Bearing Witness

Through his photography and films, Ed Kashi, who will receive the ASN President's Medal at Kidney Week, has documented how climate change and chronic kidney disease have become a public health crisis and social injustice.

This November at Kidney Week, ASN will award Ed Kashi its prestigious President's Medal for helping to lead the fight against kidney disease through education, sharing new knowledge, research, and advocacy. 

Ed Kashi is a renowned photojournalist, filmmaker, speaker and educator who has been capturing images and telling stories for 40 years. His restless creativity has continually placed him at the forefront of new approaches to visual storytelling. Dedicated to documenting the social and political issues that define our times, a sensitive eye and an intimate and compassionate relationship to his subjects are signatures of his intense and unsparing work. As a member of VII Photo Agency, Kashi has been recognized for his complex imagery and its compelling rendering of the human condition.

“I take on issues that stir my passions about the state of humanity and our world, and I deeply believe in the power of still images to change people’s minds,” he says. “I’m driven by this fact; that the work of photojournalists and documentary photographers can have a positive impact on the world. The access people give to their lives is precious as well as imperative for this important work to get done. Their openness brings with it a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but to also honor their stories.”

His photography and films have raised awareness about chronic kidney disease resulting from climate change and extreme heat in various regions of the world, including Peru, India, Nicaragua, and Qatar. 

In his short film, With Every Breath, Kashi documents the impact of chronic kidney disease from undetermined causes (CKDu), which kills thousands of people each year. The film captures the experience of Mary Pacherres, a young woman living with the disease in Peru who faces pain, fear, and the grim reality of dialysis. 

In Hidden Under the Indian Sun, Kashi takes us to southeastern India to see the effects CKDu has on workers and their families. The film follows a young student, Maheshwari, whose father is on dialysis and now unable to dig wells in the rice fields since being diagnosed with CKDu. Her dedication to her studies and her dreams of becoming an engineer are threatened, as she is duty bound to care for her father. Her story illustrates the collateral impact of this disease on families, particularly the younger generations.

In Under the Cane, we visit the town of Chichigalpa, in Nicaragua, also known as the “Island of Widows,” where 1-in-3 men, mostly those who harvest sugarcane, have end-stage renal failure. Research on the subject of CKDu indicates that repeated dehydration, severe heat, and environmental toxins is a likely factor in the rising death toll among sugarcane workers. In Central America alone, over 20,000 sugarcane workers have died from CKDu in the past decade.

Over the last ten years, Kashi has also photographed the severe impacts of chronic kidney disease of non-traditional origin (CKDnt) in various hot zones, including El Salvador, India, Nicaragua, Peru, and Sri Lanka. “This deadly illness typically found in hot climates, primarily impacts poor, rural agricultural workers,” he says. “Given the lack of medical attention, CKDnT is devastating communities, families and individuals who are caught between precarious work, inactive governments, abusive employers, and inhuman labor practices.”

Kashi frequently lectures on a wide range of topics for arts institutions, universities, schools and professional organizations. His work has been published and exhibited worldwide, receiving numerous awards and honors. Through his editorial assignments and personal projects, he has published 14 books, including Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, THREE, Photojournalisms, and most recently, Abandoned Moments: A Love Letter to Photography, which was named Photo Book of the Year by the International Photo Award.

In 2002, Kashi founded Talking Eyes Media in partnership with his wife, writer + filmmaker Julie Winokur. The non-profit company has produced numerous award-winning short films, exhibits, books, and multimedia pieces that explore significant social issues. They are currently engaged in an 8-year storytelling project with Rutgers University in Newark focused on immigration for which they recently received a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

To learn more about Kashi’s work, visit