tips for a Good Interview
- Interviews are very valuable. Go the extra mile to get one.
- Send lots of emails so that at least a few are likely to reply
- Send emails to different types of people related to your eminent person ( a variety of perspectives helps)
- Ask questions in your email that couldn’t be found online. If they think you are interviewing them so that you don’t have to do any research of your own, they won’t answer.
- Do a phone interview if you can because you will get much more information and much more detailed information. I wasn’t convinced at first but am now definitely sold on the merits of phone interviews.
- Prepare lots of questions for your phone interviews (at least 20-25)
- Research your interviewee ahead of time so that you can ask better questions
- Compliment your interviewee’s work in you original email and during your interview
- Say lots of thank yous at the end of a phone conversation.
- Send thank you letters immediately after your interview as it shows a lot more appreciation that an email two weeks later.
My email to Stephan Kazemi
(insert name, grade, address, email, phone number)
Nov 1 2009
Dear Stephen Hashemi,
My class is assigned a school project to research a person of our choice who we consider eminent. This is a major assignment, one in which we are expected to try to fully understand the person we study, including not only their accomplishments but also how they developed themselves to become such role models and the drive behind their work. I was immediately drawn to Ziba Kazemi. She has inspired me with her efforts to expose human rights abuses and fight for freedom through photojournalism.
However, I have not found resources that satisfy my angle of interest. There are numerous articles chronicling her death and the aftermath, including Canada’s resistance to take significant action and Iran’s attempts to cover up the facts. Yet, what I consider eminent about Ziba Kazemi is her life and the motivation behind her work, not simply her death.
I wonder what sparked her interest in photojournalism. Did her childhood in Iran have any role in inspiring her to fight for human rights? How did the people she met and photographed influence her? Are there any personal stories or anecdotes that encapsulate her spirit or her personality? These are the sorts of answers I have not been able to find. I am also wondering if there is any way you could direct me to somewhere where I could get a hold of any of the films she produced during the 1970s an 1980s.
I would be extremely grateful if you would be willing to share some of this information with me. It would be wonderful if I could interview you, either by telephone or by e-mail. Would that be possible? If you would prefer, I can speak French as well.
Thank you so much for your time,