A soldier turns away from a dust cloud being created by a helicopter that is hovering above an outpost in Afghanistan.
© IWM DC 57687
Sergeant O'Byrne from 2nd Platoon, Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade turns away from a dust cloud being created by a Chinook helicopter that is re-supplying the Restrepo Outpost

In November 2017, Imperial War Museums (IWM) acquired the complete archive of award-winning conflict photographer Tim Hetherington.

This extensive archive comprises his seminal photography and video work from Liberia (2003-2006), Afghanistan (2007-2008) and Libya (2011), reflecting his work as a conflict journalist but also as a humanitarian and innovator.

Offering a unique insight into his working practices, the archive also includes handwritten journals and correspondence, cameras, tear sheets, and publications featuring his photography. 

Tim Hetherington photo
© IWM DC 58630

The University of Leeds and IWM received Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding for a series of network events, 2020 - 2022, exploring the archive of the award-winning conflict photographer Tim Hetherington.

The network was timed to feed into the documenting and interpretation of Hetherington’s work at IWM, it contributed both expert analysis from research events but also insights from public engagement workshops held in tandem.

The network’s activities were designed to generate enriched understandings of the archive by engaging with the people who worked with Hetherington, contemporary photojournalists and film-makers, in addition to scholars and interested members of the public.

Project launch

Tim Hetherington is best known as an award-winning conflict photographer, including four World Press Photo awards. In 2010, he was also nominated for an Academy Award for Restrepo, a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. This first AHRC funded network event, focused on the visual tropes of war, including the idea of the ‘feedback loop’ which Hetherington spoke about, where soldiers co-opt popular culture into their own self-representations. Our expert speakers discussed issues such as military masculinity, picturing injury, and the appeal of animals in combat imagery. The event included a short welcome, followed by two panels with invited speakers giving short presentations plus audience Q&A.

The first Tim Hetherington Collection, Conflict Imagery Research Network event took place on 22nd April 2021.

First session. 

Katy Parry, Associate Professor at the University of Leeds: “OK, a very warm welcome to everyone for this online event. My name is Katy Parry, I’m an Associate Professor at the University of Leeds. This is the first event for the Tim Hetherington and conflict Imagery Network and I'm the principal investigator for this, which is an AHRC funded network. And so, the event is run in partnership with the IWM Institute, which is the Imperial War Museum’s Innovation hub, experimenting with creating new ways of deepening understanding of war and conflict.

And Greg Brockett is the co-investigator for this network, and he'll introduce himself and the Heatherington collection in a moment. So, over the next few months we hope to bring researchers together to discuss issues related to Herrington's work as a conflict photographer. So, whilst this event focuses on competence and military portrayals, our next event will turn to the notion of humanitarian photography and the moral relationship between photographic subject, photographer and spectator.

So, of course, we've also just passed the 10 year anniversary of Tim's death in Libya, and so this is a poignant time for his friends and family, and I think some of those maybe joining us today. And we're really honoured to be able to reflect on his legacy and share his work with a new generation of scholars, photographers and the public. So please do drop me an e-mail if you'd like to be added to our list of researchers or photographers working in this area. I don't want to say much more than that, other than to thank our speakers for what promises to be a fascinating event today.

We've got two panels with a short break in between, and so please do use the question box, the ask a question little symbol there to ask any questions you have for our speakers. We want to, wanted to make this available to as many people as possible, but that does of course mean that it's not as interactive a format. But we're very much looking forward to the talks and the questions prompted by yourselves. So, I'll now hand over to Greg who will introduce the Herrington collection and chair the first panel. So, thank you.”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah, hi. Thanks, Katy. I'm Greg and I'm a curator in the contemporary conflict team here at IWM. Yeah, I've been working on the archive since it first came to IWM in 2017, and it's really good now that we're able to roll out some content and we're going to hopefully continue to do that over the next coming weeks and months. So yeah, look out on our various social media platforms and website for all that content as we, as we roll through and make, make stuff available. 

But this event is really, kind of, the very start of our exploration of the archive and I don't want to take up too much time talking about that just because we've got a really packed schedule of some, some really good speakers coming up. So, we'll have our first three speakers, as Katy says, and then we'll hopefully have time some questions and take a short 5-minute break. So first up, I just want to welcome the first speaker who's going to be Max Houghton and she's a senior lecturer at London College of Communication. And she's going to be, be presenting on: Locating the Self in the Theatre of War. So, I'll hand over to. Max, first of all. 

[Pause]

Greg Brockett: “Hey, Max, Are you ready to? You ready to go live? On mute.”

Max Houghton: “Hello, are you ready for me can? Can you hear me?”

Greg Brockett: “Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. Please go ahead.”

Max Houghton: “Thank you. Thanks very much, Greg. Thanks Greg, thanks Katy. 

Dear Tim, what is worth dying for? Was that the puzzle you were seeking to solve in your work, or were you thinking about power, and who possesses it? What was it about the theatre of war that so possessed you, pulling you into witness it again and again? Whether in Liberia, Afghanistan, or finally, Libya, was it to try and understand the impetus in young men to fight for their cause or their country, or some missed forgotten version of either? Was it the love and loyalty these men shared with each other, willing to die for each other in their eyes? Was it like that for you?

Next slide. I didn't know the answers to those questions, but I do know how committed you are to the act of storytelling, how deeply you understood and were influenced by such classical texts as The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Bayeux Tapestry, The Odyssey, and how, with all due humility, you understood your role in the continuation of such epic Western stories of war in image and words. These stories reveal the moral ambiguities at play in such theatres of war, how individuals make mistakes and realise too late how fate plays its part. I suppose the enduring nature of such tales might mean they offer some kind of reparative role in the way they expose the very depths of human suffering and warfare, the gift of hindsight. Part of me thinks they serve to glorify them too, and to perpetuate the idea that war is in any way great. But close readings refuse this model. In the Coleridge poem, the Mariner in killing the albatross simply because he could, becomes severed from himself, and can only repeat his tale to those whose fate may be the same. That is everything. Sorry, everyone, who wanted something too much. Everyone who ever heard something or someone because they could. Anyone whose ego led the way. I wonder which of us is not that person.

I've thought about if your desire to travel to distant shores would be described as a kind of self-exile, not so different from those who enlisted to serve their country. And it's this sense of distance from self, this chosen loneliness, even among friends that I want to explore briefly with these images today. I see a corresponding ghostliness that inscribes itself into a body made strange. It's hard to pin down what we're talking about when we talk about conflict images and maybe the term conflict operates across many registers, but among other things, I think we're talking about how we continue to live in such proximity to death. 

Perhaps witnessing more is this in extremis, how to tell a true war story, As Tim O'Brien wrote in The Things they Carried, is like distinguishing the thread from the cloth, you can't tease it out, you can't extract the meaning without unravelling the deeper meaning, and in the end, says Tim O'Brien, “There's nothing much to say about a true war story except.” Oh, slide. In looking at these images from Restrepo, the outpost in the Korengal Valley, named for the 20-year-old army medic killed in the line of duty, the place where you and Sebastian spent months embedded with Second Platoon, battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade. It's such a foreign language to me. Is it possible to identify a deeper meaning? Next slide. 

What is the efficacy of these pictures from America's Post 9/11 occupation of Afghanistan? These are images made for a Western audience, images that appeared in Vanity Fair and will play a role in US and UK cultural understanding of that time in the most dangerous place in the world from the perspective of the American war machine. What I see in these images is a kind of microcosm of that war, which, along with the creation of Guantanamo and the passing of the Patriot Act, might be conceived as a hasty, irrational response to 9/11 or what James Carroll, next slide, writing in The New Yorker called, “a post-traumatic breakdown.”

And while the work you made here has been called non-political because it doesn't offer a critique of the war itself, surely there's a critique of what war does to the human spirit. This is what I think you witnessed. Next slide. In this edit, I've drawn attention to a kind of dance Macabre where death stalks each image and the strange doublings. Next slide.

The uncanny proxies. Next slide. The bodily inscriptions. Next slide. The heavenly portents. Next slide. These images connect to a commentary by Simone Bile on the Iliad. Next slide. Thus, violence overwhelms those it touches. In the end, it seems as external to the one who wields it as to the one who endures it. Here is born the notion of a destiny under which executioners and their victims are similarly innocent. Conquerors and conquered, are brothers in the same misery. Eat your heartache to the other. A single son was born to him, born to a short life, and he grows older without my attentions. Since far away from my homeland, I remain at Troy to work evil against you and your sons. The tempered use of force, indispensable to the escape from its machinery, would demand superhuman virtue as rare as steadfast dignity in weakness, further, moderation itself carries risks for the prestige that is 3/4 of force consists above all of the magnificent indifference of the strong toward the weak. An indifference so contagious that it infects even those who are its object. But it is not usually political considerations that council excess. 

The temptation to excess is virtually irresistible. That was the mobile. In these haunting images I think it's possible to read a kind of conflict within you, Tim, as chronicler of this force, this violence, this war. You began to tackle it in your film piece diary where you show how your personal life collides with your self-imposed exile in the imagery of diary, the sound of rain, the circling fans, the disembodied voices, it becomes perhaps a work of and about exile, of and about the search for self-knowledge. That's what I see here too, not least in a kind of exile from the self that became a way for such privations to be endured on and off the battlefield. I know how important it was for you to raise awareness of how these young soldiers were treated after serving their country, of how they suffered with PTSD, of how, on discharge, they were not eligible for medical funding, of how their lives fell apart, or the true war story. Next slide.”

Video footage: “I like homemade food. I like, I like homemade food.

“Ok, he wants us to go up over this hill bum-rush [inaudible]. There’re fucking dudes right there. We do that we'll have to fucking laid out. We're going to lay down fire first. We don't know where they’re at, that's why we can't. We got started loading them up. Just keep down, keep down. Just chill out, dude, chill the fuck out…shut up. He was on his stomach…he’s in shock. He’s right there.” [Crying, heaving breathing.]

Max Houghton: “Thanks for witnessing these ghosts of war, Tim. Last slide. Thanks for witnessing these ghosts of war, Tim. Thanks for the glimpse into the war machine. Thanks for revealing a little more of those twin poles of human existence, morality, and mortality. I've been connecting you and your thought and work with classical tragedies of war and the fact that you're not here to do it in person is, of course, its own tragedy for all that knew you. Telemachus, one of your given names, stayed far from battle. You went a long way in. Thanks.”

Greg Brockett: “OK, thanks. Thanks, Max. Really poignant piece to get underway and we're going to bring on our next speaker now, who's going to be Saumava Mitra. He's an assistant professor at Dublin City University and he's going to be presenting on Revisiting Restrepo: The men and boys beyond the wire. So, we're gunna try and welcome up Saumava now if we can.”

Saumava Mitra: “Hi, am I audible?”

Greg Brockett: “Yep, sounds good. Yeah.”

Saumava Mitra: “Brilliant. So, without further ado, thanks to all of you who are here. I will also be speaking about Tim Hetherington's images from the Korengal Valley in the Kunar Province in Afghanistan. 

But I will not be focusing on his more famous works from his time there, such as infidel or the film Restrepo. Instead, I will focus on our photo story called “Into the Korengal”, published just prior to his death. This photo story is interesting to me for what it says about Hetherington’s perspective, not of the Afghan War, but of the war happening in Afghanistan and two Afghan people. To explain why I'm compelled to focus on this, I must first follow Maxs’ advice and locate myself. Next slide please. I'm not Afghan, but in my research I had the privilege of working with Afghan photo journalists. This makes me place myself outside the wires of the US Army camps in the Korengal Valley that you can see in the film, Restrepo, for example. From this vantage point, I primarily see the divisions created by war, language, history, politics, and religion between peoples. I stand to the side and wonder about the potential of photographic images rather than bullets and shells traversing the chasms of our fractured imaginations about each other. This is the standpoint from which I approach the images from Korengal, which are part of Tim Hetherington's larger legacy. Could I have the next slide?

Well, since you're not here to hear about my standpoint, let me assure you that I'm also interested in photographers’ standpoints. Photographers counter hegemonic intentions and how these intentions are woven into images of conflicts by the most skilful among them. This fascinates me. To explain this, let me say that Tim Hetherington put it far more eloquently than me when he said, “We all carry an image library in our heads that we can cross reference to create layers of meaning. When it comes to war photography, almost as a matter of routine, photographers cross reference this image library that they and we carry with us, but sometimes in some cases the cross references become counterpoints to the collected and collective images in our mental libraries; these images stand out and stay with us because they do not vibrate, they strike a discord with the harmony.”

The next slide. For example, Hetherington’s bodies of work from Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Libya can be understood as the photographic male gaze turned inwards in the context of war and conflict. A male gaze that is inquiring towards masculinity itself, its construction, its constitutive parts, its joys, it's anxieties. And when it comes to his images in Afghanistan, I would like to go to my, the next speaker, Michael Kamber, who wrote in 2011 that Hetherington wanted to find out, and I quote, “What is the motivation that pushes 20-year-old kids from Middle America to go on fighting and dying halfway around the world?” These counter hegemonic exploration of masculinity at war in Afghanistan, other places as well, offers a more critical stance towards the militainment, that the tactic of embedding photojournalists often produced in Afghanistan. Instead, Hetherington offered us photographic counterpoints to the existing collective imagined image libraries of war by using the body of the soldier as a critical site of representation and meaning, as Max has just shown us. Next slide please. 

Because of where I choose to stand, the question that troubles me is that Hetherington’s challenge to the image libraries in our heads about masculinity at war seem restricted when it comes to the young Afghan men and boys. Even if I compare image work in Afghanistan by foreign photographers rather than Afghan photographers, the contrast can be stark. Thanks to the Imperial War Museum's archives, I now know the scale of this absence. I can tell you that among the images available online from the archives, only 35 photos of the 374 from Korengal show of gun, men and boys. So, a vast majority of the photos is marked by the absence of representations of Afghan masculinity, in contrast to the fully narrativized bodies of the young male US soldiers that we just saw, and we can see. 

Next slide, please. But today's talk gave me an opportunity to reconsider this absence. My first glimpse into how Hetherington's imagination may have travelled beyond the wire of the military camp he found himself in was in his description of a particular type of candy that the US soldiers would discard from their military rations by throwing them down the precipice over the wire. Because it was supposed to bring bad luck. We can read how Hetherington's imagination crosses the wire when he says that, and I quote, “he imagined how young Korengal Valley children might come across the American treats launched between boulders as they tended their goats and cows in the slopes below.” This glimpse made me go looking for Hetherington’s authorial intent in the images where he did manage to document the Korengal men and boys. Could I have the next slide? 

Unfortunately, this investigation of authorial intent will be forever incomplete without the benefit of Hetherington himself being able to tell us more. But the photo story into the Korengal I found could help me in finding some answers. The choice and sequencing of the images in this photo story focused on the interface between the two groups of people divided by the wires of the US Army camp. I invite you to view the 8 images that Hetherington chose. We will pause for a few seconds on each image in the next 8 slides. I will give you a short description of each as I see them, and they will appear to you in the same sequence as they appear in the photo story. I also ask you to pay special attention on the emotive effect on the viewer of a selective part of the body of the Afghan men and boys, that we will see, their eyes. Can we have the next slide please? 

We start with this image showing instances of interaction between the two sides. A dialogue during a Shura consultation, the motions captured in the Afghanistan man appears to me as an appeal for understanding mixed with supplication. The next one. We see the males being offered by both Afghan National Army soldiers and elders of the local community together, the eyes are averted from the viewer. 

The next one. Quite abruptly, we come to instances of transgressions against the young Afghan men; fear, resentment and hatred is what I see, all mixed in the eyes of the young Afghan man being fingerprinted. The next one please. The eyes are averted again, and the Afghan male bodies commanded over by the posture of a US soldier. The visual agencies of the young Afghan men within both the last and this image are subjugated, you might say, by the presence of and the surveillance being carried out by the US soldiers.

Can I have the next? These small violations that we have seen then explode into violence. The tendrils of smoke from a white phosphorus bomb spread across the valley. The very young are not spared beyond this point in the narrative, and I must warn you that the subsequent images show their injuries. The next one. Once violence is visited upon the valley and its occupants, the next image depicts a father carrying his injured month-old baby. The emotion in his eyes makes me, as a viewer, vacillate between making sense of it as stoicism or shock in the face of tragedy. The next one.

This vacillation soon gives way to what I read as fear, anxiety, and accusation. Mixed in the eyes of this young Afghan boy sitting on his father's lap. The next one. We finally end with despair for the next generation as the weight under the shadow of war. This very final image in the photo story also suggests to me the possibility that the accusations, fear and resentment of the young and the innocent will only multiply in the future. Quite prophetic. Can I have the next slide? 

The words that Hetherington wrote to go with these images in the photo story, the words touch upon the history and politics of Korengal Valley, but the focus is on the US military's presence in the valley in a very similar way to the narrative presented in the film, Restrepo. But the visual narrative crafted by Hetherington has much to offer as a counterpoint to the written narrative. My thoughts on this are a work in progress at the moment, but I would like to point out two narrative arcs and the visuals that I believe are quite apparent. The first is that of time; we move from images of older men to younger men and finally to young boys. The inscription of time on the male Afghan bodies, selected to create the narrative arc makes the viewer ponder not just the immediacy of the war, but to contemplate its future as well.

This larger movement marking time supplements the 2nd narrative that is more timeless. The images viewed in sequence tells a story which is not specific to Korengal but is as old as the hills of Korengal. Possibilities of co-existence marred by distrust, fear, loss of dignity, further visited by violence and destruction, resulting in a relationship between humans that is now doomed, completing this cycle of protracted conflict. The rupture is real, the scars will stay and the promise of explosions in the future is already present. The next slide please. Into the Korengal, the photo story that I was speaking about to you today changed my original, overwhelming sense of absence of one side of the war that I had felt about Hetherington’s images from Afghanistan. This brief photo story leaves us a glimpse of the other counter points he wanted to perhaps also make against the images in the libraries of our minds about the war in Afghanistan, which invariably frames of calm masculinity as belligerent, dead or absent and not with the nuance that Hetherington captured. In this blog from 2008, while vehemently defending photojournalism as a means of telling truth, Hetherington mentions that the subjective meanings made by viewers from images cannot take away the kernels of truth forever captured in photographs. 

My viewing of this photo story is subjective, based on my choice to stay next to the people on the other side of the wire in the Korengal. But I hope I was able to see past the wires to find the kernels of larger truths about the war in Afghanistan and wars in general that Hetherington had also left for us to find. And you can find them too in the archives now housed by the Imperial War Museums. Thank you very much. Next slide, please. That's me there. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”

Greg Brockett: “OK, thanks Saumava, really interesting way of looking at those photos and, you know, very thoughtful in the mould of Hetherington’s work itself. We're going to try and get Mike Kamber now to give a, give his 10-minute presentation as well. We had a little technology issue with getting Mike live earlier, so he’s going to give it a try again and see if we can get him to, to come up on screen and hopefully run through these slides with us this afternoon. But at this point as well, I'm just going to sort of ask and encourage people to put any questions they can into the question box because, you know, we have a bit of time hopefully at the end of Mike’s presentation where, you know, put a few questions to the panel as well before we go for the first break so. Let's just, let's just try this in Mike now. Mike, do you want, do you want us to move through the slides for you, or do you want to try sharing, sharing your screen?”

Mike Kamber: “It would probably be easier if I share the screen.”

Greg Brockett: Right, yeah, give it a go.”

[Pause]

Greg Brockett: “Bear with us a little bit while we try and get Mike, Mike live up here. Um, yeah, you're on mute, Mike, so can't, can't hear you at the moment. If you just take it off mute, um, there’s a toolbar at the top of your profile. Seem to have lost Mike temporarily there. So yeah, like I said, if there's any questions you want put to put to the, the group then please do put them into the into the ask the question chat function at the bottom of the screen there. I'm just going to try and get Mike again and see how it’s going.”

Mike Kamber: “Can, can you hear me, Greg?”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah, we can hear you. Yeah, sounds good.”

Mike Kamber: “I'm afraid that my presentation is somehow short circuiting what I wanted to. So, I suppose you'll have to…”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah. We'll, we'll get the slides up on screen and if you can just talk us through and just, you know, say next slide or next when you want us to, to scroll along.”

Mike Kamber: “Great, great, thanks. I'm sorry it's going to be a little bit awkward but we'll get through it. So I, I was a conflict photographer, I worked for the New York Times for about 10 years, and I met, I covered the war in Liberia, and I met Tim there in, the war was 2003. I met him after the war. We were on opposite sides, and I'd heard about him, I'd heard that there was this tall British guy over there on the other side sounded like kind of a myth, and I, I met him in 2004 in Monrovia and we, we became friends and roommates. He moved to New York and lived with me and helped raise my daughter when I was in Baghdad and, you know, was, was a wonderful friend. Um, by 2010, I was beginning to look for a way out of conflict, and it was a conversation that Tim and I had a lot. You know, when was, when was the right time to get out? Was there a time to get out? And I had an idea to start a nonprofit where we teach photography and journalism. And Tim came up, I found this building in the Bronx, where I lived for many years. And Tim came up and we spent some time there and talked about it and decided that we couldn't afford it; there wasn't money, and it was completely impractical. Can, can we go to the next slide? 

