Tag Archive: war
You may be familiar with Jens Olof Lasthein‘s work after he won the 2010 Oskar Barnack Award for his pictures from Abkhazia. I was looking through his portfolio yesterday and fell in love with Lasthein’s series “Cows At War”. It’s a flash site, so there’s no way to link directly. Click on “Works”, then “Cows At War.”
The series shows cows and a few dogs and horses in the middle of war-torn Abkhazia. It’s an unexpected and humorous reminder that the ordinary persists throughout even the most difficult circumstances. There may be bullets flying and bombs exploding, but a cow will just keep chewing its cud through it all. In the same vein, you might recall Todd Heisler‘s What Has Four Legs and Follows Me?
I met Camille Lepage in South Sudan last September when I arrived in the capital Juba on a two-week assignment. She had already been living there for almost two months, and has been there ever since. She was a huge help in getting our story off of the ground and filling my colleague and I in on how South Sudan works, with all the necessary tips and tricks that help make things happen there. And there are a lot of tips and tricks needed.
At the time she had just finished a stint at a local newspaper, The Citizen, and was starting work as a stringer for AFP. Since I met her, she has traveled all over South Sudan and the border region and begun to produce impressive stories on her own. I wanted to feature her project “The Silent War” from South Kordofan, which was was photographed in October and November last year and published this week in Le Monde. We also wanted to ask her a few questions about what life is like as a freelance photographer in South Sudan.
Dvafoto: When did you arrive in South Sudan?
I arrived in South Sudan in July 2012, just after finishing my degree in journalism at Southampton Solent University in the UK.
What was the main story you wanted to cover when you set out?
The wars at the borders with Sudan really pushed me to come to South Sudan. They are going on in complete silence and I have always wanted to cover underreported (if reported at all) wars or humanitarian crises, so I figured going to South Sudan, which was a new nation under construction, would probably be a good way to start. On top of that, I thought it was very unfair that a one year old country was constantly referred to as doomed or failed so I wanted to see it for myself and perhaps bring some new light on it.
How has the story you’re pursuing changed?
I think I really have two main focuses. The first is the humanitarian crisis in both Blue Nile State and South Kordofan where locals are being bombed by the Sudanese government, where NGOs and journalists are forbidden. Since June 2011, it has led hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced to other countries. I didn’t think I would spend so much time and energy on this, but after having spent 3 weeks in South Kordofan last November, I know I have to go back as often as I can. I also want to make my way to Blue Nile, which is trickier and much more costly too. Also, I can only go to those places during the dry season, when roads are practicable, so from November to May. I also need to finance those trips by working for NGOs at the same time, it’s a little challenging.
The second story is on the quest for identity of South Sudan and how a country that has been at war for decades can become a united nation. I’m looking the obstacles such as lack of infrastructure, which results in the lack of health care and sparks tribalism around the country but also the way forward, like a youth which wants peace and education.
How are your pictures getting out? Where are they being published?
I started freelancing with AFP when I arrived so through them they are often published in The Guardian, Time Magazine’s Lightbbox, BBC, sometimes on the NYT Lens Blog etc. For my personal projects, I’m pitching them to pictures editors here and there, the South Kordofan story was published in Le Monde, but I’m hoping to have it published in other places soon. The other one isn’t ready at all, so I’ll wait until I feel I have some good material to pitch that too.
In general, what is life like for a photographer like you in South Sudan?
Life isn’t easy, really. Everything is very expensive here, I used to rent a tent at a hotel for 600$ a month. Now I live in a local house far from the town and without electricity, but it’s only 200$ a month. I obviously don’t have AC or a fan, so the temperature can go up to 38 degrees at night. I got used to it though, and now whenever I go to the field, which should normally be more rough, I have more comfort. I always think it’s quite amusing.
At the moment, we are only two photographers in the country so we can quite easily get assignments with NGOs and UN agencies, but I only do so to pay my bills and finance other reportages.
At first, people here are seriously reluctant to be photographed. They get very very aggressive, I even had my life threatened a few times when I wanted to photograph people. I’ve learnt how to approach them, so it’s becoming easier and easier every time. But it takes time!
Are there many other photographers there? Are they staying as long as you?
We were four only a few months ago, now we’re two only. I think just like most foreign correspondants, stringer photographers stay between one and two years. There are also some people who come over for a one week or two on assignment.
What is the benefit to staying longer?
