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Solutions: Art for a Cause

Photo: Stephanie Freid Perenchio

Photo: Stephanie Freid Perenchio

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Rebel with a Cause


Like so many others, local humanitarian documentary photographer Stephanie Freid Perenchio was captured by Sun Valley’s expansive charm and fresh air. But since moving from Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters, she has been determined to bring the outside world into Sun Valley for people to see, converse about and act upon.

When 9/11 hit the United States, Perenchio was struck by how easily one can fall into “living in a bubble,” when in reality there exists, of course, a much larger world. As she described, “I really wanted to give back to some of the people that I felt were fighting the war and letting us have the life that we have here.”  She had a connection with an officer in the Navy SEALs who ran special operations in Afghanistan and pitched him the idea of doing “A Day in the Life of a SEAL” project that would give people a better understanding of the daily sacrifices, both in the field and at home, of these men and their families.

Three orphaned elephants living at David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Africa.

Perenchio and her good friend, writer Jennifer Walton, were granted unprecedented access to pursue the project, which they worked on throughout the course of eight years, spending months at a time in Afghanistan, jumping from planes, learning to shoot guns and interviewing, and spending time with, the SEALs and their families.

During her time in Afghanistan, the people, particularly the women and children, also drew her attention and her camera. Perenchio wanted to bring the moments of peace and the realities of the humanity of Afghanistan back for the world to see.

Children of the African Pygmy peoples partake in a dance.

“Not everyone is a Taliban or al Qaeda, and not every Taliban is defined in the way our media has portrayed it,” said Perenchio. “Those soldiers are like our soldiers, fighting for their land, their purpose, their survival. Because they are a country that has been invaded for over 30 years, I think they’re just figuring out who they are as people again.”

“Most Americans never leave the country, let alone their state . . . with photography, I can make them see, understand,
and have an awareness of what is going on in the world.
That’s what drives me more than anything.”
 –Stephanie Perenchio

Driven to immerse herself in experiences across the globe in order to create change hasn’t been without challenge. She noted, “You are there to document and observe, not to solve the issue.” After a pause, she continued, “That’s a really fine line. It is always the hardest in Third World countries with children, and with the elephants and cats in Africa. All of a sudden, you come across a situation where your moral values get tested. Being reminded what your place is in this picture, it is hard to emotionally separate.”

An Afghani father and son share a juice box in front of their shop.This doesn’t stop her, as Perenchio charges ahead with a particular interest in women’s empowerment across the globe and an attraction and openness for adventure and seeing the rarely seen. “Most Americans never leave the country, let alone their state, let alone 50 miles away from their house,” she said. “With photography, I can make them see, understand, and have an awareness of what is going on in the world. That’s what drives me more than anything.”

The Stephanie Freid Perenchio Studio is located at 680 East Sun Valley Road in Ketchum and is open Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm in the winter and Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm in the summer. For more information on Perenchio’s documentary photography please visit her studio or stephaniefreidperenchio.com.


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