This was, this was the room that we sat in and, and kind of hatched plans. And you know, I put it off and Tim went to Libya shortly thereafter, I had dinner with him the night before he left and he talked about his desire to continue to photograph war and the importance of it and some of the things that we've, you've spoken about so eloquently earlier. So, when he was killed, some friends and I got together and we began the Bronx Documentary Centre.”

[Pause]

Gregg Brockett: “Sorry Mike, you seem on mute there for a second. Can you try, just try on muting yourself? OK, not sure why that's muted that. Yeah, if you, if you hover over your profile, it should be un. Ah, maybe we lost the connection there a little bit, but someone in the question bar, they were just asking for a background on Mike because he wasn't obviously, he wasn't one of our listed speakers for this event. But so just to sort of give you some context. So, I mean Mike was a photojournalist and he worked for the New York Times. Yes. He has covered conflicts in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Liberia, where Tim worked in 2003, and he's also co-founder of the Bronx Centre. And here he is back again now, so hoping to hand it back over to him.”

Mike Kamber: “I'm so sorry.”

Gregg Brockett: “That's alright.”

Mike Kamber: “I've been doing zoom calls for months and I've never had a problem. I apologise, sorry.”

Gregg Brockett: “That’s alright.”

Mike Kamber: “Anyway, I'll try to speed through this quickly. You know, you could probably just advance the slide every, you know, 10 seconds and , and we'll get through this and I'll just speak as we go. So, in 2011, we opened the centre with a group of volunteers, no funding. We just got volunteers, we fixed it up and we, we had Tim’s film that came back to us from Libya. I got the film back; it actually had his blood on it. We developed the film and, and did our first exhibition, which was, was the, the Libya work as long, as well as a small amount of work from Afghanistan. And we began to do projections around the neighbourhood as well of his work. And the show was a huge success. The main thing that we did with the show and that we've done with the BDC is that we've tried to use photography for education. It's not a commercial gallery, we don't sell prints. 

We have schools in the area come in, youth groups we've had many, many thousands of students from all over New York City, mostly from poor neighbourhoods, come in and learn about current events, and I think that's really been the, the strength in the innovation and something that Tim obviously was passionate about and that we're trying to keep going here. 

This show, it's actually Judith and, and Steven there, Tim's, Tim's mother. I don't know if she's on today, but we had a lot of conversations and one of the things that we learned, we're in a very, very rough neighbourhood in the Bronx and one of the things that we learned is that people did not want to see a lot of images of war. There's a lot of violence in this neighbourhood, a lot of shooting that goes on in this neighbourhood and people came to the show and they were very receptive, and the kids came, and it was great. But, but people said we, we don't want to see exhibition after exhibition about conflict. So, it's something that we made a decision to move away from. I suppose you can speed.”

[Pause]

Greg Brockett: “Yeah. Sorry, sorry. Mike, you've gone to mute again there. I'm not sure why that keeps happening. If you could try and unmute. Ah, lost Mike again, OK. So, a couple questions here again, someone's asking what's Mikes second name? So, it's Mike Kamber or Michael Kamber. And another question is someone is wondering what's Tim’s approach so, oh, we got Mike back. No worries.”

Mike Kamber: “Well, you'll have to speed through these, because I don't want to run long.”

Greg Brockett: “Great, no worries.”

Mike Kamber: “So, one of the things we did is we, we started our own education programme, so we now have about 100 students that are part of the BDC and we very much teach the type of documentary work that Tim did. This is a library that we built with Tim's books. We got Tim's books here in New York City after, after he was killed, and we created this, the Tim Hetherington photo book Library. And our students are in there, you know, on a daily basis, we preserved his, his, his personal library, including his travel books and such. Great. Can you still hear me, I haven't gone away on you? And so this has become a great, a great research place and we have now one of the largest photo book libraries in the United States. We do exhibitions all year round on, on various issues around social justice. But our real focus is on getting youth and families in here to have conversations about important issues and we also do a lot of our stuff outside the walls, so we're constantly doing projections and exhibitions out in the neighbourhood where we put up huge vinyl banners around the neighbourhood, we project on walls. The previous photo was actually a, a mechanic shop, an auto-shop where we did a big exhibition. So, we're, we're kind of trying to break down the traditional walls, which was something that Tim talked about a lot; about getting outside the walls of, you know, kind of the white walls of the gallery world. 

And so, we've, we've tried to continue with that idea. This is, this is a talk by Joao Silva, a friend of mine who lost his legs in Afghanistan. He's also been, been a big supporter of the BDC and was a friend of Tim. A lot of one-on-one talks. These are some of the projections that we do on the walls, on the buildings in the area. This is another projection, yeah, yeah. And in the summertime you, you'll see a lot of our work outside. Greg, was there a question that somebody had asked?”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah, we got a couple of questions coming in now, but yeah, what I'll do is what we do is we get everyone back up and we'll sort of ask, see what questions are coming in and, and I've got a couple of questions to ask you as well, but, yeah, that's a really good account of the Bronx Centre itself, you know. I think you know if people, people are in New York, really recommend they go along and, and see what, see what's going on there, it's a, it's a really amazing place. And, oh sorry Mike, you’ve gone onto mute again. But yeah, let's, let's just bring, let's bring everyone in and what we’ll do is we'll see there's some questions and I'll ever ask you very specifically or I'll or throw it open more generally to people. But actually, I think the first thing I wanted to ask was Max most specifically was. Obviously you talked about, you know, sort of the importance of Tim locating himself in his work. I was wondering how you see that as part of the sort of feedback loop process, if you like, and how Tim saw himself in that feedback loop and how that's important to understanding of the concept. If you see what I mean? 

Max Houghton: “I sort of see what you mean. Um, I think he was coming to terms with it more and more, I mean, you know the, the reasons for going to Libya were precisely that. And obviously we'll never know how he would have spoken about it and when you say feedback loop, you mean the, the way in which representation happens and perpetuates is that what you mean?”

Greg Brockett: “Yes, I think so, yes. So, I think, you know, we think about in the context of him as the image maker, and so he created images and, and you know, he was putting part of himself into those images, if you like. And so therefore he became sort of part of that sort of feedback loop, which then would be absorbed and co-opted by combatants and future conflicts.”

Max Houghton: “Yeah, yeah, I see. I mean, I think that's probably true but then I guess it just depends on who's the audience. And I, I come from a kind of an anti-war position. Yeah, pacifist position, so whether that is a representation that, that happens, I know people spoke about that in relation to, you, you know, Larry Burroughs imagery, for example from Vietnam and said, oh, you know, Tim's imagery looks the same as that and the soldiers are just trying to be, be the same soldiers. But I suppose that that's not, not quite my interest. I guess I'm interested in the role of, of, of the image maker. And yeah, just when you're a documentary photographer trying to show something that's true whether or not that's, that's possible. How, how that sense of authorship is plays out in, in a series of images that are both true and, and kind of fictional at the same time. Does that make any sense?”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah, absolutely. That’s great, thank you. More sorry, more specifically for Saumava as well. I was interested in, sort of the process of going to war from the kind of perspective of the combatant and, you know, it’s said sometimes is, you know, part of sort of proving sort of sense of masculinity for the combatants themselves. Do you think that could also be said the same thing for the, the photographer and the image maker as well?”

Saumava Mitra: “Could you repeat the question, Greg? Because I really couldn't hear the first part, really, sorry.”

Greg Brockett: “Sorry. Yeah, sure, I'll say it again. So, in sort of part of, it's part of the process of going to war it might be to prove a combatant’s masculinity, as you might say, with some of those soldiers at Restrepo, for example. Do you think that's also in some instances part of the process for the image maker and the photojournalist as well as you see it?”

Saumava Mitra: “I can only speak from the conversations I've had with photojournalists in war zones, people who actually live there rather than go there. And that's who I focus on in my research, and I could, I could tell you from what I have heard from these people, who in the, in a,  say it in a very academic manner, who document proximal violence, violence and war and death, destruction that is nearing sometimes, dear to them as well. For them, there is none of this, the machismo that we associate with war photographers sometimes. I know not everybody is the same, but the image that the, the, the accepted image of the, the adventurer with the photographer who goes into the danger zones and comes out with the, the images for us to see risking their lives. I, because I've, I am much more focused on the people who live amid that sort of danger and destruction, I have never heard the same kind of machismo or outlook towards documenting war from these people and be they in Afghanistan or be they in, name a place with conflict, Myanmar, um, it's rather an idea of looking outwards and showing as 360 degree view of the violence as possible. For these photographers, who are much more near to the, the conflict playing out. So, I can't answer your question to be short, I can only give you a partial answer.”

Greg Brockett: “No, that’s a really nice answer. Thank you. And I've got a question here from the audience and they're just wondering if we can give some insight into how Tim would approach his story? So, if he would go in with a series of ideas of how you'd like the stories come out or whether he would make his mind up on the fly, I mean. My thoughts be that he would probably go do his work and then come back and like really think about it and think about ways which he can use his work and bridge to his, to his audiences. I don't know if, if we have Mike, that might be something for you, you know, you know his work really well, if we can, if we can keep, you keep you with us.”

Mike Kamber: “I'll try to talk quickly. Yeah, I mean, certainly in Libya, he made a first trip to Libya, and he came back and he discussed the ideas, he discussed what he was seeing including the feedback loop which you thought was really interesting, where young men had videos on their phones of war and they were kind of acting out these war movies that they had seen, which he felt was exactly the same as he had seen in Afghanistan, you know. As an American man, I grew up on war movies, John Wayne, you know, very heroic and the good guy always wins in the end and and you know I, Tim, Tim, kind of was interested in that history in that, that, that dynamic of young men seeing heroic war movies and seeing, you know, movies featuring Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris, people who actually who never went to war, and these guys all avoided. The one point about being in Liberia and seeing the commanders showing war movies to the young, the young boys out in the jungle in the middle of nowhere to kind of psyche them up and energise them so. But Tim, I,I saw Tim make trips and kind of develop ideas. He would come back with an idea and say, “I saw this thing and it was amazing” and then he would make a return trip. He didn't just go once. Hope that helps.”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah, absolutely. Thanks very much. We've got a few questions come in. I'm just going to pick one out. So, I mean, this one is obviously for Mike again. Someone is asking here about war journalism as being, you know, particularly perceived often as being a male business. And so, this person's wondering how you might at the BCP centre empower women to become photojournalists? Is that something you think about or is that something you work towards doing? That's perfect timing, again. We have lost Mike completely. OK. Well, I mean, we should try, try with another question then.”

Max Houghton: “Could, could I just maybe speak to that?”

Greg Brockett: “Go ahead.”

Max Houghton: “Just that I think one of the most important things would be to engage in hostile environments training before anyone went anywhere.”

Greg Brockett: “Yeah, absolutely. That's a really important point to make in this, in this context, absolutely. Ah, you’re back again. I don't know if you heard that last, last question, Mike?”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, yeah, I did, I did. Yeah, again, I'll try and just speak quickly. I mean, I think a lot of the Great War photographers have, have always been women, but certainly a minority of them. But if you look at, you know, Lindsey Adario and Carolyn Cole and, you know, some of the people at the Washington Post, there's always been a lot of great, great women and going back to, you know, Margaret Bourke way right in World War Two and but almost all of our students are women. We have a very hard time attracting boys and, and males in our programme. And I would say we're probably 80% or, yeah, certainly 75-80% women, which is actually something I, I see at the Columbia Journalism School and other places. It's overwhelmingly women who are going into journalism and photography now, I think. So, I think things are changing and there's a real difference, you know, when I was with the guys, we always wanted to get out there and, and get the guy shooting the gun,  you know, that was always our priority. Tim was an exception. And the women inevitably focused on families, focused on civilian casualties, spent long, long term, did long term projects; that was the dynamic that I saw again and again.”

Greg Brockett: “OK, thank you, thank you, Mike. We got another question come in here. It's asking what are the limits of quantitative analysis of photographer’s catalogue in terms of reading into corpus themes. Oh, this is quite a wordy question here. I think it's asking more about the kind of accountability just for the indeed, can we get that to you? OK. Well, I mean, maybe we'll come back to that if we have time. Perhaps it’s gonna ask more generally. 

I mean, we have the archive here, obviously, and you know something, I think we really want to sort of get across to audiences is about, you know, how, how Tim’s sort of photojournalism's different from other photojournalists in that era, you know. Sometimes it's quite a nuanced thing to explain but I think, you know, from, from any of your perspectives you know, how do you think you can really sort of like narrow that, sort of pin that idea down as to as to him, Tim being like having a very different approach to his work from other, his other contemporaries working at that time. I don't know if anyone has to raise a hand on to that one. Saumava, do you want to answer that one? 

Saumava Mitra: “There are resonances with, and this is based on a study I had conducted on, and this one actually speaks to the wordy question that you very neatly avoided, Greg. The idea that if we just look at the photograph as catalogue or their and try to make sense of what kind of moralities they might have or might not have had in the representations they have produced and how I, I grapple with that question all the time and what I try to do is, um, find selections of photos made by photographers themselves, rather than something that has gone through the visual gatekeeping chain of photograph, of editors, and so on, where the relationship with what has been selected from the wider corpus by the photographer, and that's where I try to read authorial intent into. So, I had done something similar with a series published by the Time Magazine in 2011 where 40 photographers had selected their own images of Afghanistan. So again, sorry, my focus is on the images on Afghanistan because I'm not familiar as much with the other images from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Libya and Angola. And what I had seen was definitely the, the sort of the male gaze, rather, rather than being directed outwards, being directed inwards is something that really set apart the images that Tim Hetherington had taken in Afghanistan. Whereas you could see almost the camera becoming a bond in some other cases that I'm not going to name, you know, mention the names of the photographers concerned. But the camera becoming almost a bond between the photographers who felt really close to the soldiers. You see the same in the images from the Korengal Valley, but yet the camera is a microscope as well; It's not just a, um, a, an instrument of bonding, there is more critical work happening through it is what I have always felt about Tim Heatherington's works and with my recent discovery of the other side of the wire, I'm even more  convinced of the theme.”

Greg Brocket: “OK, Thank you very much. Got another question here. Open this to Max or to whoever wants to answer it. How do you think the question of hypermasculinity and extreme violence that we see in, in so many more images today can be sort of like contextualised through, through your work or through photojournalism as far as is possible to say?”

Max Houghton: “Sorry, what, what was the at the end of the question? I got the hypermasculinity bit.”

Greg Brocket: “Yeah, so, the question is: how do the speakers think photography can work, can work to question hypermasculinity and extreme violence that we see in so many war images?”

Max Houghton: “Yeah, I mean, I certainly think that's what then Tim was doing with Sleeping Soldiers, which was then also critiqued for being, you know, much, much too close to them. But you know, the Simone Bile quote that I was talking about, the, the vulnerability on all sides. I mean, these, these are such young men. I yeah, I don't, I don't see that that imagery as, as hyper, hyper masculine I suppose. And the way that Tim worked in, in Liberia over, you know, more than a decade and getting to know, you know, young men who were also engaged in some acts of cannibalism, who were also engaged in kicking a decapitated head around. But that, that's in the work, but it doesn't become a, a sort of hyper-masculine monstrosity; it becomes a, a case of terrible psychological damage or, or at least that's what I see and feel that, that Tim was interested, patient and kind enough to, to, to comprehend.”

Greg Brockett: “Thank you very much. So, we're actually coming very close to, to the, to the break now. We've got a couple of minutes probably not quite enough time for another question I would say. So, if you can go to a break and then we're going to take 5 minutes or a little bit longer and then we'll come back for the, for the second-half of the session, but thanks very much see all the speakers in this session, really interesting. We got more questions and unfortunately not enough time to answer in this time round. Please stick around and in 5 minutes come back and watch the rest of the presentation. Thanks very much. Thanks.”

Second session.

Katy Parry: “Hello everyone. Hopefully you've managed to have a cup of tea and a few minutes away from the screen. So, this is Katy Parry again and I'm going to be chairing our second session today and we've got three speakers: Suzannah Biernoff, and Amru Salahuddien and Paul Lowe. And so first of all, I'm delighted to introduce Suzannah Biernoff, who is a, is a senior lecturer at Birkbeck in art history and so I will hand over to Suzannah if you're ready? Thank you very much.”

Suzannah Biernoff: “Thanks, Katy. Can you hear me?”

Katy Parry: “Yes.”

Suzannah Biernoff: “Thanks very much for inviting me today and it's partly really interesting for me to hear such different perspectives on Herrington's work. I'm actually in the art history department at Birkbeck. I'm a cultural historian and I work on representations of war and injury and also disfigurement, and I've just started work on looking at a longer history of disfigurement in film, so lots of points of contact here but, but one of the things that I've been thinking about is the political mobilisation of beauty and ugliness in relation to the history of disability and physical difference.

This is a history that overlaps with eugenic thought in the early decades of the 20th century with the civil rights and feminist movements in the 1960s and 70s, and with the contemporary discourse of body positivity. My argument is that ugliness and beauty have become politicised in the modern period, used to marginalise and silence, but also to empower and critique. Aesthetics is a battleground in the black is beautiful movement, for example, in second wave feminism and in attempts to destigmatise homosexuality, disability, and non-normative bodies generally. And one of the sites that I've explored where we see ideology and aesthetics converge is war reportage and commemoration and can I have the first slide please?

My most recent book, Portraits of Violence, looks at disfigurement in relation to ideas of sacrifice and national reconstruction during and after the First World War. During the course of that research, I became interested in more recent portrayals of the war-damaged body, some of which still make me feel very uncomfortable, not necessarily because of the graphic nature of the injuries they present, but because of the cultural work that these images perform. And I think it would be fair to say that images of disabled war veterans are always burdened with meaning. They may depict individuals, but they also serve as collective metaphors. 

These aesthetic and ideological tensions are well illustrated by Bryan Adams’ images of British veterans with life changing injuries, which have been published as a photo book by Steidl under the title: Wounded, the Legacy of War. Most people are more familiar with Adams’ musical career than his photographic work, but he's won awards for his fashion photography and his short ad campaigns for brands including Converse, Hugo Boss, Fred Perry, Escada and Jaguar. In 2015, he was given an honorary fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society. And I’m obviously using this work as a point of comparison here. An exhibition of the legacy of war photographs opened at Somerset House on Remembrance Sunday in 2014. The black and white portrait of Paralympic athlete Marine Joe Townsend filled a wall in the first room. His powerful upper body contrasting with a pair of compact mechanical legs. Now a leading member of the British Paratriathlon squad, Townsend recalls how he used to walk down the street and notice people staring. But he says, “The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have really put what you can do with a disability in the limelight.”

Next slide please. There's no doubt that Channel 4's award-winning ‘Meet the Superhumans’ campaign for the London 2012 Paralympics changed public perceptions of disability in the UK. But even before that, blades and other high-performance prosthetics were becoming more visible. Lady Burton and Diana Malcolm Reynolds suggests that “Within the overlapping worlds of competitive sport and fashion, there has been a mainstreaming of prosthetics and to an extent, a mainstreaming of disabled bodies.” Next slide. 

These new devices are anything but inconspicuous. They're not about passing as normal, and anyway, in the context of sport and fashion, nobody is biased to normality. On the other hand, I wonder if part of their appeal, their power as symbolic objects, is that they suppress the idea of disability. Like the portrayal of Paralympic athletes as superhuman, they leave no room for discomfort, vulnerability or anxiety. Brian Adams’ images of disabled veterans are more unstable, I suppose we could say than most cultural representations of prosthetic embodiment, although they are as contrived as any fashion spread. 

Next slide. One of the most striking things about Townsend's portrait is that his pose recreates one of the most famous works from Roman antiquity, the Dying Gaul in the Capitoline Museum. The first or second century marble copy of a Hellenistic original, the sculpture commemorates the victory of the King of Pergamon over the Gauls in 241 BCE. Instead of glorifying the victors, the sculpture immortalises a Gallic warrior in his dying moments. Blood wells from a wound in his chest, his sword lies broken beside him, and his strength almost visibly ebbs away. This is the beautiful suffering of the classical tradition that continues to inspire and console in the 21st century. Antiquity, as the historian James Porter observes, “Is a seductive affair, his mythologising is charged with desire.” Ana Carden-Coyne has documented how classicism provided an aesthetics of healing in post-World War One Europe, a vision of beauty, integrity, and harmony to ameliorate the ugly reality of industrialised warfare. She traces this embrace of classical beauty through war memorials, dance, gymnastics, women's fashion and cosmetics, bodybuilding, and innovations in plastic surgery and prosthetics. It can be seen in Adams’ photographs, too. Next slide. 

The figures have a monumental sculptural quality that is even more apparent in the large format exhibition prints. They stand or sit in front of us like damaged statues or living ruins, etched and filigreed with scar tissue and inscribed with tattoos. They perform feats of physical agility, display medals and missing limbs, smoke and salute. Next slide. 