You get a much better understanding of the place. Especially in a country like South Sudan where everything is logistically complicated, you need to know the rules, to understand the ‘un-said’, discover how to approach people, to make them trust you too. After six decades of war, the South Sudanese are very suspicious of spies, and they remain in this ‘war spirit’ when you know at any time things can go wrong if you say something they didn’t want to hear. On top of that, it’s really a fascinating place, they are so many stories to tell, and it takes time to get proper insights of it.
What is one story that you wish you could be covering in South Sudan that you so far have not been able to, due to access or due to resources?
Apart from the Blue Nile story that I previously mentioned, I’ve been meaning to go and spend some time with the Murle tribe in their cattle camp in Jonglei state. Cattle camps are huge areas where armed kids are keeping hundreds of cows (cows show the wealth of a family and often are used for securing a bride). Traditionally the Murle go and raid other camps to steal their cattle either as an initiation into adulthood or to simply increase ther ‘wealth’. They often end up in very violent fights between the tribes unfortunately. The Murle are also said to be sterile, so at the same time they steal children from other tribes; but there is very little documentation on the Murle, so I’d like to see it with my own eyes. I haven’t managed to cover it yet as the UN are forbidding journalists to go to Jonglei state because of security issues, and no NGOs are able to facilitate journalists to go there because the area is too sensitive.
What is your background in photography, where is your home?
I don’t really have any photography background. I studied print journalism, but was more than often interested in the visual part in each story. It clicked about one year ago, what I was really into was photojournalism and I decided to go for it. When I arrived in South Sudan, I introduced myself as a photojournalist, despite my very meagre portfolio at the time. I think people didn’t take me very seriously at first, but I worked hard and still do, so I think they see me a little differently now. and I’m from France!
Must read: “The heart is the real light-sensitive medium” – Wim Wenders’ moving tribute to James NachtweyFeb 16, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer No Comments »
“The heart is the real light-sensitive medium here,
not the film nor the digital sensor,
it is the heart that sees an image and wants to capture it.
The eye lets the light in,
which is why we also call it a ‘lens’,
but it doesn’t ‘depict the image’,
it doesn’t ‘depict’ anything.” -Wim Wenders, A Tribute to James Nachtwey
James Nachtwey was recently awarded the 3rd annual Dresden International Peace Prize (previously awarded to Mikhail Gorbachev and Daniel Barenboim). At the ceremony for the award, director Wim Wenders delivered a moving tribute to Nachtwey and his work. The speech is well worth a read.
“WARCO lets players shoot and record what they see ‘through the lens’ – framing shots, panning and zooming, grabbing powerful images of combatants and civilians caught up in war. They’ve got AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades – you’ve got a flak jacket, a video camera, and a burning desire to get the story. Every game space is embedded with multiple objectives and story leads for journalist Jesse DeMarco to find – a scoop if she’s smart, mortal danger if she drops her guard…” -from WARCO’s website
WARCO: The News Game is a first-person shooter video game in which the player is a photojournalist gathering footage for television news stories on subjects similar to revolutionary conflict in Africa and the Middle East. There’s a trailer available featuring in-game footage, though the game is not available try or buy yet. Ars Technica has coverage, as does Kotaku. Coverage and reactions generally state the game is a novel take on the war/shooter genre, though in Ars Technica’s article, an unnamed publisher suggests that it will be difficult to get a game company behind the idea: “It’s a hard sell to executives to suggest an FPS with no shooting, but this is definitely the sort of game we should be making, as an industry.” The game designers have been working with photojournalist Tony Maniaty to guide aspects directly related to photography in conflict zones.
I’m intrigued, being a fan of FPS games, but it will be some work to make the game fun and interesting beyond the concept. Instead of taking part in the action, you’ll mostly be watching it. That can be interesting as an actual photographer, but we all know the boredom of waiting for something to happen. The game designers have addressed this criticism directly, telling Kotaku, “A game, by definition, has to be active, and there’s a very voyeuristic nature to this so we really wanted to make sense of gathering footage something more active: you’re actively pulling together a story and a narrative out of the pieces of the world you observe.” The game appears to have two significant modes of play: gathering footage with specific objectives (seen in the trailer which the player accomplishing the goal to “film a rebel vehicle” at :08 seconds in) and surviving while doing so, and editing together that gathered footage to create a news-like narrative of the situation. More than that, much of the game’s tension will relate to moral decisions relating to which footage or interviews best serve the viewing audience of your eventual news report.
