Love comes in many forms and varieties. There’s love of family, children, pets and even for items such as chocolate and coffee, all to varying degrees of intensity.
There’s also love for a country and its people, whether a native country or an adopted one. It was this love that brought Luke Somers to Yemen in 2011.
He arrived in Sana’a to teach English, though he quickly shifted focus to capture the people and events as events of the Arab Spring moved through the country, recalled his mother, Paula Somers.
“He always was interested in the Middle East,” she said of her son.
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Luke lived with Paula in her Key Peninsula home beginning in 2007 prior to leaving for Yemen.
Luke was taken hostage by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Sept. 17, 2013 while exiting a Yemeni grocery store. The first rescue attempt from the U.S. government was made in November 2014 following authorization by President Barack Obama.
A second rescue attempt occurred on December 6, 2014, following a video received two days earlier where Luke’s captors threatened to execute him if their demands were not met. Luke, 33, and a fellow captive, a South African teacher name Pierre Korkie, were retrieved gravely wounded by their captors. Both men died shortly after rescue.
Yemen was on Luke’s radar for a long time. He left as an English professor in Yemen and he was ecstatic about that. It wasn’t as much about him teaching English as it was about him being in Yemen.
Luke’s family received two proof of life videos from his captors and also viewed security footage from the Yemeni grocery store taken just prior to his September abduction.
“That was one of the most heartbreaking things, to see Luke as Luke moments before he was taken,” Paula said.
Luke’s open and welcoming nature made him popular with locals wherever he traveled, and this familiarity helped him capture the spirit of Yemen and the people who lived there, said Luke’s younger brother, Jordan.
“Yemen was on Luke’s radar for a long time,” Jordan explained. “He left as an English professor in Yemen and he was ecstatic about that. It wasn’t as much about him teaching English as it was about him being in Yemen.”
It was too difficult to do any of these things in the beginning. But now we feel more ready to celebrate Luke. I don’t think we could have done this until now.
Luke worked as a freelance photojournalist for the National Yemen and Yemen Times, along with work featured in The New York Times, Al Jazeera and the BBC.
“(Luke) had no real agenda when it came to the photography,” Jordan said. “Unlike a lot of other people in the profession or in photography, he just tried to keep it as authentic as possible with his photography. Just anything that he was genuinely taken by.”
To celebrate Luke’s life and the work he created while living in Yemen, his family is hosting a photo exhibit of Luke’s photography at Seattle University, Jordan’s alma mater.
“Initially, it was just to celebrate Luke’s life. Luke has so much to say and so much to show,” Jordan said.
Luke is such a rare breed of person in this world that had this fearlessness. Luke being himself, being the person he was, did a lot to promote positive change in a worldly standpoint.
Putting the exhibit together has been an emotional experience for Paula and Jordan as they look through Luke’s photos and decide which to include in the exhibit.
“It was too difficult to do any of these things in the beginning. But now we feel more ready to celebrate Luke,” Paula said. “I don’t think we could have done this until now.”
A YouCaring fundraiser has been set up to cover the cost of the exhibit and has exceeded its $4K target. Along with sharing Luke’s work and celebrating his life, the exhibit is also designed to show the humanity and bridge widespread misunderstandings of the culture, Jordan explained.
“Luke is such a rare breed of person in this world that had this fearlessness,” he said. “Luke being himself, being the person he was, did a lot to promote positive change in a worldly standpoint.”
Luke Somers photo exhibit
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 29 to May 1
Where: Seattle University’s Casey Building
For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2nUoaxz.