Photojournalist, activist Jim Harney dies at 68

Posted Dec. 31, 2008, at 8:51 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Photojournalist Jim Harney of Bangor, a former Catholic priest and longtime activist who traveled the world documenting the poor and the effects of poverty, died Friday, Dec. 26.

Harney, 68, had been diagnosed with a rare cancer of the salivary glands which had metasticized to his lungs, said his longtime partner, Nancy Minott. He died at home.

After his cancer diagnosis, Harney announced last July that he had organized “The Longest Walk” event to bring attention to immigration injustices. He planned to walk from Boston to Washington, D.C., but made it as far as Providence, R.I.

Harney was the artist-in-residence for Posibilidad, a Bangor-based nonprofit group that seeks to highlight the issues of undocumented workers who have been displaced by globalization.

He frequently gave presentations on globalization and its impact on the poor, according to the Posibilidad Web site. His most recent international project, “The Undocumented,” grew out of Harney’s trips to the U.S.-Mexico and Mexico-Guatemala borders where he walked with undocumented people who wanted to find work in the U.S. He also spent time in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia and El Salvador.

After his trips abroad, Harney did slide show presentations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“He had a deep faith and belief that the most vulnerable on the planet would lead us,” Minott said. “He never lost that. … He would just travel back and forth and he started photographing [his travels], bringing back those photos of faces. He would do talks, about where, why, what was our place in that, how we can influence government as Americans.”

In January 2003 Harney spent eight days in Iraq with Voices in the Wilderness, a Chicago-based Peace and Justice Group. Upon his return to the U.S. Harney traveled around Maine, Massachusetts and Maryland showing “Faces of Iraq,” a traveling photography exhibition and presentation about the views of the Iraqi people on the role of the U.S. in the world.

Minott said the two events that most influenced his life were the Vietnam War and Vatican II, the councils that met in the 1960s which opened up the church. Harney was one of the Milwaukee 14, a group of priests and activists who burned some 10,000 Selective Service records during an anti-war demonstration in 1968.

He also became interested in globalization and the economy. Five years ago, Minott said, Harney predicted the global economic struggles seen today.

Harney was born in Cambridge, Mass., and moved to Bangor in 1990 to help Bangor-based Peace through Interamerican Community Action organize a bond with the city of Carasque in El Salvador. The two cities are sister cities.

A public memorial will be held sometime in February, Minott said. Information will be released in an obituary. Harney’s walk will be revived by solidarity groups and continued in March, Minott added.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

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