The work of photojournalist and one-time Key Peninsula resident Luke Somers will be exhibited in a show at Seattle University April 29 to May 1.
Somers was abducted by tribesmen belonging to al-Qaida in Yemen in September 2013 and died during a failed rescue attempt by U.S. forces in December 2014. He was 33 years old.
“We don’t want people to forget Luke and what he was doing,” said his mother, Paula Somers, of Lake Holiday. “He was a brilliant photographer and writer, and we just want it to be known.” She and her son, Jordan Somers, are organizing the exhibit. They also plan to make Luke’s photos available for purchase, with proceeds going to a charity in Yemen.
Paula Somers has lived on the KP for nine years. Luke Somers lived with her in Palmer Lake from May 2009 to February 2011 while taking a course to learn how to teach English in a foreign country and developing his photography skills. He went to high school in Renton and attended Beloit University, where he graduated in 2008 after studying abroad in Morocco and Egypt. He worked in various parts of the United States, including Washington, D.C., and Alaska, and had volunteered abroad, when he decided to teach overseas.
“He came across something online about this job in Yemen, which he was sort of ecstatic about because he preferred that part of the world,” Paula Somers said. “That was February 2011, so it was the middle of the Arab Spring.”
Somers arrived in Sana’a, Yemen, in 2011 as an English teacher. He was popular with his students and colleagues, but gradually shifted to become a full-time freelance journalist working for Yemeni newspapers and submitting photos to The New York Times, Al Jazeera and the BBC.
“He felt so at home in Yemen,” his mother said. “He loved the people. He took pictures of lots of everyday sorts of things that other journalists weren’t doing, like a women’s bowling team or children painting on a bullet-ridden wall. He admired these people so much.”
In 2012, Somers began work as a copy editor and photographer for the National Dialogue Conference between local and foreign government officials and tribal leaders working on a peace agreement.
“He was actually about to come home, right before this (abduction) happened,” his mother said. “We hadn’t seen him for a few years and he was ordering clothes off of eBay and having them ready here for when, you know, he got back. He was going to be back by Thanksgiving, but the conference just kept going on. In the end, it didn’t fare too well.”
Somers was abducted in September 2013. He and a second hostage were killed in December 2014 during a rescue attempt.
“We were just flooded by emails and messages from Yemen, from so many people who I keep in touch with now,” Paula Somers said.
The photography exhibit, “A Luke Somers Retrospective: A Day in the Life of Yemen,” will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 29 to May 1, at Seattle University, Casey Building, fifth floor. For more information, go to www.youcaring.com/jordanandpaulasomers.