The pristine uniformity of military dress worn in many of the portraits is echoed in the uniformity of the background, which is not so much a blank studio wall as a white void. There is no suggestion of physical location, no social or familial clues, and although the accompanying chronicles of injury are personal, there is a uniformity here too. All serve to frame the visual shock, the ugliness of mutilation within a medical paradigm of injury, treatment and rehabilitation. The projects endorsement by General Lord Dannatt, who was chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009, leaves us in no doubt as to the purpose of these images of the wounded. Um, the next slide please. 

“So, who is the winner here?” He writes. “It is not the Taliban or the Basra militias; it is these young men themselves. These photographs are testament to the triumph of the spirit over the body, hope over doubt and sheer determination over self-pity. Reflect on these images, and you can only bow in awe and respect.”

An earlier version of this trope emerged in post-Vietnam America, where it provided narrative counterpoint to anti-war films like Hal Ashby’s ‘Coming Home’ and Oliver Stone’s ‘Born on the 4th of July’. More often than not, the drama of injury and journey of recovery have served to deflect questions about the political and economic causes of conflict, and wars’ largely invisible social and environmental effects. As a narrative device, heroic individualism has come to dominate the popular response to unpopular wars in the 20th and 21st centuries. Next slide.  

For me, one of the things that's so important about Tim Hetherington's work is that it resists this erasure of social and economic context. The Healing Sports series replaces the seductive rhetoric of superhumans with attentive portraits of ordinary humanity. The photograph on the left was taken at a Red Cross prosthetic clinic in Angola. On the right, two below knee amputees getting ready for a friendly football match at a war veterans camp on the outskirts of the capital, Luanda. Many of the amputations in Angola are a legacy of the 27 years of civil war from 1975 to 2002. In 2003, there were an estimated 10 million unexploded land mines in the country, according to a WHO report. 1,578 artificial limbs were manufactured for mine victims in Angola in a single year. These aren't the high-performance prosthetics that we see in ad campaigns and fashion magazines, which can cost up to $90,000. The International Committee of the Red Cross has set up land mine rehabilitation projects in 25 countries since 1979, including Angola. Made from polypropylene, the ICR prosthetics are cheap, costing as little as $125.00. They're also lightweight, they can easily be transported, repaired, replaced and recycled without waste. In her book, Frames of War, Judith Butler argues that, “representations of war and conflict determine not only what we see, but what we know and what we feel.” In conflict journalism, the very concept of humanity, damaged or triumphant has become an ideological battleground in which images themselves can function as modes of military conduct. Butler also says that photographs can create new contexts and meanings. They can blur the conventional line between civilians and combatants, for example, or counter the neoliberal rhetoric of overcoming with a more nuanced and tentative concept of healing. Hetherington's archive clearly has an important role to play in this larger project of expanding the frames of war. Thank you.”

Katy Parry: “Thank you so much, Susanna. I already have lots of questions that I would love to ask you, but we'll leave questions at the end and just a reminder to please, do post your questions for all our speakers in the ask the question box. So our next speaker is Amru Salahuddien, who is an Egyptian Canadian photojournalist who's covered many conflicts in the Middle East, including and being in Libya at the same time as Tim Hetherington. So, I will now hand over to Amru and thank you so much.”

Amru Salahuddien: “Well, thanks for having me. Alright before I start I,  I just wanted to mention that when Tim and Chris were hit in, in, in Misrata in 2011, I was covering the Eastern Front lines in, in Libya at the time and I was actually and originally trying to go to Misrata at the time but, but due to some logistic difficulties I, I, I couldn't go so I covered the Eastern front lines and I got the news and. I didn't know Tim and Chris personally, but I knew their work. I, I had their books in my library, so, tragic loss and they were the only photojournalists in Misrata and Strata that remained uncovered until two other photojournalists when they're under the [inaudible] as far as I think as I,  as I remember. And I went there later in May until I was injured in, in July, then I returned back and I got injured again and it was it was a, it was a horrible war and it was a tragic loss and we almost lost another, another videographer, Olivier, Olivier Savile, he's French, and he's one of the best videographers and cinematographers at the moment. So, I'm gonna move on to my presentation. It's going to be slightly shorter than the other presentations. OK, so I'm going to share my screen here. So, this work that I'm about to uh, to, to present whilst I’m talking is, has been I, I, I have captured it and, and photograph it back in 2019 and 2020 and in Libya. And I'm going to start with this video.

So what I'm, what I'm trying to do is this. The millions of people watch these stories every day in the news or massive variety of social media platforms. But for the viewers, combatants and fighters are usually seen as different species, If I may say that. They are utterly dehumanised. And it's similar to watching a wild voice documentary. People see, like a pride of lions or a herd of innocence not quite interested in knowing the story of this specific animal. I know it's tragic to, to apply that to humans, but it is what it is. Who closes the footage and asks who's this? What's his name? What would he be doing if the war had not ravaged this country? 

And this is what I, what I try, what I'm trying to do. I, I, I enforce these questions and I try to find, to find answers for them. When I, when I returned to Libya in 2019,  I innocently found that nothings change. I think the videos are very loud here, so I'm gonna just take the volume down a little. I think this is better, right, Katy? Can you hear me?”

Katy Parry: “We, we can hear you better without the sound, yeah.”

Amru Salahuddien: “Yeah, I just muted the video, it's very loud. I tried to, to reduce the the, the, the audio a little bit, but I couldn't. So, when I returned to Libya in 2019 and I've been covering Libya since 2011, there was a massive change and the generation of fighters that is actually fighting at the moment. The 2011 generation was not the generation that was fighting this war, the last war.

And what I have found is their sons, their younger siblings and their nephews were literally replacing them; one way or another. What I have been doing, of course, for my clients, I was covering the front lines, but I was focusing more on the individuality of every single fighter, fighters that I have photographed in the front lines, like here we see young kids singing. This was directly after a massive battle in, in, in southern Tripoli. 

[Singing] 

So, this is this is what people don't see in a war zone in the Middle East. Since this is my, my, my reason and the reason that I cover. This is, this is what I work hard to, to, to show people, to show the audience and the viewers in this video, there is six young men here, they were 18-years-old. All of them except one, recently one of them was killed in the last war. They were just young kids having fun, not having fun fighting, I mean, after or before the the, the, the big battles. And they, they, they they, are not seen as individuals and each and every one of them has his dreams and plans and, and when I, when I talk to them, no, none of them not a single one, not a single one in in nine months, this is the period of my last, my latest coverage in in Libya. Not one of them told, told me that they wanted to fight or they wanted to like they are war junkies or, or that they appreciate war, every single one of them didn't wanna fight, but they had to fight. So, I'm gonna open here. I'm gonna get to my photographs real quick.

Now, as the war in Tripoli has ended, I'm still working on the story, I am planning to spend more months in Libya to tell individual stories of the young boys who were fighting this war. Some of them were unfortunately killed, so I can't continue the story with them. Some of them are injured, some of them just disappeared and some of them survived. It didn't take me much time after my arrival to Tripoli before I found that my essential, my, my, my main story, my big picture is this story, the individualism, the individuality of every fighter. So, I try to put these, to take these kids away from the front lines when I took their portraits during the war. I try to portray them in a in a peaceful place where they wanted to to, to be. I created a peaceful environment to photograph their portraits, and, and it took me like a few months before I found an abandoned house near Ain Zara; this is a southern border in southern Tripoli. There was a flowers wallpaper and I started taking these portraits of them to take them away from the state of war and to show them. I had long chats with every one of them. Tried to show the personalities through the, the portraits that I've taken. Some of them were actually literally scared of the war, some of them were, were, were feeling the masculinity in the war. They were, some of them had no experience in war zones, they were only kids playing video games, war video games and watching war movies, and this was the first practical experience in a war zone. So, as I said, I wanted to present these young men who ranged between the ages of 18 and 22, in an individual humanitarian way, to break the stereotype image of the Arab fighter with an AK47. And after spending years in Libya, I have concluded that the majority of these fighters want peace but war. And as I said, they actually hate the war and this is part of a story like this, this OK, I'm gonna, I'm gonna close here. This, this young fighter, his name is Hamid, he was killed along with four others in an attack in southern Tripoli. He was a child back in, in, in, in 2011 and in a footage you will only see him running around with an AK47 or not RPG firing here and there, and you wouldn't, you wouldn't be able to, to, to uh to think about his, his, his thoughts, dreams. Is he educated? But this is the power of photography. We pose the moment, and as photographers and we give the, the viewers the time to think and to see to, to, to eye contact the, the quote unquote subjects. This is the uniform of one fighter, his name is Abdul Rahman. I, I, I wanted to take his portraits of the night, but in the morning he was hit by a motor shell, and he got killed instantly. This is Hassam, he was killed as well alongside Hamid. This is Modalfa, who was killed too. So, in this series, only two, two fighters survived after the war. And, and when I go back to these photographs it's really traumatising. I spent, I have spent nights and long days with them, nine months to be precise and they, they, they have gone. They were supposed to be the generation that builds Libya and now they are, they are fighting the war that they inherited. And they actually wouldn't live Gaddafi days to, to fight this war, which is an extension of the 2011 war. So, I guess this is, that's about it, that's, that's my, my story and this is the subject that I that I'm working on that I'm currently working on. Could you just exit my screen sharing? I can’t do it myself. Yeah. OK.”

Katy Parry: “Thank you so much, Amru. Yeah, yeah. Incredibly traumatising and incredibly sad to think of just how many of those young men have died and, and I think it, it kind of speaks to that, you know, the fragility of those lives and young boys, really. And, and just to pick up, I mean, Suzannah mentioned Judith Butler's Frames of War, where she talks about, you know, the grievability, whose lives are grievable and, and so often, like you say, I think particularly in the western media, we don't grieve those lives in, in the Middle East. And so really important, thank you. And, and obviously we'll come back to questions afterwards. And so, I'll introduce now our final speaker in Paul Lowe, who is a reader in documentary photography at the London College of Communication. And so, Paul, I think is also going to share his screen, so hopefully we can bring in Paul now for our final talk.”

Paul Lowe: “Hi.”

Katy Parry: “Hi, Paul.”

Paul Lowe: “Hi, can you hear me?”

Katy Parry: “Yeah.”

Paul Lowe: “Am I live? I can't quite tell now. [laughter] Apologies, everybody.”

Katy Parry: “You’re live, yes, it's quite a confusing system.”

Paul Lowe: “It is a bit, yeah. You sort of don't quite know where you are. OK, I'm going to share my screen now. Hopefully you will see my presentation and…right. Are you seeing my? You are seeing my screen, not my presenter mode, aren't you? You're seeing the images?”

Katy Parry: “Yeah.”

Paul Lowe: “Fantastic. OK, so, yes. So, the dogs and cats of war. I'm, you know, I'm, I'm going last, so I'll be, I'm gonna be quite a whistle-stop tour here through some of the visual iconography of man's best friend who appears quite regularly in photographs of combat situations.

I'm looking particularly here at Afghanistan and Iraq mostly. And it seems that the American military and the British military have a great affinity for dogs. Obviously, dogs have been part of warfare, you know, back into the ancient period of Romans and the British had war dogs that actually would attack the enemy in the, in, in medieval and ancient battles. But obviously the, the US military and the British military both have working dogs, and these are pictures from the US Department of Defence website that shows a whole range of different activities of their working dogs in action. They seem to have some quite interesting captions; they go for these kind of amusing ‘Alfies’ on the US Department of Defence site, and it's quite ironic that the dog is wearing his little ‘Do not pet’ vest whilst his handler is playing with him. 

But you also get some interesting kind of compositions. This looks a little bit Elliot Erwitt-esque, obviously cropping very tightly there to show the dogs, make the dog the, the seat the, the, the focus of the image rather than the men. And some very peculiar images, some strange, sort of, he's performing a bite drill with his dog in what looks like a, a theme park, which is slightly bizarre situation. All these London Department defence are taken from non-combat situations, which I also think is quite interesting. 

This is the mascot for the Marine Corps and, again, kind of channelling his Elliot Erwitt there, the photographer. But cats also do get a look in. So, mascots, animal mascots are quite common in the US military. Cat Nap.

Also now, obviously with the advancing technology and warfare, mechanical or mechanised or automated dogs are beginning to appear, so we now have a drone dog, which is called a computerised canine. 

And to train a US military dog costs tens of thousands of dollars in the time to put into it. So, they're very, very valuable and important creatures to protect, obviously. One of the tropes, of course, of military photography, both from military photographers and also from, from, um, you know, editorial photojournalists, is the shooting against the sunset picture, which we see a lot of. So, this is a marine sunset, here's a perimeter check in Niger, and obviously this is also something that's very common across a whole range of military dog imagery. So, this is just a Google search for dogs and military dogs and sunset.

And it comes into the more editorial magazine photographers as well. This is Matt Cardy at Getty shooting a dog, not quite sunset, but certainly that kind of contre-jour image. You're still following this OK, Katy? Just say hi to make sure you can hear me alright.”

Katy Parry: “Yeah, perfect.”

Paul Lowe: “Brilliant. OK, fantastic. And also, another trope of war photography is the photograph shot through some form of night vision device. And here's Benjamin Lowry photographing a stray dog. So I think what's interesting about this is we’re beginning to see a picture of how dogs are a filter through which lots of these icons of war photography can be viewed, as it were, the dogs sort of getting into the picture quite often. And one of the, one of the ways in which dogs are used, I think visually is to make this connection, this emphatic connection between the dog and their handler or their owner, so you do start to get quite a lot of pictures of dogs being cuddled, held, slept with and this obviously dates back quite far. This picture on the US military site goes back to 1967 of a puppy that was adopted, so one of the other trends is that there are military working dogs, but also units in, in the field quite often will adopt stray dogs and they will become their mascots and they will take care of them, as in this picture here, which is of a,a dog, a puppy that had been adopted by a US military unit in Iraq. And so you get lots of these pictures of soldiers petting stray dogs and stroking them and generally kind of, you know, feeding them and shaking hands with them. You do have to wonder whether this was a posed picture or not. But these are all taken by, by photographers who are just shooting through Getty, so they're all editorial photographers working for magazines and other publications. 

And then you also get some very, very strange situations. These are US military dog handlers in Afghanistan on their day off with their dog, you know, having a swim in the lake. And as I said, lots of these pictures of soldiers and their dogs in their almost domestic life in their sleeping quarters, so here you can see the soldier in his bivvy bag. I guess he's just woken up or his dogs just woken him up. This is a US military group of soldiers who are trying to keep warm, snuggling up together and then also snuggling up with their dog.

And this is a British Army, actually a, a female soldier who's attached to the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, and her dog is a explosive detector dog. And one of the kind of rather, I find quite, I've got a Cocker spaniel myself and I find it extremely, and what's the word for it, really? It's quite troubling that the British Army uses one of the cutest dogs you can imagine to carry out these tasks. So, this is Buster, who is a bomb disposal sniffer dog. And, and in fact, he became quite famous because Buster was the get was petted by Geoff Hoon, who was at the time the British Secretary of Defence when he visited the base in Umm Qasr Port in 2003 in Iraq. And in fact, Buster was given a PDSA bravery award for services in the Iraq War at the Imperial War Museum in London. So here he is on a sort of stage photo shoot at the Imperial War Museum. So, another so, lots of these dogs that get adopted by troops in the field then have to be brought home. So, there's a whole sort of sub-genre of pictures of dogs being sort of fated, coming home, almost like returning warriors themselves. 

So, this is a picture by Carol Goosey of the International Baghdad Pups Programme. Bringing Charlie home of Charlie Company, who was adopted as a nine-month-old dog by a US military unit and is then flown back to the, to America and obviously done all the quarantine and so on and so forth so he could be reunited with the, with his, with his soldiers. Dogs also perform a function to help wounded and rehabilitating veterans. So, this is a dog who's undergoing training to help this disabled war veteran retrieve items from the floor and pass them to him. And they also provide quite a useful, very, very good companion for people who are suffering from things like PTSD. So, this is actually from a much bigger story by Scott Olson of an Army veteran called Brad Schwartz, whose dog and who he is a service dog helps him deal with the PTSD that he's suffering from Iraq and on his back is a tattoo, which is a quote from William Shakespeare's Henry V. One of the great things about, of course, doing archive searches in, in archives is you come across unexpected images and so obviously this idea of the dog in Afghanistan goes back quite a long way. This is from the second Anglo-Afghan war from the graphic of 1879, and I've got a suspicion this is actually taken from a photograph by, by John Burke, who was an Irish photographer who covered the 2nd Afghan War and obviously in those days you would, photographs weren't published in newspapers because the, the technology hadn't yet arrived. So a drawing would be made, a line drawing and that would be what we publish. 

But there are very similar pictures by Burke in his archive of this meeting, so it's quite a good chance it might actually be from a photograph. And also this rather wonderful image from 18, sorry, from 1934 is the RAF Exodus Hunt taking a stirrup cup from bearers before the start of a fox hunt in Baghdad. And obviously dogs feature in much more unpleasant sets of images, including obviously the infamous pictures from Abu Ghraib.

So on the other side, with the Islamic fighters obviously for most Muslims, dogs are not considered to be pets and they're considered to be unclean and you wouldn't have a dog as a pet. But cats are more, more domestic animals that can be taken as pets. So, this is actually a free Syrian Army warrior, soldier. So, he's fighting sort of on the good guy’s side, inverted commas, holding a cat when, when in the anti-ISIS terrorist operations of Operation Euphrates Shield 2016. But you can see the same kind of humanising iconography used here with the soldier and the cat. But ISIS themselves did actually also start using cats as part of their iconography, so this is from a magazine called Dabiq, which is the official magazine if you like of ISIS, they have their own publication obviously from 2016. And this is a fighter holding his, his pet cat which he had picked up very much and adopted very much like the American military did. And in fact, this got even more extraordinary in 2014, when a Twitter feed, sorry, an Instagram feed called Islamic State of Cat, appeared for quite a while, where, which posted various pictures of different Islamic fighters from ISIS and other organisations similar to that with their cats, with these sort of ironic or semi ironic titles.
 
And so, this became a whole kind of Internet meme for a while, until the Islamic State account was eventually shut down for, for violating Twitter's regulations. You can see quite a few different images here of cats and various weapons and so on and so forth. Obviously quite humorous and that, you know, it was believed that these were put out as a way of sort of humanising the fighters and often for their own internal consumption, really, not even trying to reach out to audiences beyond that. It got really bizarre in the end when a couple of research articles came out that said that ISIS was using, there were whole spate of Nutella pictures that appeared online as well of ISIS fighters holding up jars of Nutella, saying they enjoyed it, and there was a whole sort of Internet scandal almost when CNN, in interviewing a pretty, pretty well-known and very well respected academic called Nemo Gayathri in 2014, who is an expert on the recruitment of women into ISIS and other fundamentalist groups, was invited on to CNN to talk about the various different things that happen in that recruitment process, and it was sort of slightly bastardised by CNN, who came up with this extraordinary headline of ISIS luring women with kittens and Nutella, which wasn't really, you know what the academic was saying, but they did put these three things together. And then immediately, ISIS responded. And so, there was a spate of images of ISIS soldiers, this is the day after that, CNN broadcast, saying, “Wished I had a cat.” And then finally, Nutella, cat and lure. So, thank you. That's my little whistle stop tour through some of the iconography of animals in warfare, thank you very much.”

Katy Parry: “Thank you, Paul. I'm also quite fascinated by dogs, particularly in warfare. Have a memoir that is about a dog called Trio, who was a bomb disposal dog in, in Afghanistan. So, they've even, they've even got their own memoirs now as well.”

Paul Lowe: “Yeah, they got their own awards and everything. Yeah, I mean, I love dogs. You know, and cats for that matter, but it's, yeah, it's very bizarre. The Nutella story is quite bizarre. You know, it, it, it had a life of its own, definitely for a while.”

Katy Parry: “I think yeah. And it touches on the kind of ideas of, of meme wars as well.”

Paul Lowe: “Absolutely. I mean, I think it's always really interesting when people are surprised that ISIS does this. Well, why wouldn't they? You know, they're intelligent, sophisticated people who understand the media, they've got their own media production houses. Why wouldn't they be able to produce their own in-house propaganda that's sophisticated and, and, and well thought through? And it's kind of it's another version of, of, of colonialism that we would assume that they weren't capable of doing that really so.”

Katy Parry: “OK. Thank you. So, we're gonna bring back our other speakers. Hopefully now if, if Hannah's able to invite them back in. And, and as I you post your, your questions and hopefully we'll get Amru as well. Just while Amru is joining us, thank you. 

I guess just to kind of touch, something that brings perhaps some of the themes from the last session, but also the first paper and the final paper well, and Ann Marie’s as well to some degree. This dichotomy between sort of hypermasculinity and vulnerability and this coming across in photographs and what I was seeing in some of those images of the dogs as well was a way to kind of code softness, the softness into to connect that with the soldiers’ bodies as well through using these kind of animal images then with wounded soldiers as well often those in those pictures, there's a hardness of the body and, and again you reference the, the statue. And so I'm kind of interested if either of you have got any thoughts on the way in which that kind of softness and vulnerable coded or not in in those images that you were looking at. Suzannah, do you want to comment on that first?

