JULY 2012: James Loewen, an independent photographer and filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada, has become the intactivist movement’s unofficial documentarian. Thanks to his video interviews—which have been viewed on YouTube more than half a million times—dozens of anti-circumcision activists have been given an audience and the opportunity to tell their story. James Loewen
James became aware of circumcision when he was just seven years old, noticing that he had been cut as an infant. When he confronted his mother with questions, she became uncharacteristically angry, and refused to talk about it. As a teenager, James started to talk more openly with friends about it; later, after reading articles about botched circumcisions and foreskin restoration efforts, he realized that this issue went far beyond his own personal experience. “In 1993, I happened upon the book The Joy of Uncircumcising by Jim Bigelow, and life as I’d known it forever changed. For the first time I heard many other voices raised against circumcision, all written from an informed and scholarly perspective.” He reached out to organizations such as the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), met with Marilyn Milos, and attended NOCIRC Symposia on the issue of child genital mutilation. That same year, when he heard about a demonstration against infant circumcision happening in San Francisco, James drove down from Vancouver to photograph it… and he’s been documenting the movement ever since.
“My contribution to intactivism is through my camera,” James explains. “Initially I realized the importance of documenting these protest events, which had no historical precedent. More recently, out of frustrationJames Loewen with still images that could not convey the wisdom of the people who had studied this subject, and taking my cues from the audio tapes Marilyn Milos had produced from the early NOCIRC Symposia, I began video interviewing intactivists.” His video channel on YouTube now has almost 700 subscribers, and his subjects include intactivist pioneers such as Marilyn Milos and Amber Craig, as well as “man on the street” interviews of everyday people and their thoughts on circumcision.
In June 2011, he interviewed Intact America’s Executive Director, Georganne Chapin. “I hold James Loewen in the highest esteem as an interviewer, photographer and filmmaker,” she said recently. “But even more, I admire him as a kind and deeply insightful friend. If you look at the interviews James has filmed, you will see that all of his subjects—without exception—are open and interesting. This is a result of James’ gently probing questions, and a demeanor that conveys safety and trust. We are very lucky to have James as a chronicler of the intactivist movement.”
“I’ve always drawn my inspiration from those unafraid to speak up against injustice,” James says. “Currently I am elated by the upsurge of new intactivists applying their unique talents to this most important human rights issue. I’m very pleased to be associated with Intact America and support their efforts to educate and enlighten. I feel I’ve only just begun.”