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.
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?
“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.
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.
Ben Brody’s book has no narrative, because, from the perspective of an American infantryman in Baghdad, the war had none.
In his new book, “Attention Servicemember,” Ben Brody recounts being sent to a Rotary Club luncheon near Fort Stewart, Georgia, to present a slide show of pictures he had taken as an Army combat photographer in Iraq. Brody’s mandate overseas had been “to photograph the war in a way that justified its existence and exaggerated its accomplishments.” At the luncheon, however, he found himself telling the Rotarians about an American soldier killed by friendly fire and showing them images of night raids and executions. “I wanted them to feel the murderous heat and arbitrary death and relentless absurdity that came with my job,” Brody writes. The effort failed: “No one stopped eating during my talk, and when I was done they clapped a little.” With “Attention Servicemember,” Brody tries again. This time, he will make you stop eating. He might make you stop breathing and blinking.
Anthony Feinstein, author of the book Shooting War, is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a neuropsychiatrist. His research and clinical work focuses on people with multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and Conversion Disorder. War contains 18 profiles of photographers exploring their lives as filters between conflict and the general population and the effect they have on us and themselves in this endeavor. Includes such luminaries as Don McCullin, Tim Page, and Ron Haviv.
This line of enquiry lies at the heart of Lauren Walsh’s new book, Conversations on Conflict Photography, where conflict is defined as war and crisis, social inequities, natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. Richly illustrated with 110 colour and B&W photographs, the 376-page book is sectioned into three categories: Behind the Lens, In the Newsroom and Beyond, and Advocacy and Aid. An essay written by Walsh precedes each section followed by a series of interviews.
Renowned photographers Ron Haviv and Christopher Morris spoke in Zagreb about how they tried to be the ‘eyes of the world’ during the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia.
US photographers Ron Haviv and Christopher Morris presented some of the most important of their images from the break-up of Yugoslavia in Zagreb on Tuesday evening, with Haviv saying that he went to the Balkan war zone in the 1990s to “witness history” for himself.
From her work on war photographers around the world, Alizé Le Maoult offers diptychs composed of the frontal portrait of these photographers and an image they chose from all the conflicts they covered, and their words to explain this choice. A strong and unique testimony:
Ron Csillag speaks with neuropsychiatrist Anthony Feinstein about his book, Shooting War.
Feinstein’s Shooting War is a remarkable book that combines 18 essays, one each for some of the world’s pre-eminent conflict photographers, alongside a single, jarring photograph around which the text is built. The essays result from face-to-face interviews with the photojournalists, their relatives and close friends, and shine a light on not only what motivates photographers to enter conflict zones, but the human cost of bearing witness to wars, natural disasters, and other crises.
In addition to the almost daily bombings of the Saudi-led Coalition, which sometimes targets civilians, the beleaguered Yemenis of the North have been suffering from shortages of water, oil, food and medicine. Every ten minutes a child dies, most of the time from a mild illness. Child soldiers serve as cannon fodder on the front lines. Oil, humanitarian aid, medicines are overtaxed by corrupt officials.
Ivor Prickett’s book End of the Caliphate is the result of months spent on the ground in Iraq and Syria between 2016 and 2018 photographing the battle to defeat ISIS. Working exclusively for the New York Times, Prickett was often embedded with Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish forces as he documented both the fighting and its toll on the civilian population and urban landscape. The battle to defeat ISIS in the region, resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and ruined vast tracts of cities such as Mosul and Raqqa. Involving some of most brutal urban combat since World War II, the fall of Mosul was key to the downfall of the Islamic State: soon after the remains of the so-called “Caliphate” began to crumble.
In the wake of 9/11, when the US invaded Afghanistan, journalists flew into the country with American troops and filed stories on America’s war against terrorism. Later, in 2003, the press helped convince the American public that the Iraqi dictator Sad
But a fourth war, in Yemen, equal in destruction and in its potential for fallout that directly affects Americans, has been covered very differently. Amnesty International has described it as the “forgotten war.” Coverage of the conflict, which has raged for five years and has precipitated one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history, has been sporadic and simplistic.