Suzannah Biernoff: “My, my sort of only observation at the moment is that, and I have posted a question for Paul about dogs. But I think, you know, definitely dogs are being used in this way. I mean, they’re clearly really extremely dangerous dogs, many of them, but they are good boys. All of them except the other boy’s dogs, you know. In the circumstances of those photographs are very different in terms of editorial control. But yeah, the images of soldiers sleeping are the ones that I find most poignant, I suppose. That's where you see that sort of vulnerability, that softness and, and it's interesting, I've never thought about those as those images as belonging to a trope. But it probably would be possible to look at images of soldiers sleeping and, and think about whether they function in this way.”

Paul Lowe: “Yeah, I mean, it's interesting, the DOD has that whole set that I showed at the beginning of training of dogs to attack, so they're basically, it's called biTe training, where you a guy, dresses up in a protective suit and the dog is allowed to kind of savage him, which is presented as partly, I think, a kind of efficiency, ‘aren’t out dogs so well trained’ and so sort of functional, but also it's still slightly sort of funny because the guy always looks a bit ridiculous because he's wearing a giant kind of puffer suit thing. But then when you think they are the dogs that were used at Abu Ghraib and are used in crowd control and are used in, in, in attacks, you know both police dogs and and military dogs, obviously. 

So, there's a problem, there's a, there's definitely a problem with the military working dog. There's obviously there are these different categories as well. There is the, the, the, the sort of the police dog, if you like, which would be for use, you know, in these kind of crowd control situations. And then there are the explosive, the sniffer dogs that are trained to sniff out IED's and obviously, purely by the nature of the breed, you know, one is an Alsatian or some other sort of much stronger and the other one is a really, really cute spaniel because spaniels have very good sense of smell. 

So, there's something quite odd in that, in that dichotomy. And then definitely I think, I think a lot of the time when, when photographers seeing a situation, the dog is like an amplifier of that, of that sort of softness if you like. So those pictures of the soldiers cuddling their, their pets in the back of their armoured personnel carrier, or when they're lying on the ground, sleeping with them. It's like, you know, turning the volume up a little bit on the, on the humanisation of it, if you like. So, definitely I think I can add it and that's why I think photographers are drawn to it, you know. There's, there's lots and lots of pictures like this because it is a way of kind of normalising in some ways the,  yeah, the, the, the violence and, and obviously the soldiers themselves too, you know, at the end of the day, you know how many people have taken, have, have had a dog, have taken a dog on during, during COVID, you know what I mean? Military units have always taken mascots on and adopted stray dogs and, and taking care of the and so on because it gives the soldiers a certain amount of, of you know, they want the same connection; they're also craving that same human connection. So, I think that there's that one picture, I think, which actually I think they're Iraqi dog hot handlers where they're cuddling each other and the dog. It's like, you know, taking that sort of level right up to the, the maximum almost in terms of that kind of empathetic connection.”

Suzannah Biernoff: “It maybe also be about creating a home because dogs, there are in many cases, certainly with, with the strays that are adopted, what's happening is that you know, they're creating a home for these dogs in the situations where they are, I mean they could be homeless. I mean they look, they have very little of their own possessions, so it's actually…”

Paul Lowe: “Absolutely, absolutely. I don't think the dog should be brought home. I do, but it's ironic that, you know, for example, at the moment as the US military is preparing to pull out of Afghanistan, there are hundreds and hundreds of, of translators who are trapped in this limbo where their special visas programme has completely failed them. And they are either still stuck in Afghanistan and obviously at great risk, or they're trapped in some kind of limbo in Pakistan or India or somewhere trying to get their visas to get back to America. And so, you know, it's kind of ironic the US military is supporting bringing home the dogs but not supporting bringing home the, the translators who also risk their lives for their, for their country.”

Suzannah Biernoff: “Yeah.”

Katy Parry: “Yeah, OK. I'm just going to move on to the question for Amru that's been posted. So, “Amru, thanks for the great work. From your interviews with the fighters, what do you find in common in their stories and their turning point from average civilians to fighters and at what point do they wish to have an alternative destiny or to be offered another solution?”

Amru Salahuddien: “OK, so first thing, Paul, this was a great presentation. I really loved it.”

Paul Lowe: “Oh, thanks.”

Amru Salahuddien: “And and OK, so back to the question. We had one thing in common, which is them missing education. They really wanted to go back to school, every single one of them. So, young or old, it, it didn’t matter. So, the, so the sole answer that they all agreed on is I want to go back to school. And this, this was a big thing and I'm actually working on a story about this because in 2011, most of the schools in Misrata were shut down due to war. Most of them were actually bombed and some of them were used to, to be like hangers for weapons and, and ammunition at a certain point because the whole city was a, was a frontline and after the war, Libya was stormed with five other wars, especially in [inaudible] and most of the fighters in the, in the, in the last war were actually 70% of the fighters. And yeah, this could be a little bit inaccurate, maybe 70-80 percent of the fighters. But all of them agree that they want to go back to school and, yeah, this is a lot of it and it's, it's very tragic. They don't want to fight and the, the other thing is the generation, the, the generation who, who, who range that ranges between 18 and 20 years old, most of them are inexperienced, they have no military training and they have this sort of mixing virtual reality, they wanted to somehow apply what they do in video games to an actual war zone, and this has caused massive casualties. In the last war 2000 fighters were killed, 2000 people were killed, amongst them, maybe 1,500 fighters, and the, the way that they fought in the beginning of the war, the new generation was horrific. They just attack like they were going to be revived if they got shot and this, this was tragic. I, I was looking and I, I had to involve this at a certain point, “what are you doing? There are snipers. You can’t, you can’t hide like behind this, this thing or that you're gonna get killed.” And they, they get they get killed because of that. So, yeah, this is, this is my answer to this question.” 

Katy Parry: “Thank you. Yeah and I think there's a, there's a couple of questions that have come through more about almost that emotional side of it in your own kind of closeness to, to these fighters as well. And we'll perhaps return to that. But there's, there's a question maybe for each of you could think about, which is, “To what extent is the dehumanization of conflict participants and the insights that that can give us into the nature of conflict as well as the motives and understandings of the individuals, to what extent is that possible with the still image and its traditional modes of presentation, especially in news media and the narratives they promote institutionally? So, I don't know if, if anyone wants to come back on that sort of thinking more about, you know, the, the potential of the still image within the constraints of the industry.”

Suzannah Biernoff: "Hmm.”

Paul Lowe: “Well, I think, I think the industry is much, is very different now to what it was even, even to be honest you know was when Tim was starting, certainly when I was working, you know predominantly as a, as a photographer in conflict in the sense that that mainstream legacy media is no longer the main place that you're looking to place your work. It's a place, obviously, it can be very, it's very important in that in that ecosystem. But there are so many other ways in which you can get work out into an audience now. So obviously, you know kind of paradigm case of that, you know, although you might raise some questions about Tim’s Sleeping Soldiers body of work, but that was a gallery installation in an art gallery, you know. So, there are much and you know, there's lots of multiple ways now which in which image makers are able to disseminate their work through routes to their audiences, which are much more direct. 

So, you know outdoor, I mean, Mike was talking about all the work he's doing with Bronx, with outdoor exhibitions and, and directly, you know, working, you know, literally with people in in, in the in their place a lot more participatory projects happening. So that sense of narrowing the gap between or, between the photographer, the image maker and the person that they're engaging with, with their photography, that's, that's, that's certainly much more possible now than it was. 

You know, you can still publish in the Guardian or the New York Times, which is fantastic, but you can also through another vehicle, whatever that might be whether that’s an exhibition, book workshop, you know, television programme engage with the different register, I think. So, that's one thing that's dramatically changed and, and sometimes that can be a very, a very tight loop as it were. You know, you've got some very interesting participatory projects where people are, you know, you're working, you're not working to almost tell your story, you're, you're working to tell their story. So, you are the kind of interlocutor for them much more.

So I think it's definitely some big shifts, if you like, in the ownership of the story. One of my friends, the Ziyah Gafić, for example now is working with a project with, there's a lot of, there's a huge migrant issue in Bosnia because it's the kind of last, it’s the end of the journey before people get into Europe. So, there's a huge problem here with migrants. So he's working on a project of for refugee storytelling where we're, we're training through the Seven Academy we're training migrants, refugees in telling their own stories by giving them basic media skills and we've produced a website to, to, to tell those stories. So, there's, you know, I mean, even coming, you know, even looking back to the to the, the, the, the Islamic State of Cat, you know the, the, the tools of production now or the tools of distribution are much more dispersed than they were even a generation ago than 10-15 years ago.”

Katy Parry: “Yeah, I mean, yeah, exactly. There's just been so much disruption hasn't there and I wonder as well for Amru, do you kind of feel that when you're working, you're, you're coming up against people who are taking images, you know, either professional images, formally beautiful images you're creating the portraits and do you feel like that is being disrupted at all by the kind of more citizen journalism and how do you kind of feel like as a professional photographer working in that context?”

Amru Salahuddien: “No, they these are both like completely different areas of journalism. I encourage citizen journalism and actually wherever I go, I try to give workshops. I don't really announce it, it's not safe to announce a workshop in a war zone. But I, I see people carrying mobile phones, all they do at the front lines is taking videos and they publish them online and they're trying to evolve, but I, I, I see that they lack certain things, elements that they need to add to their work, and I encourage that. Citizen journalism is not less important than professional journalism at all. 

Before I move on to that, I just had a comment to an answer to a question that you asked, and Paul just answered. There's a very thin line that the viewers might mix actually our, our position in a, in a war zone or, or taken or, or towards a certain group, a certain armed group like, are you sympathising with sympathising with them? Are you trying to portray, for example, ISIS as a humane group? They, they love cats, and they cuddle kids and this is not the thing. When I, when I say that I focus on the individual, it's completely separated at this point from the state of war.

I tried to get deeper, like Syrian mercenaries or, or, or Sudanese mercenaries. I would, would like to do some stories about them about where are they doing? Actually, I have seen some Syrians, two in particular, who I met in Syria. And later on I saw them in Libya and, and both of them were civilians before the war started in, in 2011 in March 2011 in Syria, one of them was a refugee in Egypt but he, he got sentenced was seven years after the military coup in 2013. There was like an organised hunting of, of Syrian activists in Egypt at the time, so he had to flee, and he went to Turkey, but he didn't have any documents, so he went all the way down to, to Syria and he didn't have any funds, any source of income. He had to fight for money. I'm not sympathising with mercenaries. I know that they commit crimes against humanity, but this is the story that I want to tell. He’s not, this person is not a random fighting machine, he's an individual. He's a human. I mean, I may completely disagree with, with what he is doing, I fight the existence of mercenaries around the world, and, for example, Libya is a completely proxy war right now. And it's, it's, it's full of mercenaries from Russia, from Syria, from Sudan, from Chad, from Niger. So yes, of course, any, any, anyone with a, with a, with a basic common sense would, would stand against this, but this is not the story. The story is slightly separated from that, and then we put it in the big picture. This is this is what I wanted to clarify; I don't know if it makes any sense.”

Katy Parry: “No, very, very much so and I think, you know, you know, just the, the, the stories of what those people are going through and, and I think as well you know, you're saying you're taught the fact that it's now the nephews and the sons that are still fighting in Libya. It's just, the, the persistence of, of the conflict is really distressing. I don't I'm, I'm aware that it is now  o’clock, I don't know if anyone of our speakers have a final thing that they really wanted to kind of say before we finish?”

Suzannah Biernoff: “Katy, can I just go on really quickly to say I think that the question you've asked just now is such an important one, such a difficult question to answer. But for me as a historian, I guess one of my questions that I would ask in response is what do we mean by the individual? And of course, what we mean by that changes over time or the weight that we give to different aspects of the self for the individual changes over time and yeah and I, I mean I, I think it's, you know, it's unlikely that we can capture an individual in a still photograph or in a single narrative, but I think it is interesting, as Paul says, you know, that, that photojournalists are finding other ways of doing this work. And certainly in Tim's work, I think there are enough incidental and contextual clues that you have a sense of, you know, a surprising sense of what an individual life might be, but still I want to know those peoples’ stories and, and I guess it's enough to want to know, you can then ask that question.”

Katy Parry: “It’s that finding that bit of humanity in in these most extreme circumstances, that people are going through? OK, so we will finish there. I mean, we could have gone on, I think and, and I really do hope that we'll be able to hold another event soon possibly with, with some face-to-face elements as well, certainly a hybrid nature. And because it would be lovely to talk more through these issues and to hear more from, from people who have only been able to attend today. So, I just want to really thank all our speakers again for fantastic presentations and really thought-provoking and stimulating images as well as words. And, and, and I also just really want to thank Hannah Wills, who's been coordinating all this behind the scenes, along with Nick Bellwood as well, so thank you very much and thank you to the Imperial War Museum for hosting this event as well. And oh, and there was a question about recording. It should be made available through the Imperial War Museum website as well at some point. I can't give you an exact date at the moment, but, but it will be posted up, so keep an eye on the Tim Hetherington collection which is available through the Imperial War Museum, and we'll have a link to today's talk through there. So, thanks everyone so much, really great to see you and hopefully we can meet in person at some point. Thank you.”

Humanitarian photography

This second AHRC funded network event, focused on the potential and pitfalls of ‘humanitarian photography’. Tim Hetherington was interested in power differentials and the ethics of representation, leading him to question his own role in travelling to African countries to take photographs of conflicts. But his direct experience of documenting the Liberian civil war also led him to give testimony as an expert witness during the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in 2006. In this event, we considered the evidential, cultural and political work of photography which attempts to convey the lasting consequences of war. The event began with a short welcome, followed by two in-person presentations and a virtual Q&A. The second part featured a panel discussion and a pre-recorded video presentation.

Tim Hetherington Collection, Conflict Imagery Research Network event exploring humanitarian photography took place on 16th September 2021.

Greg Brockett, Senior Curator: “For those who don’t know me by the way, I’m Greg and I'm in the contemporary conflicts team here at IWM, and I've been working on the Tim Hetherington Archive now for a couple of years.

And as part of that, we started up this AHRC funded networking event with Katy at the University of Leeds. Yeah, we've got a really packed schedule, so I don't really want to talk for too long before I hand over to Katy.

But I think just to say from the perspective of the archive, and now it's set up here at IWM, looking back at it in the context of history, it was really important to have a humanitarian aspect to this network. And I think if you look back at Hetherington's work, a lot of it was really grounded in his early humanitarian work. I think really specifically about his portraits he did in Sierra Leone showing the consequences of the war there, and that style and approach he took actually went with him through all of his conflict photography as well. And equally, the way Tim kind of, I guess, his very thoughtful process meant he also thought a lot about the ethics of what he was doing. And so, he spoke about the dilemma of being a Western photographer and then going and making work in Africa, which was then sent back and published in, in Western countries. And again, that's something we're gonna hopefully touch on today as part of this, part of this session. So that's it for me, from me for now. Katy is just gonna do another quick introduction then we’ll get into the first presentation.

Katy Parry, Associate Professor, University of Leeds: OK, so I just wanted to also give a warm welcome from myself. My name is Katy Parry. I'm an Associate Professor at the University of Leeds. And so, as Greg's already said, this is our second event. And I should say this is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and we're very grateful to the museum to be hosting us today, especially, I think, you know, it's one of the rare in-person events at the moment. And I just want to say a special thanks to Nick as well for all the help he's been giving us with planning the event. So, in the documentary film, War photographer, James Newquay states, “For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity.” He says, “If war is an attempt to negate humanity, then photography can be perceived as the opposite of war and if it's used well, can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war. But this idealistic take has certainly been questioned by others and is a great deal of scholarly attention on the camera as a device for war, surveillance, humiliation, subjugation. So, it can be both a democratic tool and a tool of oppression. And of course, both perspectives can be true at once, and one of our aims today is to examine the, those contradictions of image-making and its role in the making of the world around. So, as Rebecca Stein has recently stated in her book on Israel/Palestine, “Camera technologies have been tethered to social and political dreams of various kinds, and these hopes and dreams often fall short when media failed to stem violence or deliver justice. And so, I find this idea of camera dreams really evocative, as it captures both the imagination and hope associated with dreams, but also the inevitable disappointment when dreams remain out of reach or unfulfilled.” So many photographers write of the need to keep pursuing a sense of social justice, even when you know that personal investment will not bring suffering to an end. So, Herrington's work, his talks, his writing, serve as a prompt for these discussions today, and we hope to reflect on his legacy, but also to broaden out our discussion to the developments in the 10 years since his death in Libya.

So, I'm not going to say much more than that. I'm now going to, we're going to move on to our first session and set of speakers. So, our next presentation is from Tom Allbeson. Where are you, Tom? Ah, there you are from Cardiff University. And Tom's talk is ‘What's in a name? Intellectual histories of war photography in the 20th century.’

Have you already?”

Dr. Tom Allbeson, Lecturer in Cultural History at Cardiff University: “I have, yes. Thanks a lot. Yeah, I'm beginning to regret that title now standing here. I was quite pleased with it when I sent it to Katy and Greg, but it's a bit grandiose now for a 15-minute paper. I guess what I mean by intellectual history is something quite straightforward, if you like. It's the development of an idea over time, and it's pluralised here just in recognition of the fact that in any particular moment, agreement on the meaning of an idea is likely is unlikely. I mean, even today in this room, I'm sure there's plenty of terms that we'll be using that we won't necessarily find common agreement on. I'm going to be looking at ways of thinking about war photography, and specifically I'd like to look at the idea of the concerned photographer, where that idea came from and how it's critiqued and modified over the decades of, say, from the Spanish Civil War to the Post Cold War moment. So, I'll be considering ways people think about and talk about photographing conflict over the course of the bloody 20th century and sketching different ways of thinking about conflict photography and crucially, the sort of political or cultural work people think it can and should do over decades of the 20th century. So, this draws on research for a book that I'm co-authoring with Professor Stuart Allen, who'll be taking part in the round table later on today, and I think it relates to our theme of humanitarian photography, or at least I hope it does, because it highlights some of the factors leading to the prominence of that term in the 1990s, and that's where I'd like to end up at the end of this paper. Thanks, Nick.

I've got quite a lot of ground to cover and so in case I forget to do this at the end, I just wanted to flash up a select bibliography of some of the work that I've been drawing on, work that's helped me think through some of the key issues of, you know, the migration of people, the transformation of practise, and the progression of debate. And so, in the interests of transparency, I thought I'd share those with you now in case I run out of time and then next is an outline of what I'd like to discuss, so I'll start with a broad definition of this notion of the concerned photographer, which is what I'd like to historicize in this paper, and then we'll loop back to look at the interwar period, and then progress chronologically and hopefully come into land in the 1990s.

Right, OK. So, as you no doubt know, Robert Capa's brother, Cornell Capa, established the fund for concerned photography in 1966 and curated the exhibition, ‘The concerned photographer’, which led to a book and a tour, and you can see Cornell Capa here in Japan, where the exhibition was shown. It was also shown across the river in 1971, the inaugural exhibition of the Photographers Gallery and I think there are events later this year commemorating the 50th anniversary of that. And in 1972, there was a companion volume with work by Mark Caribou, Gordon Parks, W Eugene Smith, Ernst Haas and Don McCullen. And Cornell Capper, in his own words, was “championing those who use their cameras as a tool of social conscience and a means of expressing their reverence and affirmation of life.” So that blurb and that line up in those two volumes proposed a model of the motivation and the output and the value of photography. It also entailed the specific narrative of Photojournalism's historic development and prescribed an agenda for future practise. And that's what I'd like to historicize a bit. When Cornell Capper articulated that, he linked contemporary photojournalists like McCullen to Matthew Brady to Lewis Hine and to Dorothea Lange and his history of photojournalism was consolidated, if you like, with the establishment of the International Centre for Photography in 1974.

Now, it's an interesting and an influential reading of the history of photojournalism, but it obscures a very different photographic family, connecting Cornell and Robert Capa to interwar Europe and the seismic political and cultural developments there prior to 1933. So, I'd like to loop back now because this is a pivotal moment for press photography, you get the confluence of radical politics, cultural revolution, and technological innovation, which results, I would argue, in the emergence of photojournalism proper. You know, it's not just a quantitative shift from the 1920s, resulting in more press pictures, but a qualitative shift in style, in presentation and in the significance of press photography. News pictures no longer just support or supplement words but are used in their own right to tell stories, to highlight issues and to construct arguments. So that's what I mean when I say the emergence of photojournalism proper in this era of mass media and mass democracies. Here, aesthetics and politics are inextricably intertwined, and the capacity for photography to offer critical commentary is realised at scale and implemented across numerous publications.

What Weimar Germany in the 1920s then, and into the 1930s, is a centre of gravity, if you like. As a consequence of the interactive cultures of post-revolutionary Russia and the newly-established German democracy with Berlin, a capital of innovation in press photography up to 1933. And, of course, with the rise of Fascism in Germany, you get a massive emigration of this new photographic talent and a dissemination of these new photographic techniques. First to Paris, then to London, then to New York, innovators like Maria Eisner, Simon Gutman, Stefan Lorant, Kurt Korff, Kurt Szafranski, left, and they transformed press photography wherever they went; across Europe, the UK and the US. And you see this in the launch of publications like Regard in 1933, Weekly Illustrated here in the UK. In 1934, Life, of course, in ‘36, Look, in ’37, Picture Post, in 1938.

