The life work and photography of Dr Glenn Losack.
Dr Glenn Losack is a physician, psychiatrist, photographer, musician, composer, world traveler, and an advocate for the impoverished, social outcasts, and, leprosy foundations. Can such a person be anything less than a hero and a model for the benevolence that is all too rare in humanity. As he seems to go about his hard work quietly and without fanfare, I am not even sure he realizes what an amazingly important person he is in the 21st century. Dr Losack is a man to be admired, emulated, and honored, and nothing short of this.
Being all that I just mentioned above, as if that were not enough for any of us to manage, Dr Glenn Losack is also a world traveler, a seasoned and award-winning photographer, an international medical lecturer, and a charity worker with a surprisingly cynical, sardonic, wry, usually pessimistic outlook on life. He is a great lover of Indian food, Guinness and the Beatles. After 15 years on the couch & headed for his second couch, he is still nonplussed about this absurd, preposterous, cockamamie life we all lead. Home base is in the East Village of Manhatten ( where else?), when he is stateside, that is until COVID-19 forced him to self-contain at home this winter. ❄️❄️❄️
I finally get the chance to get to know the world-renowned photographer, musician, and physician. While in psychiatric residency together, we were a year apart in our studies, but our lives were on totally different wavelengths at the time. We often crossed paths back then, but we nearly uttered a word to each other.
Thirty years later, I stumble upon his extremely impressionable photography that touched me in my gut and moved my heart to the core. I felt I had to finally had to reach out to this man at this point in my life. I could not let him escape again. I was foolish to allow him to escape my reach back in the 1980s as we both struggles through psychiatric residency at Roosevelt Hospital of the West Side of Midtown Manhattan. He left residency about a year before me. Since that time, I’ve been completely unaware of his tremendous accomplishments.
By emotionally connecting through emails, Dr Losack and I became acquainted on a level that I never would have imagined. I am drawn to his artistically composed photographs of the human condition all across the earth. India, however, would be the perfect location for Dr Losack to focus his creativity to capture stunning images demonstrating the conditions of life under which most of humanity lives on Earth.
Through his love of travel, he has been lead to the documentation of leprosy and other human illness throughout the world. This amazing exposure of suffering on this earth awakens many people. I imagine, many other people might wish they were never forced to visually witness these atrocities in India and elsewhere; however once you see his artistry through photography, your life is profoundly touched forever. You cannot forget what you see in his art.
Realizing life is short & getting shorter, wanting to be more than “just a doctor”, making money, and living in a fish bowl, like his colleagues, Dr. Losack semi-retired from his medical practice at the ripe old age of forty to pursue his true passions: Circling the globe many times eastward and westward, living a good part of the year in the third world, and doing things his colleagues say they “will do”, but they never do.
He considers himself lucky to have travelled in over 50 nations but is honored & humbled to have had the experience of photographing India and other third world nations thousands of years old.
Begging at Jama Masjid, India, “there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ― Mahatma Gandhi.
We are all one family on earth with one common enemy. Many millions are suffering worldwide and grief is shared by all In Jaipur.
“Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.” — Kofi Annan, Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” — Aristotle, Greek philosopher.
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” — Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader.
“Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.” — Eli Khamarov, writer feeding the poor, Hanuman temple in New Delhi.
Because of his stunning, enticing and dramatic photographic images, the beauty of his work entices us to see all that exists in our world – beautiful landscapes, but mostly the poor suffering with leprosy, the malnourished in India, the homeless beggars, etc…. colors, composition, the eyes and souls of suffering people everywhere draw us into his corner of the world. He shows us haunting images of individuals, any of whom could have been us.
The suffering we see is all around the world, each of of sees it or experiences it, or both. Yet, we try to avoid it, deny it, run away from it. What is this power that Dr Losack processes that temps us to be a voyeur of the terrible suffering and pain of those in a more than dreadful situation.
Does it make me feel guilty or responsible to be attracted to such colorful, beautifully grotesque images? I wonder what is my role, my duty, and my responsibility as I witness these almost pornographic images of the miserable, suffering, lepers of the world. These often difficult photographic images are tastefully mixed with those of amputees, beggars, and homeless adults and children barely clothed in rags.
Yet somehow, Dr Losack manages to document these tremendously important pictures in a manner where he shows us the truth in the world, without taking advantage of the human dignity of these individuals, all of whom process the same feelings as us (emotional and physical). He highlights their plight on earth and forces us to ask ourselves what should we be doing to help change the dreadful status of their lives.
Somehow Dr Losack has the gift to sensitively balance our pornographic attraction to voyeuristic, grotesque images of human misery on an unforeseen scale, along with our wondering about how can we help. Is it adequate for us to write a check to the Leprocy Mission to help alleviate suffering of millions ? This act of sterile donation may, in fact, be a necessary evil, to bring funds to those who need the treatment most. Perhaps writing a tax-deductible contribution alleviates the guilt in our soul, but this action of, so called benevolence, seems too clean and sterile to me. It’s an easy way out for most well-to do Westerners who are more concerned about their bottom line at tax time than about the root cause of this enormous problem of poverty, illness, and suffering. In the end, if this is how mankind will manage to control this scourge by the goal of 2035, then I think the end justifies the means in this case.
