Peter van Agtmael Chronicles the Frontlines of War in the 21st Century

Magnum Photos member Peter van Agtmael shares his journey as a conflict photographer, and the importance of adopting an open, questioning approach to photojournalism.

While at Yale, van Agtmael also developed a more critical approach to the mythos of America he had consumed as a youth. His friends, Chesa Boudin, now the District Attorney of San Francisco, and Sarah Sillman, currently a staff writer at The New Yorker, shared their perspectives on “how power is used to manipulate people across the political spectrum into a status quo narrative of the nature of American power and justice,” helping him to see beneath the surface of things and find a new way to engage.

The Twenty Years War

Peter van Agtmael has been documenting the Twenty Year War since its very beginning. I first spoke with him in 2007 and then again ten years later. He has published a number of books, all of them essential records of a country too embroiled in its own senseless militarism to recognise the folly of it all. There’s Disco Night Sept. 11, there is Buzzing at the Sill, and now there is Sorry for the War.

Fifty Years On...

  I stumble a bit, me, the former Math major, when I try and do the 'math.'   Last fall was fifty years:   I arrived in Vietnam in October 1...

When I told John I was heading to Vietnam, he said to me… “do a story for me -  call it  Children of War…”    I paused, then bagan to ask, “John, what do you want me to do… ?”  and before I could finish the sentence, he said “No, no!  You tell ME the Story.  YOU’re the journalist, your pictures should show ME the story.”  Over the decades since, I have been immensely glad for that teaching moment.

Blind – When War Reporters Document Peace

The VII Foundation presents a new book by photographer Gary Knight. Imagine: Reflections on Peace (also published in French as Imagine: Penser la paix), created in collaboration with several photo reporters and journalists, is a collection of 200 images accompanied by reflections on the imperfect construction of peace.

Photos: The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War

After six weeks of armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, a peace agreement, a handover of disputed territories, and mourning

One week ago, on November 10, a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement was signed by the president of Azerbaijan and the prime minister of Armenia, ending six weeks of warfare over disputed territory in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It is estimated that thousands of fighters and more than a hundred civilians were killed in the fierce conflict. Nagorno-Karabakh—officially part of Azerbaijan, but controlled by ethnic Armenians—broke away from Azerbaijan in a six-year-long war that ended in 1994, but was never completely resolved. In September of this year, simmering conflicts broke out into war once again, with each side blaming the other for escalations. The new ceasefire agreement cedes control of large areas of disputed territory back to Azerbaijan, and places 2,000 Russian soldiers in the area to act as peacekeepers. As the handover date approached last weekend, some villagers set their own homes on fire before fleeing to Armenia.
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Categorized as War

He lost both legs and an arm to a bomb but still fights for others

Photographer and triple amputee Giles Duley – who lost his legs and an arm to an IED on assignment in Afghanistan – explains why losing his limbs has made him even more passionate about highlighting human suffering.

“People have asked me if I regret going to Afghanistan and whether any one photograph is worth losing your legs for,” says Duley, who is currently engaged on a long-term project photographing health workers in Britain and their battle to contain the coronavirus.

I Went to Iraq to Take Photographs. I Stayed On as a Medic.

My plan was to photograph women displaced by ISIS. But in Mosul, I quickly found myself trying to save lives.

When I first arrived in Iraq a week earlier, I had no intention of going to Mosul. In addition to being a nurse, I’m a photojournalist. My original plan was to photograph women living in displaced-persons camps. But then I met Pete, an E.M.T. and a former United States Marine. For the past several months, he had been in Iraq running a mobile medical team founded by Slovak medics and made up of foreign volunteers. Most of the medical facilities operated by humanitarian aid organizations were located far from the fighting, too far to treat severely wounded trauma patients in time. Because civilian trauma care was not close by, and the Iraqi security forces’ mandate was to only treat military victims, Pete’s team made a deal: Bring us civilians, and we will boost your capacity to treat your own men. They agreed.

Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 7 February, 2020

This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – the 10th annual Women’s show at Magnet Galleries, Melbourne, plus a review of Dr. Lauren Walsh’s exceptional book, Conversation…

For those of us who work in journalism the myth of the cavalier photojournalist who rushes toward conflict with zeal is well established. Robert Capa’s famous comment about photographers needing to get close to the action in order to capture the best picture is part of industry folklore. Don McCullin has spoken about the adrenalin rush of going to war, likening it to drug addiction. Tim Page’s antics during the Vietnam War have been immortalised in pop culture, Dennis Hopper’s character in the movie Apocalypse Now modelled on the British photographer. Yet while there are those who are lauded as celebrities, the vast majority of conflict photojournalists work in the background, committing themselves to covering some of the world’s darkest moments, to bearing witness to history, largely invisible to the outside world. Glory and money do not motivate them. In fact, these days it is more difficult to make ends meet than ever before. So what drives an individual to the frontline or to document the depths of human misery?

What’s the Point of Conflict Photography?

“I don’t see why I should care about that person.”

At the time, I was teaching a course that concentrated on conflict photography and ethics. At one point during the semester, we were studying the coverage of a famine in Sudan in the early 1990s. My students had to read about the history of that famine and about the political forces that shaped it. They studied the photojournalistic and documentary coverage of this crisis and they read critiques of that work. On the day we were to discuss the coverage of that famine, I put up an image in class; it came from the homework that was assigned to the students. It’s a black-and-white photo taken at a feeding center in Sudan and it portrays a man who is severely emaciated, as thin as you can imagine a person to be. In fact, he is so weak that he cannot stand; he’s crawling on the ground. In this sense, it’s a painful photograph that confronts you with how dire situations of suffering can be.

What is life really like for a conflict photographer?

Cengiz Yar has seen a few things in his time. But it was away from the frontlines that he came to value a universal right: having a patch to call one’s own.

Photographer Cengiz Yar has seen things – from the rebels’ battle to oust Assad in Syria, to the human fallout of conflict in Iraq. But it was away from the frontlines that he truly came to value a universal right: having a patch to call one’s own.