Photographers, too, of course, many of them Jewish, also became refugees, and three of the most famous anglicised their names; Gerda Taro, David Seymour, and Cornell's brother Robert Capa. And these weren't just great photographers, and that's the key point. They weren't just war photographers; they were dedicated anti-fascists.

Capa’s first commission was to photograph Trotsky in Copenhagen giving a lecture on the meaning of the Russian revolution. Shim described himself in his own words as a revolutionary photographer in the 1930s, and Taro was steeped in the politics and the aesthetics of revolution. For instance, the film and photo exhibition in Stuttgart in 1929. So, when they photographed the Spanish Civil War, they did it from the Republican side. As partisans with cameras, if you like, not simply concerned photographers but politically committed photojournalists. And this era of popular front politics saw an establishment of worker photography organisations, you know, across Europe and also into the UK and the US and the US Film and Photo League, for instance. Now, these anti-fascist political commitments, of course, chimed with Allied War aims of the Second World War. And that's crucial to acknowledge. So, you get these politically committed photographers doing essential and widely circulated work during the Second World War period, and you also get press professionals like Francis Williams, editor of The Daily Herald in the UK, who start to work for government organisations like the Ministry of Information or Gardener Coal Cowls, proprietor of Look Magazine, who works for the office of War Information in the US.

You get a interpenetration of their photographic press professionals and the public information campaign during the Second World War, such that photography becomes a key weapon in the arsenal of democracy and it's praised for its contribution to the war effort in magazines like the War Photographic Society Journal and National Geographic. So, this unimpeachable war record, if you like, meant that in the post-war moment, Photojournalism Star was in the ascendant, that there was a consolidation of the professional status of photojournalists and, you know, art directors and magazine editors, it's evident in numerous developments like the establishment of the American Society for Magazine Photographers in ‘44, of course, the establishment of Magnum Photos in 1947 and the start of the World Press Photo Competition in 1955.

As Nadya Bair demonstrates in her recent book on Magnum Photos, news pictures in this post-war moment were a new kind of vernacular language for the post-war world. But of course, it was the Cold War moment as well, and that brought an important shift from an anti-fascist to an anti-communist paradigm. And in that moment the meanings of patriotism changed, as do the prospects of leftist politics and the people associated with left political movements.

So the US Film and Photo League is disbanded, for instance, in 1951. The Family of Man exhibition further promoted this sort of deep, politicised conception of photojournalism. It, it’s presented photojournalism as a humanist and universal enterprise, obscuring the cultural context of many of the photographs that are included in the catalogue and the exhibition which predate the 1950s. As Bair, Bair shows, the posthumous exhibitions and photo books that promoted the work of Robert Capa and David Seymour and Verna Bischoff, who died in Peru in the 50s, these indelibly linked the Magnum brand with photos of children and refugees and civilian victims, deprioritising the copious imagery those people produced of committed combatants in war zones. Thanks. So there's a complex back story then that's omitted from Cornell Capa’s formulation of the concerned photographer. The political commitments of the interwar years were erased by this sort of humanist, universalizing photographic family tree. The lineage presented in the late 1960s and early 1970s is a deliberate disentanglement of photojournalism from its leftist inheritance to forge a new post-war image of the profession that's in line with the cultural politics of the Cold War era.

Of course, that's not to say that there wasn't radical work being done in this period. You know, take or instance, Vietnam Inc. by Philip Jones Griffiths. I giggle when I think about what he would have said if somebody had described him as a concerned photographer, and he'd probably give quite a robust answer which probably sounded more robust in Welsh. Nor would I argue that photography of humanitarian disasters in this period, like the work by McCullen and Shield, Caron in Biafra and I wouldn't argue that they weren't trying to use the camera as a tool of social conscience and to affirm the importance of every human life. I’m not questioning Cornell Capa’s commitment to mobilising the power of photography, I’m merely observing that he wasn't a very reliable cultural historian, and that's important for our theme today. I think, because the concerned photographer ideal, like the decisive moment or compassion fatigue, is one of those key concepts that shapes and distorts perhaps debate about photography and those key concepts demand critical interrogation. And indeed, the concerned photographer ideal was questioned as soon as it was articulated. You know, Burger John Burger argued that McCullen's Vietnam imagery depoliticised war. Susan Sontag held at McCullen's imagery from Biafra, which he labelled concerned did at least as much to dead and conscience. Just to arouse it, and from a photographer’s point of view, Susan Marcellus in 1981, with her book Nicaragua is engaged with exactly those questions about what it means to mobilise concern through photography. So, these questions, these concerns, become more intense as we move into the 80s and the 90s. So, the Falklands and the Persian Gulf War prompted further reassessment by critics and photographers alike, with photojournalists uncomfortably positioned. If you like, as spectators. To major conflicts or public relations officers for the military, as some commentators at the time suggest. It and I want to turn now to consider how concerned photography was refocused as the 20th century came to a violent end in the 1990s. So there's an ongoing debate between photojournalists, critics, and intellectuals to critique and to reconfigure. How to mobilise concern in and through conflict photography, and I hesitate to use that word, mobilise after Omar's brilliant talk. Obviously I think this is most evident come the end of the Soviet Union and the innovative coverage of violent conflict that came out in the later years of the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. So initially, graphic visual reporting seemed to prompt little public or political will. To act, to intervene and discussion of compassion fatigue in the early 90s seemed to go hand in hand with the reports of ethnic cleansing. Concerns were raised about whether the wars in former Yugoslavia rendered photojournalists compromised or even complicit in the bloodshed, since the violence of ethnic cleansing was engineered to intimidate, and one of the ways it could meet that aim was by the circulation of images of, of violence. You can see this debate played out between the photographer, Ron Haviv and two researchers improbably named Luck and Doubt in the magazine Human Rights Quarterly.

So this is the end of the century approach. People queried the role and the value of photojournalism in learning the lesson of never again which Omar mentioned in the previous paper, that bloody conflicts of the 20th century, and particularly photography of the conflicts of the 20th century, was meant to have taught.

In response, new photographic projects and new formats were engineered; photobooks and exhibitions that interrogated modes of documenting conflict. So, I'm thinking of many examples, but Gilles Peress serves very well with his first book, ‘Farewell to Bosnia’ in 1994, first book on, on this conflict, sorry, which is a revision of the classic mode of reportage, an explicit rejection by him of ‘good photography’. He's not seeking a singular image, or even a powerful sequence as you would in a photo-essay, but he's producing what he terms, “a visual continuum snatched from experience.”

Photographers also formed new partnerships with NGO's and human rights organisations in this era. For the graves, Peress worked with forensic teams, exhuming bodies from mass graves after the fact, and with Eric Stover, director of the Human Rights Centre at Berkeley. So this sort of work moves from a general humanist concern to a novel photographic paradigm, paradigm, not simply concerned, but engaged photography where witnessing is front and centre and advocating for humanitarian intervention is a key aim, as stated by Nachtwey, who Katy mentioned in their work collaborating with NGO's.

So, although as Fahrenbach and Radogno notes, the word humanitarian was first used in 1844, you know, oddly enough, the terms humanitarian and photography aren't put together to calling the phrase humanitarian photography until the 1990s. It's no coincidence, of course, that the discourse of human rights gained traction only in the final decades of the 20th century and I think humanitarian photography then we need to recognise, is not just an extension of humanism in photography, it's not just another name for concerned photography, but there's much more going on and I've tried to trace a historical trajectory via a few key milestones.

The advent of photojournalism in inter-war Germany, the cultural politics of anti-communism in post-war America, the crafting of that ideal of the concerned photographer by Capa, Cornell Capa and others, and then bringing us to the theme for today, the increasing salience of humanitarianism and humanitarian photography in discourses about photographing conflicts at the end of the 20th century.

I've not attempted to examine how the advent of digital photography, the war on terror, the war in Syria, phone camera imagery, social media, citizen photojournalism, how these things add a new chapter to the intellectual histories of war photography, and I'm really glad I didn't attempt to do that after Omar's brilliant paper, I think I've covered more than enough ground in 15 minutes. But in part this paper responds to a central problem that Katy highlighted about photography that really interests me. Why is photography so often characterised as a democratic medium? To paraphrase Brecht, cameras are just as useful to lie as, as typewriters as word proof, word processors, and as Twitter is, photography is neither essentially democratic nor anti-democratic. What's in a name then? Revolutionary photographer, war photojournalist, concerned photographer, engaged humanitarian image maker. These ideas prioritise different facets of the practise of photographing conflict and what's interesting to me about them is they probably tell us more about the value we place on photography and the relationship with visual culture within our societies than those terms tell us about photography itself. It reveals how we think about photography, how that changes over time, and the political, cultural and, crucially, moral work we expect photographs to do in any given era. Alright, thanks very much.”

[Applause]

Katy Parry, Associate Professor at the University of Leeds: “Also, who gets to define that work as well is something that we'll be talking about today and, and I know that's something that's going to come up in the next paper as well because, you know, it's very much there in the title of ‘Our Memory Belongs to us’ from the Daraa archive to the Syrian oral history project. So, I welcome Doctor Dima Saber from the Birmingham Centre of Media and Cultural Research. Thanks, Dima.”

Dima Saber: “Hi.”

Greg Brockett: “Click through presentation.”

Dima Saber: “Oh brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to start this claim, actually. I, it's my second day back at work from a six-month maternity leave, and so I did write something, I'm just going to read it because I really don't trust my brain to make any sense at this stage. So, apologies if, you know.

Right. So, so in, in September 2012, Yadan Draji crossed the Syrian-Jordanian border and foot with a hard drive containing hours of footage that he and four of his friends shot in Daraa in the first 18 months of the uprising. In 2020, documentary filmmaker Rami Farah reunited the surviving three on a stage in Paris and confronts them with their own footage as a way to reflect with them on their personal journeys as activist and archivist nearly ten years after the beginning of the uprising.

Comprising hundreds of hours of live recordings from protests, activists gathering, bomb attacks, funerals and testimonies, the hard drive formed the point of departure of Our Memory Belongs To Us, which is a 90-minute documentary film which premiered last April at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival. So, it's not out, you're going to be the first people ever to see this trailer, actually. The film received special jury mention, thank you.

And shot by activists who were mostly operating anonymously, intense and very dangerous conflict affected areas and with very limited access to the internet and video technology. The data archive was recorded using different devices and in very multiple formats. The material comprises 12,756 videos totalling over two terabytes with 3482 unique videos, basically it took me about five years to go through the archive and make sense of it. That's why the film took eight years, actually.

So, we have an estimated duration of about 400 hours that we worked with, and we needed to turn that into 90 minutes that made sense for people, hence the difficulty. So based on my work on the data archive on the production of the film over the last eight years, my presentation today will be in two parts. First, I'll attempt to describe the migrant journey of the Dara Archive from an eyewitness documentation of the early days of the uprising in Syria to a collection of digital files on a hard drive in Paris, to a 90-minute documentary film expected in theatre later this year. Despite this, concerned with the effects of democratisation of production and dissemination on the ways our societies bear witness, and remember in times of war. Then if I have time, I'd like to share with you some initial findings from a larger project through the Syrian Archive, the student Oral History Project, which I'm working on in partnership with the Syrian Archive, and which will document the experiences of 100 Syrian image makers from Damascus, Daraa, Hama, Al Hasakah and Raqqa and in this part of my presentation, I want to look at what Pinchevski called ‘the democratisation of the archivist nation of memory’ to explore the pneumonic potential of crowdsource archive produced in times of war and the connection between the two is really the film began was about eyewitness video, but then very quickly, 10 years later, became about memory. So, the first question we asked ourselves when we started working with Yadan’s material was how should we call it? Is it a collection? Is it an archive in the making, not formed but in transition? Seeking roots but founded in an origin of trauma and displacement? Or maybe a migrant archive seeking fixed city in a nation state like the activists who shot it but with the history to speak for. The Declaration of the Revolution is one of the first videos saved on the hard drive, it’s just over 30 minutes.

Could you play that please?

[Film footage playing]

A preacher lifted on the shoulder of two men in speaking into a megaphone. We were hoping that no blood would be shed except in our war with the enemies of God and with our enemies’ designers, but what's been done is done and it's all the will of God, so be patient and be calm. God is great. God is great. Then the crowd then rumbles in one unified voice, “Revolution, Revolution, Revolution.” Five times, ten times. We understand from the title of the file and the date at which it was saved that this moment marks the first public declaration of the Syrian revolution in Daraa, and this is very specific because it's very geographically focused. So based on, so does citizen generated sequence of the first public declaration of the Syrian uprising in constitute historical record of the Syrian uprising and who gets to decide?  

Are both the general issues around the archive, its definition and impact, and the specificity of this material and its meaning. And its collective production process of collation, travel and the duration of his transmutation from live witness to historical material awaiting engagement in use is a challenge of its important impact, which originated as an impromptu mode of citizen journalism, generating a potential resource for convention and media reportage of events in a short period of time, become, became an imperilled and invaluable collection of material. It pays witness to events and could potentially aid an understanding of the origins of the Syrian war and hold to account those parties whose violence and impact is represented therein.

When I asked him in 2016 about his source of inspiration to take onto the street back in March 2011, so I have to say that alongside the work on Daraa, I kept interviewing Yadan over and over again over the six years. He said, “The long years of oppression in Syria, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt and the coverage it all got on global media such as Jazeera, of course, encouraged them, but Syrians had already lost patience and were striving for freedom and social justice.” The people took to the street and when I asked him about his personal motivation, he said, “He understood very quickly, he was witnessing a very important and historic moment and wanted to document this moment in the history of his people and his country.” It's apparent then that the moment Yadan Draji and other activists started documenting Syrian uprising, the material that wondered its way into the Daraa Archive was not necessarily captured with intention or anticipation of preservation. In media witnessing Frosh and Pinchevski note that, “Every claim of witness involves a form of mediation, while every mediation is a mode of witnessing.” Can then infer that the primary motivation of recording the events in Daraa was not accidental, but purposeful. It was to say this is happening now like this to us, such an intolerable situation, the man's response from the moral economy of contemporary vicarious witness afforded by mass media and the ubiquity of social media, means that it's no longer possible to claim ignorance of events. And you've seen in the trailer, and he said, “Nobody could say you didn't know it was happening.” As such, the Daraa Archive underlines the immediacy with which a response was needed, and I think this is really good connection to our conversation about humanitarian photography and what it means and what it calls for.

As the non, non-violent protest slowly turned into a vicious civil war, Draji and I hate this word, and I put it in large brackets, Draji and his fellow activists, like many other citizens in possession of mobile phone with camera technology, began to understand the unfolding of events around them. Their intentions of documenting these events also change. Eventually they realise that the value of their footage is not necessarily confined to the present historic moment that they were witnessing but could potentially serve as a repository of shared memory of the people and places obliterated by the viciousness of the war.

But before I turn my, to the my attention to the relation between more archive and memory in the second part of this talk, I'd like to suggest an answer to the question I asked at the very beginning of my talk. How should we call it? I want to call it a refugee archive, a collection of records in the process of becoming something more fixed, more official, more usable, more stable. It's an archive in the making, an idea which alludes to the status as well to the experience of those who compiled its material and transported it. As such, it's like the people who made it; it's a refugee archive. And in this, the makers and their materials share a condition with those it depicts and who were forced to migrate, not in search of a better life, but simply in order to stay alive. And one of the things that this refugee archive has become is ‘Our memory belongs to us’, which brings me to the pneumonic potential of crowdsource footage in times of conflict. The work on the Daraa Archive has led me in 2019, I needed to get out of the Daraa as well because it became a bit overwhelming to look at the same images over and over again. To start thinking about the relation between crowdsourced images of conflict and processes of collective memory building.

So we started working with the Syrian Archive and it's part of a, an initiative by a non-profit organisation called Pneumonic, and they work on the Syrian Archive, the Yemeni Archive, the Sudanese Archive, and we just launched the Lebanese Archive actually two weeks ago, post October Revolution in, in Lebanon. And so, the project explores, or at least aims to explore in which, ways in which documentary practises and experiences of ordinary citizen, citizens in Syria have contributed to the production of thousands of multi-source digital testimonies which attest to the constantly evolving social, economic and political situation in Syria. The unearthing, as they call it, of these individual memories and narratives, would allow the archive team to investigate the meanings of the so-called Syrian digital memory of the 2011 Uprising and its subsequent war.

So basically, there's thousands of videos which are dumped on YouTube. It's not an archive, it's a dumpster and it's not organised, it doesn't make any sense. One way for us to make sense of it is to basically interview the people who are still alive, who shot this archive and then confirm their testimonies with their footage in an attempt to make sense of it as a narrative. And so, we want to interview 100 image makers from Daraa, Damascus, Hama, Al Hasakah and Raqqa, and there's a reason why it's their cities, so we can discuss this afterwards if you like and publish this in an open-source repository of their videos and oral testimonies.

Building on the legacy of local studies, our aim is two-fold. Because while local studies, and it's pretty interesting to actually look at the legacy for those studies, when you're working on something and now and it's basically it's the only place in humanities where we acknowledge testimonies of survivors as, as a legitimate form of history. So, the aim is two-fold; we want to advocate for the recognition of Syrians as survivors of a civil war and to make the collection of their oral testimonies an interesting, intrinsic part of any post-war reconciliation efforts. So, so far we've undertaken 2 rounds of semi-structured interviews, 25 people aged between 21 and 65. The first one took place 2019 and included 15 respondents from different cities. The second took place in 2020 and included ten respondents only from Aleppo, and there's a reason why Aleppo, and that's an obsession with Hamas. So there's a lot to say about history and previous trauma and how that made its way into the current testimonies. All the interviews were conducted in Arabic via Skype, WhatsApp, and Google Hangout. We recorded with consent, etcetera, etcetera. The sample included respondents from different affiliations. So individual freelancers, members of activist group, independent media centres and local coordination committees and freelancers contracted by international mainstream organisations like Reuters and AP because one of the things I'm really interested in is, is how these citizen journalists became institutionalised within large mainstream media and what that meant for what they were doing and why they were doing it.

We haven't included any pro-government use of perspective because, as this would have complicated the sampling criteria and you can also talk about the, the limitation of this. The interviews, the interviews were designed around 3 interconnected parts. In the first part, we asked questions about purpose and value, why they started to film and when, for which audiences, why they thought it was important to keep documenting the uprising ten years later. The second part considered film and image making as practise was questioned about why they filmed, what cameras they use and where they stored their archives. And then the third part we look at the pneumonic value of these archives as articulated by their own creators. We asked about history, collective memory and the way they thought their fellow Syrians and the world would remember the revolution in the years to come.

Very early findings from the first series of interviews echo in the most part Yadan and his motivation for documenting the uprising in Daraa. So I was, as I was doing the interviews with the new project, we kept interviewing Yadan and asking him the same question and, and a lot could be said about how he himself talks so differently within the next eight, last eight years about how and why he, he shot where he shot and why is important and, and what he'd like to see of it.

So, we were thus far able to articulate three main potentials and it's important to call it potential because it's theorising and making it up basically. For this crowd source archive of conflict, first testimonial and historic value that archives as the last available record of people and places which are no longer was a common theme to the conversation we had with all the Syrian respondents. One of the best when we asked Yadan for him out of the 12,756 videos he shot, which one is the most important? He said, “It's one video called Daral Ballad”, and it's 2 minutes long and he hides a camera in a napkin box in his car and he just drives around. Nothing happens. He's just driving around the city before it was all destroyed. And in the interview he talks to me about, “this is the baker, this is the shop.” And he said, “This is the last record I actually have of the place.” And, and it's kind of interesting to imagine that the sensation that narrative of death and graphic and kids and actually, when you ask the person for him is just the two minutes video of him driving around the city, his city that is the most important for him currently.

Second evidentiary value. The potential of the archives to be used as evidence against the Syrian regime and to hold it to account for its crimes in years to come is another reason Syrian photographers and videographers see value in their, in their footage today. But also for me, I mean, sorry for the long quotes with people probably haven't had time to read, but I can share that. Most interestingly is the stuff around creative value. In addition to seeing themselves as the custodians of the narrative of this, you know, revolution, the photographer and videographers we spoke to highlighted the significance of their archive for what could be considered as the creative memory of the uprising war. This brings to mind Keightley and Pickering concepts of Mnemonic Imagination through which they suggest moving beyond the association of memory with the past and the imagination of the future, to consider ways in which the past attains and regains significance for the present and the future by approaching remembering as a creative process. So of the millions of videos which today sit on YouTube, we measured one of the people we, we, we interviewed spoke about the importance of preserving the songs of the revolution for the generation to come. So for him, these videos are the last record of these songs and these songs are one of the most important things for him to preserve. For Hassan Abul, these archives are important because they could be transformed into important documentary films about the Syrian revolution to help immortalise it. So years after the uprising, when you ask these people what do we keep, what do we remove? Should we keep 5 million videos that are on YouTube? The issue of turning it into a film, making it into something that is organised, that sits in a cinema that people can engage with and see has been very, very important in the minds of people we spoke to.

