Joao Silva – Recovery + ‘This is what I do’
Just came across this article on the New York Times Lens Blog:
It’s a piece from Joao Silva – one of the most well known, living conflict photographers/photojournalists. He was one of the main characters in The Bang Bang Club – a book about photographers in South Africa – well worth a read.
In October 2010 (i.e. last year) he stepped on a land mine in Kandahar, Afghanistan and lost both his legs – but thankfully he lived. Due to his fame within photojournalism this made quite a splash in photography circles.
Ten months later this is is a transcript of a speech he gave earlier this month. It touches on that occasion of course, but also his thoughts and feelings on what he does, conflict photography, life ahead and other related topics. I find his straight forward no no-nonsense approach very refreshing and I could only hope that I would be the same given such an situation (which I doubt will ever happen).
It gives a very compelling answer to those that question the morals or ethics of conflict photographers.
Some compelling quotes :
Practically of loosing his legs, and getting on with life:
I guess I’ve reached the point where I’m whole again. I mean, my legs are gone. They’re never going to grow back. But you know, that’s O.K. That is actually O.K. I’m alive; I’m here. Life is far from over.
The role of photographers in conflict areas:
I’m a historian with a camera, and hopefully my pictures use the medium to capture history, or to tell a story, or to highlight somebody else’s suffering. That’s ultimately why I continue doing it, and why I want to continue doing it.
And partially the ethics:
People often ask me, “How can you stand there and watch people hack each other and take pictures?” You have to have clarity as to what your role is. If you want to help people, then you should not become a photographer. Having said that, we do help people. We help people all the time. Sometimes you help people with just the smallest of things. I’ve put people in the back of my vehicle and rushed them to the hospital.
But unfortunately, the images are so stark sometimes that people tend to think that there’s a machine behind the camera, and that’s not the case. We are all human beings. The things that we see go through the eye straight into the brain. Some of those scenes never go away.
Anyway – it’s very compelling, honest, and pragmatic writing – if you have an interest in such things – go have a read.