How is it possible that leprosy was nearly eradicated from the Sub-continent by an effective multi-medical regimen in the 1980s, only to have it resurge afterwards, due to poor management of of that country’s eradication program. In spite of this failure of eradication, currently effective medications, psychosocial programs including adequate follow up, and world-wide awareness and education, brings light to the possibility that this disease might actually be controlled in 15 years. This scourge on humanity, which has been tormenting mankind and creating large leper colonies and groups of isolated, affected individuals since about 2000 B.C., might soon be eradicated once and for all.
The oldest skeletal evidence for the disease6 dates from 2000 B.C., as found in human remains from the archaeological sites of Balathal in India and Harappa in Pakistan. Leprosy has been tormenting mankind, creating large, isolated leper colonies, and creating groups of social outcasts for over four millennia.
A new global strategy is launched with 3 priorities: 1) Zero leprosy transmission by 2035; 2) zero leprosy disability; and 3) zero leprosy discrimination. The Leprosy Mission is a global Christian NGO. They are the largest and oldest player in the fight against leprosy and are working towards the goal of zero leprosy transmission by 2035. Their vision and moto is ‘leprosy defeated, lives transformed’. As well as working towards zero leprosy transmission, The Leprosy Mission is committed to achieving zero disabilities and zero discrimination as a consequence of leprosy.
Yet, somehow, I feel guilty because I realize that I am enjoying this voyeuristic orgy of human decadence mixed with exquisite photography. How can we reconcile our feelings with such drastic images of pain, misery, and starvation. I am not sure “enjoy” is the correct word to express my experience, but I am indeed privileged to see much of what Dr Losack’s sharp, artistic eye captures at exactly the right moment. How many trips to India would I have had to make to witness the neglect of human rights and lack of human decency that Dr Losack catches through the objective of his camera and his skill for capturing the perfect moment ?
Most of us do not have the wonderful opportunity to visit India, South Asia, or many other third word countries, but Dr Losack provides us with a free round-trip ticket to hell, sometimes garnished with beauty on the periphery of the photograph. In other images, he shows us the exquisite landscapes found nowhere else on earth. We experience how fortunate we are in our comfy digs in the West, compared to millions of these assumed disposable humans, suffering on the Sub-continent. We seem to voyeuristically witness terrible misery and suffering, and then escape this unbearable country, while our subjects are forced to live out their lives as unknown entities until their last day. We can leave when the emotions evoked in the photos are too intensely painful to bare, but those who live there have no way out.
Do we have an obligation to help ? If so, what do we do and how? Dr Losack’s photography affects me deeply emotionally and makes me more aware of the tremendous amount of human pain and suffering throughout every continent. I am forced to act in the most effective way possible for me. I can only hope his photography affects most others observers with an equally powerful impact. If this is true, he is well on the way to accomplishing one of his most important goals. This ranks him as a hero to me, especially in the eradication of leprosy.
This unspeakable poverty we see occurs not only where Dr Losack photographs, but also takes place in much of Africa, Southeast Asia, much of Asia in general, on the Arabian Peninsula, in the Middle East and in the favelas and rain forests of South America, as we destroy their natural habitats. Leprosy, now also called Hansen’s Disease is found in the Caribbean, the South Pacific Islands, Central America, and to the United States and Europe via all routes of human migration. Gratefully, Dr Losack brings this gigantic tragedy to the forefront, so that the date of eradication by 2035 actually seems like a realistic goal, thanks to the cooperation of the World Health Organization.
If Dr Losack’s photographic genius affects other people as much as it does me, I believe his goal to improve the lives of millions of people on this Earth is a reality. I do not understand how a human with a conscience, a soul, empathy, and feeling for fellow humans cannot be motivated to act to the best of his ability in diminishing human suffering on our planet.
Now, with the recent pandemic of COVID-19 rending human suffering even more acute and intense, any person with a heart and empathy will be even more motivated to help his neighbors on our home called Earth. Dr Losack’s photography of the third world show us for how long our fellow human beings has been living a life of poverty, misery, and suffering. I believe his work is a great motivator to force people to think about problems greater than just themselves. Glenn, I cannot thank you enough for helping to open my eyes, so I can more vigorously act on a world scale to assist those in desperate life situations. I am also confident that your profound photography will motivate others to act equally profoundly on a global scale to assist others is desperate need. You are truly a good person with a very kind heart.
Dr Glenn Losack’s photo collection on flickr :
Glenn Losack MD’s photo collection on flickr :
Dr Losack’s photo gallery that displays over 8,000 photos taken over 40 years of travel