Suleiman did make a film, one film about the Syrian revolution. ‘Our memory belongs to us’ is his and our attempt to extract meeting, meaning from the obscure chaos of the war while being mindful if possible, of the pitfalls, attending representation and relativization, especially when performed in the Western Academy. So I am extremely, I'm Lebanese and Syria is my home country and I feel extremely uncomfortable to be standing here telling this story to all of you. So, I think this is, it took us quite a long time to be able to accept that we are telling the story on behalf of the other people, especially the two of them, who actually died. So, oh, that was the quote from Hassan Abul, a bit late, sorry. So from issues of ownership, consent, harm, participation, vulnerability, subjectivity and objectivation to security, agency and responsibility, when working with materials such as the Daraa Archive and beyond it with material shot by hundreds of Syrian image makers, some of whom died, some of whom are still inside Syria, it's vital to protect identity, sustain objectivity, objectivity, and avoid objectivation respond to vulnerability and limit harm. Ultimately, it's also vital to ask ourselves ‘What's in it for those whose stories is being told?’ I hope a space within the mainstream narrative for their own testimonies and often very fraught subjectivities that is at least what the Syrian Oral History project is aiming for. Thank you.

[Applause.]

Q&A with Nicole Tung

Nicole is a freelance photojournalist who has extensively reported on conflicts and their consequences for civilians and veterans, across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In 2011, she photographed the anti-Gaddafi uprising and civil war in Libya where photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were mortally wounded.

Greg Brockett: “My first question for you is: How you think the use of social media has changed the ethical choices made by photojournalists in the sense that it cuts out the editor and photojournalists are able to publish so much more quickly and perhaps think about those ethical decisions they have to make in much shorter space of time. Has that changed the way in which the ethics process works?”

Nicole Tung: “Yeah, I definitely think that social media has put more pressure on photographers to produce quicker and, you know, to have that feeling that or being compelled to have to put everything on social media simply because if you're, you know, not doing that, it's like you're almost not there at all. So it, it can, it has it's good things, I think as pros as far as being able to disseminate the images further but it's also got a lot of its cons, because I think especially having only single images and people only having very short attention spans with social media, you're not able to give people perhaps the context that is needed or in the traditional sense of people maybe looking at magazine pieces where they would actually be able to see more images, read the captions properly. Like, you know the scrolling whole scrolling thing really breaks that down and you have to get people's attention much, much quicker.”

Greg Brockett: “Great. Thanks very much. Any more questions? Yeah, we have got a question there.”

Audience member: “Yeah, I. Thank you for your presentation. I have a question on the embodied aspect of photography. So how when you were in, like, these war zones and like how is your body read and how do you think like the, the way that it is read as I don't know, I'm assuming you're American as a woman. Like, how does it the kind of structure the, the, your access, the context of taking pictures? I don't know if you can reflect on that a bit?”

Nicole Tung: “Yeah, I think because I'm a woman working in a very patriarchal region, I have mostly advantages actually over male colleagues I would say. Because women are seen as less threatening in general, but I think that', I mean, that’s not the only reason that gets me maybe into people’s doors. I think I do get treated as a, I've said this before in other talks that I get treated as a third gender because I'm foreign and I'm a woman. And it can be very advantageous because you can, kind of, go between women who my male colleagues cannot go near, and I can then also be in the same room as men who might be discussing something else.

So, you can get, if I had better Arabic skills, I would probably be a lot more interested into what women were saying. I get bits and pieces, but not everything. So I think, you know, the access really is also down to being culturally sensitive, being very aware of the customs and I've, you know, I've worked in this region for a long time so it kind of comes naturally now, but in the beginning I found it very difficult to read people's body language and that takes time to understand and adapt, and obviously speaking the language helps as well.

So all of those things will, you know, factor into your access and just being obviously aware of the background of people that you might be documenting and the perhaps, you know, the complicated, very small sectarian issues that might come up sometimes and asking, asking the right questions is very important as well.”

Greg Brockett: “Thanks. One from the front?”

Audience member: “Do you have time?”

Greg Brockett: “Yes, yeah, sure. Please go ahead.”

Audience member: “Thank you. Sorry. It, it might sound a bit intentionally provocative question, but I too have been working in Syria for a long time. But from, you know, an academic sort of perspective, not as a war photographer. And I genuinely now today honestly, I don't believe any of this matters anymore because we just, we thought that there's no way the world would watch this happen live and see the pictures and see the videos and just let it happen. With previous conflicts, someone saying this morning, maybe if there was a record of it, then we do something to stop the crime or to make any changes. And Syria is the live example of how, you know, governments can just get, get away with, with like killing their own people. And, and so beyond this, being your job really like the things that you do like we are academics and research is our job. Do you? Do you still genuinely believe nine years after, 10 years, it's nearly, you know, 10 years since the uprisings in Syria, that any of these images that you personally took in Syria made any difference?”

Nicole Tung: “No, the answer is no. And I think that was very obvious from the, very quickly I started covering Syria early in 2012 and from, from there things only got worse, things got more complicated, it became a war by proxy and, and, so then of course ISIS sort of dominated the headlines after that, and essentially the civilians, the everyday people were forgotten in most of the international media.

So, no matter how much coverage we do there, will it change the course of things? No. But I do believe that there is still an inherent value in keeping the pressure on governments and those people who are at the negotiating table by not just exposing stories, but in ensuring that these stories still have real estate in the newspapers and magazines and online that they're there and the stories are being told. One story that was published yesterday in Washington Post that I worked on was about ISIS sleeper cells. And again, yes, it's an ISIS story, but it's also about how the terrorist groups stalks regular people, civilians who are working in a local government council trying to improve their lives and yet are still stalked by this group and that is a worldwide problem.

So, I think that it's, it, it is a very, It can feel a bit like a very defeatist exercise by continuing to go there and thinking that something will change, it's a naïve concept I think that I got over very quickly, but if we are not there and if local journalists and activists are not there documenting this, then it might as well have not happened and that all of those events are resigned to some deep, dark place that no one will have evidence of eventually and and when we look, we look at like the war crimes tribunals that are taking place against top Syrian officials or, you know, there are cases where they've been tried and in, in Germany, for example and, look, this is very rare, but it is happening and there's a catalogue, including Caesar's, the Caesar Act, and Caesar photos that came out a few years ago that documented these crimes, these abuses, and are actually being, you know, used for, for good and hopefully to, to better I guess catch the criminals in a, in a short, long story short.”

Audience member: “Thank you.”

Greg Brockett: “Great. Thanks. So, should we do one more question? At the back. Yeah, I don't know, you might have to come a little bit further forward because the microphone is down the front here.”

Audience member: “Can you? Can you see me, Nicole? Should I come forward?”


Greg Brockett: “Yeah, so the mic is all the way up here. Yeah.”

Audience member: “So, I think you said, “After my initial shock of realising that what I'm looking at is real, I take a photograph. My works on Rwanda and on images of the genocide against the Tutsi and Rwanda, and what people repeatedly say to me is it didn't feel real, so I started taking photographs. It's only afterwards, when I looked at the photographs, that it became real.”

So I was really interested that for you, it happens in that moment that it becomes real and then you take a photograph. Could you talk about that process a bit more? Does it always happen like that? Um, yeah.”

Nicole Tung: “Yeah, that's a very good question. I think it really depends on the situation. It's like, you say, it's not for me, it sometimes happens in reverse where you, you have that realisation and then you take the picture. But that's not always the case. I think, I think it happened more in the beginning when I was very new to documenting conflict and, and, and war. In Libya there were instances in which I just, I couldn't take a picture because I was just so shocked by what I was seeing and witnessing - injured people, dead people, you know, I mean, all manners of violence in which it makes you realise that people can be killed in so many different ways.


And the same in, a little bit in Syria, but I, I think very quickly I, you know, photography is very reactionary a lot of times, not just trying to anticipate where things happen, but especially under bombardment you have to react, and in those moments, I think when it's very reactionary, you don't necessarily have that time to reflect upon what it is or examine and analyse what you're actually seeing. So, it really does depend on the, on the situation but I do often try and, I think because that moment of OK, calm yourself, this is a really crazy, chaotic situation, that is the moment where I can actually, it seeps into my brain that what I'm seeing is real and then I take the photograph. I think that's what I meant without articulating it.”

Audience member: “Thank you.”

Greg Brockett: “OK, great. We have a little bit longer don't we? Or shall we break? We should break. OK, thank you very much and we'll get back on with your shoot, but thank you very much for joining, thanks for the presentation as well and hopefully speak to you soon. Cheers.”

[Applause]

Nicole Tung: “Bye.”

Simon Popple, senior lecturer, university of Leeds: “Great. Well, I hope everybody's enjoyed their lunch and are ready to ask some questions a bit later on, but I think we've got a very apt panel here to pick up on a lot of the things that we were discussing this morning. And it's remarkable actually because Katy and I and Greg were thinking about questions to give you sort of a, a sight foresight of what might be coming up and lots of those things have already been picked up, so it's, it's really good and I think some of this will be sort of following on conversions that we've begun this morning.

So, I'd like to begin by getting everybody to introduce themselves. So, my name is Simon Popple. I'm from the University of Leeds and I'm a senior lecturer in photography and digital culture. And on my left I have?”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Anastasia Taylor-Lind. I'm a photojournalist, sometimes photographing war, among other things, for National Geographic Magazine, Time.”

Simon Popple: “Great.”

Stuart Allan: “Hi I’m Stuart Allan, Professor of Journalism and Communication at the School of culture, media and, media and culture at Cardiff University, I should know. Until very recently I was head of school and it’s the first time saying it out loud in quite some time feels very strange, but yes. Now on research leave, hence the very relaxed, comfortable demeanour.”

Zoe Norwich: “My name is Zoe Norwich. I'm a senior lecturer in African and comparative literature at Kings College London. I'm a recovering prof by STEAM Impact. I'm also the former chair of the Xiaomi Foundation, which is a small charity that works with survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Simon Popple: “And live online we have?”

Jess Crombie: “Hi, I'm Jess Crombie. I'm a senior lecturer in image making at UAL and a bit like Zoe, I'm recovering, a recovering NGO [laughter]. I still actually work as a consultant with lots of different organisations and helping them work out how to do what they do ethically in terms of communication. Thanks so much for allowing me to project my problem on-screen today, it’s appreciated.”

Simon Popple: “Thank you. Well, we can see you, see and hear you loud and clear, so that's, that's great. Thank you.

So, I wanted to really begin with a, quite a sort of general question which really draws on what we've been talking about this morning and the theme of today's event is really about the nature of humanitarian photography. Which the paper this morning think very usefully gave us a sort of historical context came from this notion of concerned photography as well. And to understand both from a sort of an academic and also from a practitioner perspective, what you understand as humanitarian photography. So, who would like to go first? Or shall I pick somebody? Stuart, maybe because I think you're writing about it, aren't you?”

Stuart Allan: “I have done a little bit of work on humanitarian photography, I think what interested me and it, it might sound like an unduly academic sort of way of formulating this as a problematic but I'm, I'm really interested in who has an investment in the notion of humanitarian photography and, and what they mean by it. Because I think it's quite often an almost textbook-like fashion taken as read that it exists, that it's a singular enterprise, that it, it has its kind of history which you can map and chart. But of course, on closer inspection you realise that it's riddled with tensions, there's a, really talking about photography’s, rather than a singular kind of orientation to photographic form or practise, and I think it is that kind of question of epistemology that really intrigues me; that sense of how humanitarian photography, you know, for those who want to kind of lay claim to that notion, what they mean by it and how in their view it's enabling. How it allows them to, to craft or recraft what counts as, as that as hope, humane photography in the productive, progressive way.”

Zoe Norwich: “Ok, shall I have a go?”

Simon Popple: “Yeah, go on then.”

Zoe Norwich: “So, I come to photography through Rwanda. So, Rwanda is my lens into the photographic world. Rwanda, the genocide against the Tutsi is sometimes referred to as ‘a genocide without images’, so that's a phrase that uses in his work. A genocide without images because when it's actually taking place, there are very, very few images of the violence as it's happening. We don't have images of people with machetes in their hands and being killed. There's a little bit of video footage, the Nick Hughes, famous Nick Hughes video footage of people being killed in the street. But for the most part, it's not being captured, it's not being seen internationally as it's unfolding. What is seen are the ways in which that genocide seeps out across Rwanda's borders. So you have bodies literally coming down the river into Lake Victoria, and then you have the refugees who are flooding out of Rwanda into Congo, mostly refugees that weren't targeted with genocide, that are moving away from the incoming RPF that's coming to stop the genocide, and they end up in those refugee camps in Congo. So, in terms of visual imageries relating to Rwanda, you don't have images of the violence taking place, you have images of aftermath, images of remnants, and then you have photographers coming in who are starting to take photographs, people like [inaudible] starting to come in and take photographs of machetes, of corpses, of remnants of, of, of conflict, remnants of genocide, and so on, right.

And what's interesting for me is that we could ask whether that counts as humanitarian photography or not, because what they, there's a continuity here - those initial images of machetes, the initial images of badly wounded survivors continue, they become iconic in the Rwandan context, particularly survivors with, say, facial wounds standing in front of graves, standing in front of dead bodies. Those get taken ten years afterwards, right? People are still taking the same image and whilst they might have been news reporters, a lot of those photographers become more invested in the region. They become very marked by their experiences in Rwanda and a lot of them go back again and again and again. And this might be, I think, possibly the moment when we're talking about the transformation into humanitarian photography, when we're talking about that investment in the longer-term alleviation of suffering and working with NGO’s to start doing that. So, an example there might be Jonathan Torgovnik, South African photographer, comes in reporting on children born of rape and those mothers and the relationships with their children ends up founding an NGO. And, and that becomes one of his ongoing projects. You have David Jiranek, who goes in to take photographs on Commission and ends up working with an orphanage Imbabazi, the orphanage on the border of Rwanda and Congo, ends up working there, running a participatory photography project with young people and getting them to tell their stories for them. So, there's a transformation there between that, kind of war reporting into a longer-term investment. And my work and how it engages with this is I'm interested in what are the stories that are being told? Are these stories still of wounding? Is it still a fascination with witnessing acute violence? That international guilt about having missed the moment in 1994. Are we continually trying to retrospectively witness that or are there other narratives that begin to emerge? And who is controlling those narratives?

So for a long time, there are no Rwanda photographers whose images are circulating, and then that begins to shift about, sort of 6-7 years ago. And I played a small role in that shift in terms of trying to work with Rwandan photographers to get them onto international stages to help them work and be commissioned internationally to help them sort of get more work with NGO's and so on. And part of that was, was curating an exhibition of work at Somerset House with Mark Seeley, which was an exhibition called Rwanda and photographs: Death then, life now. And those are photographers that I continued to work with and that I do workshops with, sort of, I've done sort of 3,4,5 workshops with them in Rwanda looking at things like human rights cultures, creative reimagining's of the past, what does it mean to work with creative writers when you're a photographer, how can you form those kinds of creative partnerships? And then I also work with people with photographers in the region, so I work with a lot of Rwanda photographers. So, for example, I've worked on Kigali Photo Fest, which was the first photo festival in Rwanda, curated by Jacques Nkinzingabo, who founded the Kigali Centre for Photography and, and so on, it goes on and on. So yeah, I hope that's engaged with it somewhere?”

Simon Popple: “Yeah and I think you framed it really nicely in terms of that idea that photography is not all automatically within that framework of humanitarianism. It's often about inquiries and, and, and, and, and, and, and an investigation rather than something that's really more engaged at a later level. I wonder if either of the other two commentators have any have further thoughts on that?”


Jess Crombie: “Yeah, I mean just briefly, I suppose. Thinking about humanitarian photography, well certainly in the the, the, the work that I've been involved in is about story telling in it, but I suppose what we, what we're moving towards, I think in this area is a recognition that the relationship between the person who gathers the story and the person whose story is being gathered is, is really problematic. And so, what we've looked for this in terms of humanitarian photography is what is the thing that we are seeing and how are we responding to it as audiences and what we're starting to see now, which is great and it's slow, but it's happening is what about that person who's sharing their story and what choice and what power do they have in the decisions around how the story is told and what story gets told? And that's really that's very interesting. And that's a, that's a big shift that's going to challenge lots and lots of the processes that we work through and may or may not result in different kind of portrayals, but that process is being really examined at the moment. So, I think humanitarian photography is having a moment of shift, I would, I would say. I don’t know, Anastasia as a photographer…” [laughter]


Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Um, I don't really know if there's anything humanitarian about photography, I think for the most part, without shitting on other people's work, I'll talk about mine. I think for the most part, photographing violence and trauma is actually indefensible. And I didn't really understand, actually, what we were going to be talking about today until I got here, I had thought that humanitarian photography was when you, I mean from the perspective of photography when you make pictures for a humanitarian organisation or an NGO, which from my experience as a photojournalist who mostly works for news publications, but also sometimes occasionally photographs for NGO's, that's basically like advertising photography, that's what it's like to be hired. I shot the stills on a international campaign for Dove, you know the deodorant? Just before the pandemic. So, I had a brief; it was about real beauty, an art director told me what to make pictures of, there was an agenda. I got to make, I got paid to make the pictures they wanted so that they could sell the deodorant. My experience of working for humanitarian organisations is it's an advertising job. Someone tells me what to make the pictures of so they can make some money. I mean, I'm, I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but as a photographer that's the same as doing a Dove commercial and it's, I'm actually shaking while I'm saying this like. There were lots of Susan Sontag quotes this morning, I wanted to add two to them. I hadn't intended to, but I feel like somehow they're relevant. They're two sections from, regarding the pain of others. She writes, “Being a spectator of calamities, taking place in another country is a quintessential modern experience. The culminative offering of more than a century and a half's worth of those professional, specialised tourists known as journalists.” Photojournalists. And she also writes, “Witnessing requires the creation of star witnesses, renowned for their bravery and zeal, and procuring important, disturbing photographs.” And lots of the work we've heard talked about that this morning in terms of professional photojournalism, whatever, whatever it is you know, dominated by two agencies and we talked it was, you know, white men. And as we learned as well the idea of the concerned, what a dreadful, earnest phrase that is, and the humanitarian photographers, these are narratives created by us photographers. Like, we created our own stories where we send to ourselves in that, and I feel somehow, somehow that's relevant. And I don't know if any of this makes any sense but that's how I feel about my work.”

Simon Popple: “Yeah, right. Well, I think, I think the labelling of, of humanitarianism is, is a construct, isn't it? It's a, it's a, it's a largely western construct, isn't it? To explain a set of activities and photo practises that take place elsewhere in the world and often in places where people are in dire conflict and, and in dire circumstances. And it's really interesting to hear you saying that as a photographer that actually you don't really recognise necessarily that, that construct of a photographer, which I think is really, really interesting and it's not irrelevant at all. I think it's incredibly relevant to the debate that we're, we're talking about and I think that idea of humanitarianism, humanitarian photography, or concerned photography or social documentary, however we label, it's a set of practises that do certain things.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Yeah.”

Simon Popple: “And I suppose maybe by labelling them we put a set of expectations on what those photographs should deliver and what those photographs should be like, and I wonder if that's interesting to think about, actually, is such a label like humanitarianism actually a useful label? Does it constrain what photographers do? Does it actually allow photographers to get more to what they want to get to?”


Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “But also who said what the power of photography was? Like, all the old guys that we would be talking about today, the old white guys who are the founding fathers of photojournalism, who created these myths and this mythology around the war photographer as the tragic hero. The founding father being Robert Capa, who couldn't even live up to his own myth and had to lie about the D-Day landings for fear that someone judged him for being fearful of dying there. So, it's war photographers who say, ‘Oh, our pictures stop wars.” They don't. It's war photographers who say, “Oh, if only I show you pictures from somewhere else, that's of things, of terrible things that are happening in other places to black and brown bodies then it's, something will change.” We should stop believing photojournalists and their own myths because we kind of, I believe, swallowed our own, our own…”

Simon Popple: “Oh our legend.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Someone else.”

Simon Popple: “Would anyone like to come back on that?”

Zoe Norwich: “Nicole made an interesting distinction, didn't she? This morning, when she, when she was asked by Dima, I think about whether there was any point to the work that she was doing. And she said no, that it hadn't made any difference. I thought it was, yeah. Yeah, it was so striking to hear her say no, though it was really moving because clearly she's been in, in, in danger and dedicated her life to this and to hear her saying no, this had this didn't do anything. But she still said I, I felt maybe this is my hearing. I felt that she was still saying it was worth taking those images because they are evidence, because they show that it happened, because it's there to say that it happened and I don't think, I don't think we can underestimate the importance of that.

And again to take it back to Rwanda, sorry, but there was violence in Rwanda from ‘59 to ‘94 that was never photographed, that was never commemorated, that wasn't talked about enough internationally and that is what enabled more than a million people being killed in 1994, right?

Because it wasn't seen, because it wasn't witnessed. And so, in Rwanda, you have a case where for people, it's extremely urgent to be witnessing and that that those images are really, really important for people. I don't like a lot of those images because I think they're dehumanising, but they still have a purpose. And what I find really intriguing now is that when I work with Rwandan photographers they have problems with the UDHR definition of human rights, they have problems with humanitarian organisations, not least with the sometimes racist politics of, of humanitarian organisations, which Jess is doing brilliant work sort of addressing and, and so on, but that they still own those ideas, those ideas still are really sticky, though. The idea that a photograph can, can show and share and change people's lives still resonates for those photographers who are coming from a very different perspective.”

