Marcus Bleasdale on 'Walter Mitty' and Intel Going Conflict-Free
Marcus Bleasdale begins 2014 with two triumphs: His photograph of a displaced camp in eastern Congo features prominently in Ben Stiller's new movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and thanks in part to his work, each microprocessor shipped by Intel this year will be made entirely with conflict-free minerals.
In "Walter Mitty," the titular character, a magazine photo editor played by Stiller, sets off in search of a critical photo negative taken by a well-known photographer (Sean Penn). "A defining moment in the film," writes National Geographic, is when "Penn's character suddenly comes to life in a photograph and gestures for Walter Mitty to come toward him." That photo, shot by Bleasdale, was published in his 2009 book "The Rape of a Nation," and other images from the series ran in Nat Geo's October 2013 anniversary issue.
"I thought the whole endeavor was interesting," Bleasdale told B&A. "I'm always a bit reserved when fictional representations use real work, but once it was clear that it was going to be respectful and there would be hope and discussion coming from the images, I was very comfortable."
For Bleasdale, Intel's commitment to using conflict-free minerals is slightly more exciting than his big-screen debut; during the past decade he has tried to engage electronic manufacturers in dialogue about mining tin, tantalum, and tungsten. "Intel is leading the market in understanding how it and its industry can solve the mineral use issue," he explained. "The company has been tagging the products that leave the mines in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the tags are tracked during every step of the process until they reach the smelters in Asia," facilities that Intel now regularly visits.
He pointed out that although the Intel microprocessors are conflict-free, the machines that contain them aren't. "We don't yet have a product that we can stamp 'conflict-free,' but Intel is calling on the rest of the industry to step up," he noted. "I think soon, it will become a consumer issue – consumers will increasingly want to know where their products come from and what's inside of them. Then it becomes a purchase decision and once it's a purchase decision, every manufacturer will want to create conflict-free products."
"Without the people who work on the ground, like The Enough Project, and media outlets pushing the images of conflict, these things don't change," Bleasdale added. "If you put photography in the right hands with the right partnerships, it can be extraordinarily powerful. This is a testament to that."