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By Anne Elicano
Adam Ferguson, one of the first prize winners of the World Press Photo Awards 2010, talked about being a war photographer and recent assignments in Afghanistan at the Frontline Club. Some pictures of the event taken by Chris King can be viewed below:
The first time I came under fire was in Afghanistan. We were ambushed and I hid behind a HMMWV (Humvee)…that’s (the kind of situation) where one thinks about either running for his life or take photos. I took photos.
It’s easy to romanticize the life of a photojournalist. But, in reality, it’s tough. You go on long patrols, you eat bad food, you get shot at….but one of the best things there is about being a photojournalist is getting insight into other people’s lives and in getting into situations one normally wouldn’t get into.
In Afghanistan, I’ve never been in the position where I had to think of choosing between putting my camera down and helping. And there are always army medics around (in conflict situations).
The bloodier the better. The way war is presented is very sanitized. We have to challenge the romantic notion of war. I want to explore the quiet moments in war- present the burden and the frustration. Many of the troops joined in the wake of 9/11 in the spirit of nationalism. But when the guys hit the ground, they get disillusioned with the war on terror.
The editorial line of Time magazine doesn’t interfere with my work. And they’ve been pretty brave with the kind of images of Afghanistan that they publish.
There are certain ground rules that the military makes you sign before allowing you to embed. You’re not allowed to photograph detainees. I haven’t done that but if there were an important image and it was really worth it, I would break the rules.
Sometimes the line between being a photographer and being part of the story gets blurred. You form relationships with people, for instance, when you’re on patrol. Sometimes you’d be sitting next to a gun and a soldier asks you to pass it to him… There are times when the troops go into a village and the soldiers have to go into houses. They don’t take their shoes of (as is the local custom) and I don’t too…they get stares and I get stares too. That’s when I feel like an intruder.
I try to quickly assimilate in a situation to gain the trust of people. I keep fit to keep up with the guys on patrol so they don’t feel like they have to “carry me” . We sit down and talk about cars and girls…and a pack of Marlboro Reds always helps. I stay in touch with people I form relationships with (on patrol). Some of them (the soldiers) get excited over their photos and they email me.
Visit Adam’s website at www.adamfergusonphoto.com
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