New York Times executive editor Bill Keller posted a wide-ranging and illuminating conversation with recovering photog Joao Silva and Pulitzer Prize-winning shooter Greg Marinovich.
The transcript is long, but entirely worth the effort.
In it, the two photographers are remarkably candid — humbly discussing the difficulties of the job, the addictive feeling of being on the edge of history, the feeling of being a vulture — but one part stood out for us: War photography is dangerous. Extremely so.
We learned this in horrifying fashion last month with the deaths of Oscar nominated director Tim Hetherington and Pulitzer Prize nominated photographer Chris Hondros.
But there’s a reason it can be so deadly, one that goes beyond the guns and bombs and chaos.
Marinovich explains what he means.
“As photographers — and we don’t really discuss this — but the best time for getting pictures is within the first weeks of any combat,” he says. “The most promising pictures come out when you get access. That’s kind of my rule. You get the best images at transitional phases, often at opening transitional phases.”
The author of The Bang Bang Club who retired from conflict photography in 1997 says an ability to move freely ultimately doomed Hondros.
Marinovich: “With this current Arab uprising, there are no rules. Libya: on the one side, you have a formal army that is clearly not going to adhere to any rules, but they’re organised; on the other side, you have people who have no idea what they are doing. But since the world is very swiftly supporting them, they want foreign press there, and they let you do anything you want. You look at Chris Hondros’s pictures, I think the last pictures he filed. I don’t know how it happened, but they’re in a building with these guys shooting around and going up the stairwells. Those are like suicide pictures.”
There is plenty more amazing detail in the story.