Read This Now: Perpignan Friday Conference on Conflict Photography
I'm going to come back and tell you all about Thursday very soon, but first I have to put up some comments from the press conference this morning with Stanley Greene, Yuri Kozyrev, Lucas Menget, and Patrick Robert -- the conflict journalist's speak.
I’m going to come back and tell you all about Thursday very soon, but first I have to put up some comments from the press conference this morning with Stanley Greene, Yuri Kozyrev, Lucas Menget, and Patrick Robert — the conflict journalist’s speak. These photographers have all made incredible images in the most difficult places imaginable (Menget is a TV reporter), but Stanley stood out, as he often does, as the one most able and insistent to express very personal realities about the life of a conflict photographer and the respect that is often lacking but that the profession absolutely deserves. The audience broke out in raucous applause after almost every one of his comments…and I could barely keep my eyes free enough from tears to see what I was typing. Patrick also provided a fascinating counterpoint to Stanley’s extremely personal involvement in his stories. I apologize for how long the text is (even without the questions, which are largely self-evident), but I absolutely believe that every one of these words needs desperately to be read by everyone even remotely involved in any kind of photography. (I also have to note that Lucas and Patrick’s comments were being translated, so those are not direct quotations. Also, all the comments are as close to direct quotation as I could get but I undoubtedly missed little things.)
I try not to have a personal involvement [with my stories]. Even with your bloodthirsty rebels there’s empathy you feel with them. I think it’s important to accompany them, just not to become one of them. I’m not an activist, I don’t want to take a stand, I go somewhere, I try to be clear about what’s going on, and then I step back.
I went to Iraq, we saw it as a road trip, we had no idea what we were going to see, we weren’t embedded, but in that car I found the whole situation in Iraq was unraveling. I wanted to cover the insurgent’s view, so we went to some individuals with the insurgency, and they proposed for us to come to Fallujah. It was the day the rockets were fired into cars by Blackwater personnel. We arrived on the day [they were hung on the bridge]. My driver, who was an insurgent, said, You should photograph this. There were people standing in a circle, with these bodies [that had been burned and drug around and hung up], I’m an American, and I know I have to photograph this. That particular day I not only photographed these bodies, I also photographed Muqtada al-Sadr’s suicide force marching up to the Green Zone. Everything that day was a life-and-death situation. I got on the sat phone, and I said, I photographed these bodies, I said, I’ve got to get a way to get these photos to Nouvel Ops [Le Nouvel Observateur]. And the person on the phone basically said, fuck Nouvel Obs, we’re going to sell it to Newsweek. I said no way, Nouvel Obs sent me here. What I got upset about was that nobody asked how I was feeling. Nothing. That night, in my hotel room, I fell down on my knees and cried. I hadn’t done that since I was a kid. That day I lost something and I haven’t been able to get it back. There are consequences to this stuff. You carry this stuff with you a very long time.