Simon Popple: “Did you wanna come in there, Jess?”

Jess Crombie: “Yeah, I, I think that, that Anastasia first of all that myth is, is really problematic and I see that in my students. So I, you know teach on the BA Documentary and Photojournalism course at UAL and the students, hi. The students that come in they come in thinking, they still think, not all of them, but lots of them that they kind of going to be Indiana Jones like going, going and discovering situations and discovering people. And so we spent a lot of that first year of defusing them of that idea and introducing them to lots of concepts around the idea of the colonial gaze, you know, the gendered gaze and all these kind of ideas, which some of them are quite, you know, are quite shocking and upsetting for them to kind of deal with wherever they are or whatever background they come from. So that myth first of all is most definitely there and it's alive and its feeling has not gone away and it needs to.

In terms of the, the, the, the, the, the kind of worth of that photography and what Zoe was talking about. Yeah, I spent lots of time in various different places and the people that I have met by and large, they understand the power of communications very, very well and the research that I've carried out shows that those kind of ideas that just because someone may not be able to read and may live in a place where they don't have access to lots of media doesn't mean that they understand where their images are going and how they can be used. It's just rubbish. Like every single person I've ever interviewed and met and talked to about this really doesn't, you know, really get it. And so I think it kind of boils down to, and, and, and often people like those are really, because they understand that how they want to share they, they understand that they potentially can change the situation depending on what they say and how that is then broadcast in whatever way it it, it gets broadcast. But what we don't do a lot of generally across the sector is, is consider that, that power and that ability of people to, to make their own decisions, and so the process of the consent, which is like talked a lot about in terms of like, ‘Oh, just sign this bit of paper and, and we’re, we're all good to go’, it kind of what it boils down to I think it and it's like you know you go in with this myth that you're this person who is going to discover a truth you're then going to share with the world and actually what you need to be doing is going in with this idea that you are in like a uniquely privileged position, whoever you are, wherever you're from, whether you're travelling overseas or walking down the road, to be able to capture something that might be useful for someone to share but you need to do that with the full consent and what that means is a conversation like long, timely, multi-stage conversation with the people you're gathering stories from. But, but I, I think that it's I and I would say but I think it's worth doing that, but I think it is the way it needs to be done. It needs to be very different and the kind of, the whole culture shift around equality and the idea that just because someone has suffered or someone is different from you in whatever way that they can't understand what you're going to do with their story is just completely rubbish and has to be, has to be changed fundamentally for anyone to be able to do a good job.”

Stuart Allan: “Yeah, I, I would agree with what's been said to a large part, maybe quibble with one or two small points here and there. Academic is my job, but I think the there is a real danger with trying to generalise here that we, we lose sufficient specificity and then you, you certainly can find examples of war photographers who would definitely fairly be criticised for the kind of critique we've, we've heard about, especially when they tend to be white, male and, and privileged and, and from Western context. And, and I think what's important though is to perhaps argue that we need a more modest conception of photography in this regard. And I think you will hear this certainly in speaking with war for people who would otherwise be labelled war photographers, saying that they, they don't like the term and, and they would want to kind of resist it. They don't like the adjective, they don't like what it kind of prefigures, and they're, they're unsettled by that kind of mythology, which you quite rightly kind of highlighted is is a real barrier, I think, to understanding.

But at the same time, I think there is something in that as a normative ideal of sorts, that sort of animates a particular kind of commitment to truth seeking, which I think they, they would probably want to kind of preserve. And, and that's not just because it's grandiose to kind of think of oneself in those terms. It's also about self-protection. It's about the recognition of the status of the photographer in a conflict zone and that they deserve protection, that there's a duty of care there for other organisations and, and they want, you know, to be safe, quite understandably in such context and the extent to which a photographer is just simply regarded as a combatant like any other, who happens just to be wielding a camera rather than a gun, they then become targets and we've seen far too many examples of, of what happens when that's the case.

So, I think we need, we need to kind of be careful with these terms; we don't want to celebrate them in an unconscious kind of manner. We want to recognise that I think the ways in which they claim a certain kind of purchase, which can be actually debilitating, I think for, for good photographic practise. But at the same time understand why in terms they continue to persist, you know, why do we still have particular ideals associated with war photography, humanitarian photography today when, when otherwise they might have fallen away? And there I would also just make a case for kind of stepping back and looking at the broader political economic context here. Extent to which news organisations, you know, simply will not support this kind of work and anything like the scale that it used to be the case. It is NGO's, it is others who are seeming to be interested stakeholders, particularly interest communities that are looking to, to generate the kind of imagery that they need to, as you quite rightly point out, to, to kind of sell what it is that they want to put across for better and good reasons or, or sometimes otherwise. And but you know, when the photographer then in turn is encountering people who are would have no self-identification as a photographer even, let alone a, a war photographer or humanitarian photographer, citizens who happen to, to be there with a smartphone, as we were hearing about this morning. Other people who have, again in that kind of rich ecology, of all the different types of photographic practise, have, have very different kinds of reasons for doing what they're doing, very different motivations, not all of which are, are altruistic. Of course, many of which are, are driven by commercial concerns or other kinds of considerations, or worse in terms of disinformation and propaganda. I think it, you can understand why someone who is putting their life at risk to deliver this kind of imagery would say, well, fair, fair critique but let's not, let's not go too far here because, as we did hear from, from Nicole, yeah, it does matter and, and it is evidence that's being gathered, it is a contribution, perhaps a more modest one than, than we've typically described it, but vital nonetheless.”

Simon Popple: “I'll take that to Jess. The point you made really interestingly during, during your last contribution was this idea of consent because it's always an issue that's worried me around these type, this types of these tropes of photography in the sense that who gives consent for the images, who has the right to represent who pictures who and it was really interesting what Zoe was saying that Rwandan photographers are now starting to, to self-represent in their own context. So just interesting to see maybe think about what, what people think about that a little bit more and is consent even possible in those contexts. But also, this bigger question about who has I think the right to represent and the sense again that the photographer, whether they're working for an agency or an NGO or whatever, has the right to represent something for the rest of the world. And I, I’m just wondering what you felt about that and what types of photography are the indigenous photographers actually making? How are they commenting on their own situation?”

Zoe Norwich: “So I've actually been doing a like a psychology study looking at how photographs make people see the people in the pictures as more or less human. And the two things we've been we found that, yes, certain images make people think of Rwandans as more human. So that's a really exciting finding. There's a certain kind of image that changes the way in which people see people. However, what we've been trying to work out is whether it's around authorship or whether it's around content. And we've run three randomised controlled trials trying to find that out and what we keep finding frustratingly for me because I want it to be authorship is that it seems to just overridingly be content; what is in the images, how what is being shown. So, what we keep finding is that images of daily life, images of people actively doing things are very humanising. Images where there is violence shown in a variety of different forms, but particularly through human remains and weaponry, are very dehumanising and it doesn't seem to matter too much who the author is. However, as somebody who works in photography and who works in literature and cultural studies and so on, I feel that Rwandan authorship is incredibly important and where I would, the reason why I would say it was important is because I think that Rwandan photographers do tend to produce different kinds of content because they speak Kinyarwanda, because they know the communities. So, for example, one of my colleagues, Jean Bizimana, grew up on the border with Congo, he knows rural Northwest Rwanda very well. When he takes images up there, he's not coming in and taking images of people outside their houses, he's going into their houses. He knows intimately those living spaces and, and how people are living, and you can negotiate and navigate. He's also much more able to get consent, right? Because if you're a visiting photographer and you're working through a translator, you're relying on your translator to be translating the consent documents and so on and so forth, and to be engaging in those longer conversations that Jess has been talking about, which can be really, really difficult with rural communities. I mean, I absolutely agree that they have the capacity to consent or otherwise, but it's just a question of how that translation is going and to what extent you're aware of, of, of how the translation is going, right? So, I think the Rwanda photographers have more of a tendency to, to emphasise in their work from what I've seen, dignity long-term investment in stories and agency in the subjects that they’re photographing. Did that answer your question?”

Simon Popple: “Yes, I think what I was interested in also is what approach local photographers are taking. So rather than, you know if being, being hypocritical, Western photographers parachuting in to cover something, how are they actually covering the sort of post-conflict situation themselves.”

Zoe Norwich: “Yeah. Yeah. So, as I said, it was, it was much more people driven and much more agency driven and much more to do with, to do with what people are doing today.”

Simon Popple: “Yeah”

Zoe Norwich: “However, the other part of the puzzle is how are these images being circulated, right? So, the Duclert Report came out last year on Francis's involvement in the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. They chose an image that was by a Rwandan photographer, an image by Jacques Nkinzingabo that have been licenced by Agence France-Presse, AFP, right? It's an image of skulls in a memorial. So, all of those stories went out with a photograph of skulls, which we know makes Rwandans seem less human. The vast majority of Jacques’ work is with living people showing agency. But the photo editors chose skulls. So, to a certain extent it doesn't matter what they're producing if photo editors are consistently publishing a different kind of imagery, so it's not just about changing who the photographer is, it's about changing the commissioning practises and the power dynamics in international media.”

Simon Popple: “Hmm. And not an easy thing.”

[Laughter]

Simon Popple: “How about you Anastasia from your experience as a working photographer? I mean,

is it, have you ever been challenged when you're making photographs? Or have you, do you seriously, as I think you probably do, think about the context and think about what you're representing and how you're representing people in those contexts.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “I do really believe that photojournalism is morally indefensible and I grapple with that all the time and I, I have had periods of my professional life where I've stepped away from making pictures entirely to be in an academic space or, or to write. I can just give you two examples of the way I feel OK about working in a war zone or anywhere, but I think it's particularly acute, like maybe one of the reasons we like to talk about war photography rather than any other type of photography is because it, it seems so acute and maybe we can boil down all of the things that we might be dealing with in other, you know, types of photography and you know, photojournalism, I mean that is not made in the space of an active war zone. I've been making projects around the war in eastern Ukraine since the revolution in 2014. This now eight-year collaboration is with Alisa Sopova, who's a, a writer from Donetsk city, which is now part of the Donetsk People's Republic.

And so, between the two of us, we have an insider and an outsider perspective. So as a reporting team, we find that each of us brings some things, my presence sometimes gives us access that Alisa may not get on her own, and likewise, she can understand things in a way that I don't always, I, I don't always get so those projects are traditional photojournalism of like, you know, guys with guns and behind sandbags and all, you know, all those tropes of photojournalism but they're also, you know, following the same families and the same communities. And I just covered the war in Nagorno Karabakh at the end of last year. And I went not just because it was just a war and I wanna go and photograph war. It was interesting, I thought, because it was the first war to start during the pandemic and journalists were one part of the, the catalyst for spreading COVID infections in Nagorno Karabakh. They, they were part of a group of people who brought COVID to people who were already displaced and disenfranchised because of the war and in, in that instance I photographed the same children and families and communities that I've photographed 10 years before, so my interest was in my friends and I, you know, I can't tell other photojournalists how to make pictures, but we are exposed to a lot of trauma as well, picture editors as well looking at violent pictures of trauma. It is, I think, if you are in it for the long-game and you intend to photograph in this way for the span of your career then, you know, you, you have to, you have to be mindful of. Anyway, I, I don't believe in you have a photo heaven or a hell but, you know, I don't want I, I'm the one who has to live with myself at the end of the day.”

Simon Popple: “OK, great. So, if Jess, if you’d like to come back in?”

Jess Crombie: “Yeah, I was just gonna say, sort of, aligned to a lot of what Zoe and Anastasia were just talking about and Anastasia, your example about working with the, that woman that you were working with to kind of and the different experiences you're bringing into that process, I thought was really interesting because I think what you know, you were to that answer, you know, who has the right to represent these situations? I think it's about having a plurality of voices, it's about having lots of different views, that's what we have right now is lots of, we don't have that right now, you know? We, we, we have one people who tell stories about other groups of people predominantly and one of the things that COVID actually done on this, there's not been many good outcomes from COVID but one good outcome, especially with the people I work with is that they are being forced to work with local image makers and because they can't fly everyone everywhere, so that's been great.

So that's really, that there is some 100% more of that happening than there was a year and a half ago, but I don't subscribe to that thinking you need to have personal experience in order to tell a story about being. I think, I think that's a bit of a risky road to go down. But what we do need is a swing in a direction where you don't just have one group of people telling all the stories and so you have everyone telling all the story, you know? Everyone telling all the story, so you do have different points of view. That’s important to see, we all need those varying voices, and we don’t have that right now. So I thought that way kind of working in partnership where different people are bringing different skill sets and those experiences into a project or piece of work or reporting on a situation is an interesting model.”

Simon Popple: “Would anyone like to come back on that or?”

Stuart Allan: “Go ahead.”

Zoe Norwich: “No, I’ve spoken more recently.”

Stuart Allan: “Well, I'll just say very briefly, I think it's, it is a really important, very challenging issue to, to, to my mind that part as human dignity and treating people with respect. And I think that, that has to inform our ideals, our normative ideals of what constitutes good photographic practise. I appreciate that that's very difficult to, to mobilise in a conflict situation or where, where, your, your life is at risk and those that are around you are being threatened and dangered. But, but I think it does again, just going to get back to what is humane humanitarian photography, I think that, that's that to my mind at least, is, is important to hang on to. I think there is as soon as you get into the, the ‘isms’ of humanitarianism and, and the larger kind of scopic regime to use a phrase that, that kind of governs what counts as photography within that context, you're at, you're at risk of, of losing sight of its lived constituencies, the ways in which it, it impacts on, on the others around you. And I think that, that, that we need to kind of reverse that kind of logic and bring that to more to the fore than it typically is recognised.”

Simon Popple: “I thought it was interesting that you describe the sort of photographic heaven and a photographic hell. And obviously clear where you want to be. [laughter]

And this idea that there is a value, an intrinsic value to photography and it's something that, you know we photographers and, and philosophers and, and academics and grappled with is about the value and the meaning of photography throughout over, over, over time. But it has some form of intrinsic meaning, and we know if you go back to what you were saying about Sontag, Sontag describes, you know, photography sometimes, as you know, as dangerous as that, that, that photography can kill. You know, and if you think about an historical example of something like the Paris Commune, where photographs were used to identify the Communards and they were executed by the state afterwards because they were identified by these photographs. So it certainly kills, it can certainly kill people. It can certainly put people in compromising positions. Can it save people? Because I think what lies behind the idea of humanitarianism, humanitarianism and the photography, and also the concerned photography is this idea that photography has some sort of positive effect. It can do something positive. Do you, do you, can you think of any examples or do you think that there is this sense that photography can do good?”

Audience member: [Inaudible]

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Show me the evidence. There is no evidence that, I mean, there's often anecdotal evidence often told by photographers themselves or their agencies, or the people who admire their work, but I, I don't know of any examples where, you know, I have also worked for Human Rights Watch. I've documented in a very forensic way the recent wounds inflicted on Rohingya genocide survivors. Those pictures have been with the Human Rights Watch package presented to the US State Department. So that gives me a ticket to say, ‘Oh well, I'm doing all right because my pictures, you know, they really were being used for that.” But I've had one assignment for Human Rights Watch in my whole career and I've been taking pictures of these things for 17 years. Like, they don't have that many assignments, you have to be really at the top of the pile to even be in the running for them. Like, they work with about five people, so even that's anecdotal.

Like, I could give you that line, ‘Oh well, when the State Department said they really did believe that the Rohingya were being, you know, that it, there was a crime against humanity and my pictures played a part in that’, but this is anecdotal and it's like once. There, there is no evidence that photographs stopped the Vietnam War, or like I, I don't even know where this, this idea came from. And photography is always gonna fail if we think that is its job or its role and we do because people like me and I have certainly, you know, brought into this that I think, ‘Oh yes, well. I'm going to save the world with my pictures.’

Simon Popple: “But that's what the question is predicate, it's really that sense that, you know, how do you define the meaning of those photographs and the value of those photographs in any context? And it's very, very difficult, isn't it? Yeah. Because you, you, you, suggesting something more positive, not positive, but slightly more I think less critical approach sometimes to think about also the way in which you were suggesting in the last thing that you said that photographs are valuable.”

Stuart Allan: “Indeed, I would. I would politely like to disagree. I think photojournalism is morally justifiable and that isn't to say that it is, isn't problematic at times, and that there you can find and identify examples of ways in which it's, it's gone wrong for whatever reason or purpose. But I think in general it's, it's well-intentioned and I think it has a positive influence on shaping public perceptions.

I think that it invites sort of a rethinking of what we mean by the public, though, and their expectations. I think that that's that is a really interesting point to, to highlight. Because I think our judgement of the public itself and I, I try not to think of the public in in the singular, monolithic kind of way, recognising a diverse array of, of rather fluid publics. But you know, when you look at even more domestic politics and you look at the rise of authoritarian populism and, and Trump, when you think about Brexit, when you think about every kind of otherwise everyday issues, how has that impacted on your perception in this country of the great British public? And, and these are the same people who were assuming that they will look at a particular image of suffering from distant others and, and be moved to write to their MP to say, “Please don't cut the foreign aid budget.” Some of them do, and that's important to remember. Sometimes when these images are, are broadcast and it's more likely going to have to be broadcast than, than put on the pages of a, a daily print and ink edition of the Guardian to have that kind of wider impact, you know, contributions to charitable organisations concerned with the particular issue in question will skyrocket. And you might say, “Well, isn't that, isn't that easy and it's not comfortable when people just write a cheque or, or put in their credit card details and, and that's kind of morally, you know, them off the hook for a little while longer.” Easy to criticise and, and, and also easy to exaggerate and to overstate. But nevertheless, it, it channels resource to areas which otherwise wouldn't have it, and a lot of that money often does a lot of good. So again, I think we need to kind of just be a little bit careful about the kind of the generalisations here, because we can all find examples. I, I would, I would be more inclined to kind of say that in general, this imagery really matters because it shapes people's perceptions, and I would include myself in that. I know and care a lot more about other parts of the world than I ever would have had I been relying on, and I, I do actually read the Guardian every day, you know, words describing the situation. There's something about the efficacy of a, of a photograph that, that makes, that forges that sense of connection, and I wouldn't sort of overstate it, I necessarily call it empathy. But I appreciate that's an animating drive of humanitarian photography, problematic in its own terms, questions of suffering, the voyeuristic quality of it quite often very easy to kind of critique. But there's something really important going on there that I think we, we have to kind of think through and, and, and maybe it's, maybe it's a question about vocabulary, maybe we don't have quite the right and sorry, that is a bit of an academic way out, but, but we don't really kind of have the right terms yet. Maybe the words we're using need to be recast that perhaps they, they are about a different kind of photographic era pre-digital, they are locked up in all kinds of colonial, Western kind of presumptions about the world and how it works. And then we need to kind of break from that and maybe one way to do that is to start thinking with a different set of terms and recognising that that much of the issues that many of the issues, I think we're talking about here are kind of falling through these more traditional categories, especially when you want to begin to attend to kind of the digit questions of digitalisation and that we need to think about these a little bit differently and the words that we use to describe them.”

Audience member: “Can we interject here?”

Simon Popple: “Yeah, absolutely, yeah.”

Audience member: “Um, I just wanted to. Very quick comment, thank you for lots of things you said…[inaudible] all the conversations this morning.

I was wondering if you've come across Refugees Media which is the UNHCR, a collection of photos of refugees because…”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “No, I haven’t.”

Audience member: “It's a very interesting way to approach like community because the first thing when you said the message about humanitarian photography it was the first thing that came to my mind. So, you can go there and there's a number of filters, so do you want women or men? Do you want kids? Do you want them smiling? Do you want them in a tent? Do you want one of them holding the UNHCR bags? Or do, and they are actually the images when you talk about advertising, they’re actually images made for journalists. So, you go there, and you click all these, so you, you've got all these countries. I was actually looking because I looked at this two years ago. I was actually looking if they've changed anything about this…”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Really?”

Audience member: “Refugees Media, it's amazing the fact that this exists as an archive representing UNHCR, which is like the definition of a human, humanitarian. Sorry, that was very, very…”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Thank you very much. I would have…”


Audience member: “But it's interesting to look at and so maybe as a response to, with the conversation, because we often as I can imagine get stuck into is this valuable? Is this important? What does it mean? What do we mean by humanitarian? And get like taking in these definitions. I think, for example, and I, and I mean this in a very positive and constructive way because I tend to do exactly the same things and big absence from all these conversations we have this morning is the people we're talking about. Like I, in this room, and that's unmistaken we're all representing, we're all on the side of the representers. We're either photographers or academics or people working with photographers and academics and to not bring up Syria thousand time and they don't need representing, why not actually ask the Syrian person and there's tonnes of them in the UK, “do you feel the images we've made of you changed your life?” And are we having like my question is, are we as archivists, academics, film makers, photographers actually asking this question to those people? Are we just getting together over and over again to talk exactly about the same things over and over again?  And I, again, it sounds like I'm angrier than I am, so my apologies, but it's, I'm genuinely, I feel like because Syria is such a traumatic example for me, of the value of photography and what you what I believe we can do with film and with footage and with evidence and, you know, people dying of chemical weapons live on TV, 10 years later, nothing. Sure, maybe 50 years from now, somebody would dig up, maybe one janitor is gonna get arrested in Germany, great. I'm in touch with the people actually, who are test, test, testifying in those courts and they look at you and be like, “yeah, ok, great.”