This isn’t the first game to feature photography prominently, though it may be the first to focus on war photography. And it’s certainly a unique take on the war genre of contemporary gaming. It also seems like a powerful tool for teaching audiences about the physical dangers of conflict journalism and the moral and ethical difficulties and ambiguities of news reporting.
has just published will soon release a new book, Questions Without Answers: The World in Pictures by the Photographers of VII, and it looks like a doozy. Collecting the work of all of the full members of VII (less one James Nachtwey, who recently announced he has left the collective), the book is a compendium of stories from the past 20 years relating to our current political, social, and economic atmosphere. This book follows in the footsteps of previous VII joint publications such as War: USA, Afghanistan, Iraq and other books available in the VII store.
By the way, if you buy the book through Amazon, or anything else, after clicking the links above, dvafoto will get a small percentage of the purchase price that we put toward the cost of running the site. Thanks for the support!
I lived on the Lower East Side, but I slept through the impacts of the planes striking the Twin Towers, and only the ringing telephone woke me up. -Alan Chin on “the 9/11 Decade”: Beyond Pushpins On A Calendar
On BagNews Originals, Alan Chin has just posted a cogent look back at his work over the past decade. The photos, as always from Chin, communicate more than they show, looking beyond individual events to a larger narrative. The text in this piece is worth a read, though, drawing direct relation between seemingly disparate events of international significance and Chin’s own life.
And while we’re on the subject of 9/11, be sure to check out Martin Parr’s excellent take on the merchandising of September 11.
More than anything though, Tim’s photos speak to what it means to be a man and how war often defines masculinity. “Photography is great at representing the hardware of the war machine,” he told his good friend and writer Stephen Mayes, a month before he died. “But the truth is that the war machine is the software, as much as the hardware. The software runs it, and the software is young men. I’m not so young anymore. But I get it. That’s really what my work is about.” -Newsweek editor James Wellford
Newsweek has just published Tim Hetherington’s final images, from Libya in April 2011. Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed in Misrata, Libya, on April 20, 2011 (Remembrances).
Last week saw the release of snippets of video from a treasure trove of video and stills from the early days of Gaddafi found by Hetherington and Human Rights Watch researcher Peter Bouckaert after a Libyan state security office was burned and looted by protesters.
“I was photographing a funeral, and having spent most of the day with the women, I went to see the body being taken in. A man in the procession started screaming, ‘CIA agent’ and pointing at me. I was surrounded by hundreds of angry men, screaming in my face, grabbing me. I was terrified, and thought, ‘This is it. I am going to die.’” -Ami Vitale in The shot that nearly killed me: War photographers – a special report, the Guardian.
While we all know war photography is a dangerous business–and that’s come into sharp focus in Libya this year, especially–viewers often don’t realize just how quickly a situation can go from sort of okay to life-threatening. That’s what I find so compelling about this collection of short vignettes in the Guardian by photojournalists about the shots that nearly got them killed. Some are stories we know well but remain harrowing: Lynsey Addario talks about her capture and treatment in Libya earlier this year (previously on dvafoto); João Silva relates stepping on a landmine in October 2010.
But others offer a close look into the chaos of being on the ground in far-flung places with only a camera between the photographer and nearly certain death: Ami Vitale describes the time a mob in Gaza thought she was a CIA agent and began to attack; Marco di Lauro talks about when a grenade was thrown in his direction; John D McHugh writes about getting shot while embedded in Afghanistan. None of these are easy reading, and the article serves as a chilling reminder of what goes on before, during, and after a photographer gets the picture.
From the pickup, Lynsey saw a body outstretched next to our car, one arm outstretched. We still don’t know whether that was Mohammed [the journalists' driver]. We fear it was, though his body has yet to be found.
If he died, we will have to bear the burden for the rest of our lives that an innocent man died because of us, because of wrong choices that we made, for an article that was never worth dying for.
No article is, but we were too blind to admit that.
-”4 Times Journalists Held Captive in Libya Faced Days of Brutality,” New York Times, 22 March 2011
The New York Times has published a harrowing account of the capture and conditions of captivity of Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario, Anthony Shadid, and Stephen Farrell, who disappeared last week in Libya. The four were released early this week. Their capture and detention were filled with confusion, brutality, and boredom, and are a grim reminder of the risks that conflict reporters accept in bringing news to the world.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has been keeping an updated account of attacks on journalists in Libya.
Michael Kamber, contract photographer for the New York Times, talks with BagNewsNotes about military censorship in Iraq. The gradual increase of censorship is troubling–Kamber describes that at first, anything was fair game to shoot, but gradually car bomb scenes were off-limits, then hospitals, then morgues, then prisoners, then wounded soldiers, and so on. Kamber makes a great point, saying, “I think that we need to publish those photos for history even if we can’t get them in the newspaper today.” Head over to BagNewsNotes for discussion.