Dani Meier believes a silent photo can raise an alarm as loud as a siren.
He said the 71 images taken by Ludington photographer Ryan Spencer Reed are "a compelling wake-up call" to Americans about the crisis in the war-torn African country of Sudan.
Reed's photos will be on display at the Jackson Symphony Orchestra rehearsal hall, 215 W. Michigan Ave., beginning Saturday.
Reed spent more than two years in and around Sudan, documenting the refugee camps in Chad and Kenya and following two of the rebel groups, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and the Justice Equality Movement.
Twenty years of civil war in Sudan resulted in a ceasefire in 2002, but the violence hasn't stopped. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the Darfur region of Sudan in 2004 and told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Sudanese government and a militia group it backs, known as the Janjaweed, have been systematically killing non-Arab Sudanese. Both sides are Muslim.
No one has produced a definite count of the dead and displaced in Sudan. Two independent estimates put the total number of deaths at roughly 400,000 since the conflict was renewed two years ago. Meier said Reed has told him about 2.5 million have died since 1983, many from starvation and from diseases that easily could be treated.
An estimated 1.2 million Sudanese are in refugee camps, but many others likely have fled the region altogether.
Jacob Atem is one of them.
Atem's parents were killed in 1983, when the civil war began. As a child, he made his way across the desert, into a refugee camp and to the United States, where he now is a student and soccer player at Spring Arbor University.
Meier said Atem will talk about being one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" during an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Reed also will be there to talk about his images, which will show the grief at a child's funeral, the raw conditions of medical facilities, and the strict rationing of food at the refugee camps.
"His goal is to be part of documenting an aspect of history that is taking place and is largely being ignored by the mainstream media," Meier said, "and to provoke people into not being complacent about it."
Meier, a social worker and counselor at Jackson High School, said he found sponsors and a site for this exhibit because he wants his students to see it.
"I haven't been an activist by any means for Darfur," he said. "But I saw the images and was moved in a different way."
He put a note in the invitations to the exhibit's opening that acknowledged the difficulty in focusing on tragedies on another continent, when so many have been displaced by hurricanes in the American South.
"We can only dig deep inside ourselves to draw on the best of American humanitarian ideals, applying international pressure on Sudan even as we also reach out to our Gulf Coast neighbors with all the help we can muster," Meier said. "It's not an either/or. It's both."
The photo exhibit is not a fund-raiser, Meier said, but the photos will be for sale.