Simon Popple: “I think that’s a great question. I think Jess was indicating she wants to go back on that.”

Jess Crombie: “Yeah, so I can’t see you asked the question, but it’s such a good question and, and, and literally the crux of everything that I spend my time doing. So having spent years or 10 years ago, I was asking myself exactly that question, “We're making all these decisions on behalf of people and we're making them with the best intentions but ultimately, we're still making decisions on their behalf and the power resides entirely with us.” And so, I'm going to say the children at the time persuaded them to let me go and talk to just over 200 people who had featured in their communications all around the world to talk to them about what they felt about the process of sharing their story and the later communications that they that they ended up in. And it was a piece of research called “The People in the Pictures’ which is available online if you want to read it but, and since then I spent time doing more of that and so that is exactly the question that I asked myself is, well, how do you take what those, the people who we tell stories about and, and, and instead of making decisions on their behalf, use the platforms and the power and the facilitation, and the abilities that we have in order to make decisions that reflects what, what those people might want? Bearing in mind that you're only talking to 200 people, the many hundreds of thousands of people that are, you know, or or, you know, you're talking to a representative group and talking about UNHCR, one of the, I’m doing some work right now with UNHCR, and one of the things that I insisted in the work that we do is rather than just talking to their staff about what they thought about these issues is that they brought together a panel of people who were, who had experienced refugee status or were currently experiencing refugee status to talk to about that, and that those people were involved throughout this process for that exact reason. And because what I hear over and over and over again, what I heard for the first time in ‘The People in the Pictures, and since then, in all the research that I deal with, all the conversations that I have with people is, is just people saying what I've been kind of saying all the way through this talk which my whole life I feel like I’ve been saying: We have, we have ideas, we have opinions, we know what we want to do. You have platforms, let's partner on this but we want to make decisions about what story gets told and how it gets told, because we don't mind, and we even want to share stories of us having a difficult time, but we don't want that to be the only story that is ever told about us over and over and over again. And that's what you hear and there's this really nice quote from a woman or lots of different people in Niger who said I won't try and pronounce it. So I say it has a bit, but a song is sweeter from its owner's mouth, and that's basically what people say to say to us over and over again. And so, what I spend a lot of time doing is trying to work out, well, how do you do that? How do you change the processes by which these organisations work? And I'm working in the NGO sector, I'm not working with the media who aren’t making inroads in this area, but yeah, it's such a good question and it's at the very crux of it because if you continue to make decisions on behalf of other people, you're not really changing any power dynamics. So yeah.”

Simon Popple: “Thanks, Jess. I mean, that's interesting in terms of you, and I think you, you touched on that Zoe, in some of the projects that you were talking about in the sense that people were, you were sort of assisting people to, to start to make photographs. Do you see that…”

Zoe Norwich: “They were already making photographs.”

Simon Popple: “Were they already making photographs?”

Zoe Norwich: “They were already making photographs but there was a small number of photographers, and they were reaching international networks. And so, it was about assisting with reaching international networks and then helping to support and foster the photographic, the growing photographic culture in Rwanda. And, but I was gonna agree with Dema that it is totally weird not so, this is the first conference I've been to in two years I think, something amazing like this because of COVID and because I got small kids and I was home schooling and la la la, and [inaudible]


And, yeah, usually I'm having conversations these days I sit in my office at home and talk directly to colleagues in Rwanda, and so it's usually much more dynamic that way but what, now that we have the technology and we're not getting so used to it, there's still connectivity issues with, with, with, with connecting, with, with, with Rwanda and it's not always so reliable. But there's no reason why we couldn't have Jacques Nkinzingabo up on the screen with Jess and then connecting to the people who are being photographed, yes, if they're resident in Kigali that becomes possible. If they can come into a studio and be there with Jacques, the work I'm doing with rural communities in Busanza at the moment, which is a participatory photography project that's all about kind of bridging that photographer view to kind of dynamic and it's all about how they how they're, what stories they're choosing to tell and how they want to choose to tell them, and so on. But yeah, I agree that there's something slightly weird about how we talk, we're sitting in London as a colonial centre, senior colonial centre talking about things that happen somewhere else and that, that needs disturbing, doesn't it?”

Audience member: “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I really didn't need this as a person and like I know we each one of us individually, we have these networks. This is why our work is we because we are connected. It's where we all get together that we just end up being just all of us, and them there, and us talking about them. But in our everyday practise and life, of course, we all speak to them every day and, it’s just when we’re reporting, report each other.”


Zoe Norwich: “And its funny because, and it's funny, cause COVID has made that worse in the sense that my colleagues in Rwanda can't get on a plane without quarantining at Heathrow for two weeks and spending over £2,000, right? So, they can't come to this conference. But there should be because of COVID more mechanisms now to bring them into the room. Yeah, it’s a puzzle and a challenge.


I wanted to say about, about whether it makes a difference. Maybe one of the areas where I think it can make a massive difference, photography is social stigma. And there's a really lovely article by Nicole Smith Dahmen called ‘Images of Resilience: The Case for Visual Restorative Narrative’, which is about moving beyond the moment of, of the moment of a sort of a, an acute event, and instead thinking about slow storytelling and rehabilitation and or sort of ways everyday living, do you know it?”

Stuart Allan: “Yes, yeah.”

Zoe Norwich: “It's a really gorgeous article and it makes me think of someone like Sarah Waiswa, a brilliant Kenyan photographer and when she's working with people who are living with albinism in creative manners to tell their stories, and that's very much a collaboration. And she's working with people who are coming in, who are devising their own, what they want to wear, how they want to be photographed, and it's very much sort of an ongoing conversation and that, that is challenging deep-rooted social stigmas in East Africa, right? When you have and when you think about ways of photographing people living with disabilities, when you think about the, the work that I'm doing with historically marginalised people, the, who were previously known as the Batwa in Rwanda, right? Those are people where there are still lots of linguistic terms of phrase in Kinyarwanda which diminish and belittle them. And it's about trying to challenge those at a very fundamental sort of core level through partnership, through collaboration and I, and I do think that photography has the ability to create a sense of intimacy, even if that sense of intimacy is false and that that has an, a way of working to, to rub against social stigma.”

Simon Popple: “Has anybody got any experience? And put this out to the audience as well of, of working to push photography itself as a practise out into, into different places rather than just either representing on behalf of, of, of, of people, or having small-scale projects where you've already got people who are working as photographers, and you include them? Is there a sense of, of yeah, Jess.”

Jess Crombie: “I’ll just say this very quickly because I’m interested to hear from the audience. But just that there's this sort of assumption that what’s known as participatory practise, you know, work where you're giving someone a camera or a mobile phone and going when you take pictures of your own life is kind of the answer to all of this. And but it's not.”

[Laughter]

I get that conversation repeated to me, but it's not, it's about editorial decision making, like right and it's what you know, Anastasia was talking about earlier about picture editors. It's about who gets to make editorial decisions happening as much kind of earlier at earlier level and I think that's what, so, so when you’re asking what people do. The work that I do now is really being sort of monster NGO, Red Cross and UNHDR and all these big monster organisations who are, you know, putting out images all over the place all the time are giving wholesale stories to the media who don't even credit the NGO, you know, just publish it as if it's their own stories is really problematic for loads of obvious reasons. And you know, what I talked about is exactly that, it’s not about how do you get someone to tell their own story, it's about fundamentally shifting who's making decisions. And so yeah, I just wanted to kind of, I think that's, that, that's a really important and practical thing that everyone can think about and do, you know, in whatever way you're able to, but it's really important that, you know, not to rely on smaller scale idea, however nice it may feel to do these projects.”

Simon Popple: “I was, I was thinking more about the sort of work that you were doing with, with gathering stuff that's already being made that's not seen as formal professional photography, but it is actually just what people do day-to-day with their phones. And it's that way of gathering that sort of information together and getting it through these editorial processes. And I think you've come up with a really, you know, a really strong way in terms of making a film, hopefully, which will reach you, want an audience for it, so you've done that to find an audience for these images, and I'm just wondering if there were other examples of people where they've encountered that type of approach to try and surface what's already there, not to try and impose practises or instil new practises, but actually, just to think what people are doing, because photography or whatever you want to call it, image making is endemic in most parts of the world, but it's just not recognised. It's not valued by, by us, it's not seen, but it's there and it has very important things to say and I, and that's what I was sort of interested in, the way that you've taken that and you, you have an archive now, so you've got a repository where this stuff can go and, and can be kept. It's not just dispersed to the four winds or or, you know, to, to, to this, to, to this, perhaps a digital network where it's lost. So, I just thought that was an interesting way of thinking about, actually, you know, again it's around terminology as as you were saying, Steven, it's, it's about the language that we use to describe these practises and most people don't recognise photography as photography, they think it's, you know, it's just using their phone to do something, whatever.”

Audience member: “Yeah, like I'm, I appreciate this conversation to like, kind of think about how power actually operates in this, and I think there's a lot about like we're, we're talking about it through the image itself, but it's, but we also have to connect it to the, the public, as you know you said, but also like who, who do we assume to be the humanitarian photographer and when?

Like, if, I don't know if, if there is, let's say, the Paris attack and I go there and, and take pictures of, of people suffering after the, am I a humanitarian photographer? Or we only conceive of humanitarianism if it is in the global south with black and brown bodies and then, and then there's this whole assumption of humanitarianism because where those photographs are going to be shown whose embassy is, is going to be sought? So, like the distinction between, let's say photographs and images that happen to be taken by an ordinary person being that versus the humanitarian image, which is by someone who is at least employed by a global institution. So that's a question, goes back to you, but that, but you know that, that's, that's the, the ongoing myth as you said about the humanitarian, what is humanitarian?”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Magnum Photos has a print sale on at the moment. I think it's for $200 you can buy a photograph of a family digging the bodies of their loved ones out of the rubble in a Syrian city. And when you click on the link to buy the print, you know it 3D models view., nice white kind of John Lewis Western home with the picture printed to scale on it. Of course, in that print sale, there were no pictures of dead Americans being dug out of the Twin Towers rubble for people to buy and put on their walls.

And I think. We, I don't have any answers, but I think we have to have conversations like this and I only knew Tim through his work, not personally, but he was talking about these things ten years ago and I'm sure he would have, you know, he wasn't, he didn't think photo. I am angry. But more like, I'm kind of hurt, actually, I feel hurt. I feel some kind of, I don't know what, some kind of moral injury or something. There's something. Like everything. I can't really articulate it, but it's a physical feeling in my body and it makes me shake and it's, it's part of it is the distance between seeing someone really hurt somebody else in the most awful way like and watch, I'm not saying I have like, a right because I see it in real life or something, but there's such dissonance between the act of photographing, like, I don't know anybody who could make those kinds of pictures and it would sit right with them. It it, it really hurts to see people do those things to each other. I'm not saying that to make it about me or make you feel sorry for me, but like, this rooms nice and I like being around people who aren't photographers, who, who are really upbeat about photography and in a way it's nice to be the one who, I feel like probably a bit angry and a bit down on photography and when I'm around photographers I'm actually the optimistic one and I think having these like, because I do want to change it and I do want to not, apart from just be OK with myself like I do believe that photography can play. Yeah, I'm just going to be quiet now. But yeah, thanks for having me as part of this conversation.”

Zoe Norwich: “Can, can I, can I ask you about that feeling? Is it, is it like shock or is it rage? Or is it disappointment or can you?”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “It's, it's moral injury.”

Zoe Norwich: “Yeah. Hurt.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Yeah, it feels like, yeah, like, like, I'm a freelance as well. Like, you know, the, the reason we're here is because of Tim’s archive, right? Like, though, with the exception of 1 photographer, everyone who got injured or killed were freelance photographers. Like, they didn't have insurance like, you know, we have a huge problem with, with sexual harassment and racism in photojournalism.”

Zoe Norwich: “Yeah.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Magnum has just not kicked out but it turns out one of their ‘star players’ has been sexually harassing and assaulting young women of colour in the majority world for 30 years, people at the agency knew about it and allowed him to resign. And I'm using Magnum because that's one example, but Seven is another agency where they had you, sort of, Me too scandals. David Furst is, was the international pitch editor at the New York Times, who essentially controlled for I think a decade who got these crème de la crème assignments, who got flown from New York or Paris or London to Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and, and he openly told women photographers, “I don't hire women because there are no women who photograph as well as men do.” So, this was the gatekeeper for the and you know, and there were issues obviously with representation and race as well, so. I, I, I, I don't really know what else to say except like there, that's, feels like moral, moral injury, yeah.”

Zoe Norwich: “Yeah, multi-layered moral injury.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Yeah.”

Zoe Norwich: “Thank you.”

Audience member: “I want to connect the conversation we’re having maybe to just go somewhere else little bit about the issues of access and proxy because looking specifically at Syria, for the couldn't go. Like, this one conflict where we had no access, so the only access we had with the people on the ground, and I don't know if my question is have you in your work looked at or thought about what we as people are making the people on the inside photograph for us? Because a lot of the videos and it's something we learned the hard way, working with activists in Syria is we learn all these training to teach them to, to take photos and videos. But basically, we wanted them to take those images, those sensationalist, like those skull images, they end up sending those from Syria, not because they think this is what they want to represent of their communities, it, it because this is what they think we want to see. And so, I was wondering if you and maybe when we're thinking about how can we keep the positive, you know, thinking about the role of the journalism of images of how this goes within our everyday practise. Are we thinking about what we're making these people do with our own practise like expectations or what we're teaching them, how we're teaching them to use the camera?”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “And just sorry, this is the last thing I'll say, but I just want to point out that photographers in Syria and in other, photographers who are reporting locally are paid less than the white Western photographers who have flown in to do that, significantly less so for me, that says everything about the value system.”

Audience member: “Like, that's everything, that's not just the photographers.”

Audience member: “Can I just interject as well? Well, I did work for newspapers as a photographer, photojournalist. There are actually with a lot of freelancers say from this country going to Syria to get pictures. A lot of picture editors were refusing to use this work because they didn't wanna, they didn't wanna, you know, create this thing of like, you know, you just go this far from war-torn places to make a name for yourself.

So yeah, I don't know if that answers anything but, but that, that that was what I heard on the ground when I was working for the newspapers and they, they certainly would not want to use anything. That's why that few images were used, you know of Syria say, you know, 20-30 unless it was like say the big agencies, you know the Magnums and the Sevens and all that sort of carry on. But yeah, I think the, the whole thing, you know moral injury is very, very interesting because it's, you know the, you know, picture editors, but then it's the, the newspaper proprietors as well. And it's, it's like well, does that sit well with this advertising thing and, and then we start going about social media as well, which you know is great because you get the message out but it's like a double-edged sword. Or is it shooting yourself in the foot? How do you, you know what? How do you make a living as a professional photojournalist nowadays, you know and then you look at NGO companies where it's like, you know, really effectively would be an advertising photographer. But then, looking at the other thing in terms of archives, I, I you know I, I gave up photojournalism in 2015 and I went to university, took on a PhD and, and it was in, in response to contemporary working class culture and, and I was [inaudible] what to do, you know? It turns out I'm a, I'm an ex-soldier. I, I started photography in the Dutch Army, I was a unit photographer and, and my research was looking at the,  the personal photographs of, of, of British soldiers. Simple as that. And again, these people have no voices. They have no agency. In fact, one aspect talks about it, my exhibited some of my images as part of the National Media Museum, cause I've got a bursary to make my first book, and there was a women from the Royal Photographic Society that turned around and said to me said, “Have you got the MoD's permission to exhibit these photographs?” And I was kind of baffled by what she said that, that despite leaving the military in 1993, that I was still bound to this thing. It's because I've signed the Oath of Allegiance that forever I’d be damned, do you know what I mean? So anyway, that's what I make.”

Simon Popple: “I think we were almost out of time, but I just, if there's any other comments or, or, questions from the audience. And then maybe just to sort of give everyone a chance to, to have the last say, if you want to say anything else that you haven't said that you'd like to say before we, before we break for coffee and we carry on discussions then but is there anybody else you'd like to make a point or just say anything before we before we finish?”

Audience member: “I was just going to say about your, kind of, question around gathering these archives and most people will be aware of the ICP hashtag that was took down the photographs for an exhibition at the ICP in New York. And I think that's an interesting example of how during COVID, they were able to kind of gather these, you know, have a huge problem, for many reasons, and again, that comes back to, again because of the editorial side of both the fact that you were just chosen by a group of people in the opening gallery, but I think there's interesting mechanisms that maybe are opening up new kind of opportunities. And I don't know, certainly speaking with myself, Anastasia to your point about the kind of moral injury, I think probably most people in this room have that in however they're working with images I think. You know, we're talking a lot about photographers and at the gatekeepers too, and I think maybe there's work to be done around kind of thinking about those people in curatorial positions and editorial positions. I mean, Lauren Walsh put together a really interesting book which brought together NGO's, picture editors and photographers reflecting on their experiences, I think that's sort of the tip of the iceberg how you could open that up. I think there is so much to be talked about around that moral injury where it plays out because that's also affecting gatekeepers that we don’t even think of as gatekeepers in a way so, thank you.”

Audience member: “Just quickly, we're going around the world, not word the term moral injury a lot here. And the word was actually done just at Kings up the road. And just quickly grab Neil’s definition: “It's a, it's, so it's psychological strength that results in action or lack of action which violates an individual’s moral or ethical code.” And I think that action lack of action is key. This is not about finding something upsetting morally, it's just like you don't get PTSD necessarily from looking at something. I think it’s that action or lack of action that is key to that.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “That is exactly how I mean it, by this definition.”

Audience member: “I think it’s getting used a lot around here differently, perhaps a little too liberally.”

Anastasia Taylor-Lind: “Thank you.”

Katy Parry: “Yeah. I just want to pick up on one point from Dima there about bringing voices together and, and us being here without certain other voices and, and when we put together the proposal kind of pre-COVID, the, the format for the day would be that we had a public engagement workshop in the morning with people who have experienced conflict, so refugees or veterans or veterans’ families and, and then they're invited to join in in the afternoon as well. So and I think you know, one of the things that we really wanted to get across in the kind of ethos of doing this was actually bringing those voices together. So practitioners, scholars, curators and people that have had that direct experience of conflicts as well. It hasn't happened today exactly, but the, we should hopefully for the final kind of research day that we want to have is actually bring together those people as well from, from the public engagement workshops and we have held a couple of workshops with refugees in Manchester asking exactly those questions that Jess and, and others have talked about in terms of what do you think about this representation and Jess’s work and The People in the Pictures, I use it in my teaching, it's absolutely brilliant and, and really important in this as well I think.”

The Piper’s Dilemma

Presentation by Nana Kofi Acquah

Nana is a photographer and writer, and recipient of the Tim Hetherington Foundation and World Press Photo Fellowship. Nana is based North of Accra, Ghana, and works all across the continent of Africa.

Nana Kofi Acquah: “Hello, my name is Nana Kofi Acquah, greetings from Accra, Ghana. I wish I could join you in person, I couldn't because of COVID. Actually, I'm bringing you this from quarantine. I tested positive for COVID last week, so I've been in quarantine. I'm vaccinated, so it didn't, It didn't go haywire. Get vaccinated.

Anyway, let's get to the point. So today I'm, I want to give you just 10 minutes of my time we talk about The Piper's Dilemma. OK, The Piper’s Dilemma. As we all know, whoever pays the piper calls the tune and this is where this title is coming from. But we're going to deal with a more complex topic than that. We're looking at humanitarian photography and the ethical relationship between photographic subject, photographer, and the spectator.

There is this trigon relationship between the photographic subject, the photographer and the spectator. But even before we get into discussing this beautiful trinity, I want us to look at the oxymoron in front of us, this is paradoxical, this oxymoron, this humanitarian photography. The word humanitarian is supposed to mean human beings helping human beings. Is that what really happens with humanitarian photography? We'll get into that. But let's look at the bigger, more dangerous word photography. So, photography is an extremely violent practise. Most people don't realise this, but if you look at photography, we snap, we capture, we slave, we shoot, we fire, we frame you and then we expose you.

Extremely violent practise. And we're supposed to do this in a humanitarian, humanitarian way. And if you look at the word humanitarian, it's, it's actually a, a word that is supposed to be polite. I've forgotten what that's called in English. Forgive me. English is the third language I speak, but basically it is an euphemism. Humanitarian is supposed to mean kind-hearted human beings going out there helping other human beings. But no, what actually happens with the humanitarian photography most of the time is that a bunch of privileged people to suit their conscience for polluting the air, for destroying the universe, for selling weapons and bombs and guns to, to some of the most troubled places on Earth would, would fund something and as part of that funding, somebody comes with a camera and, and, and, and takes photos of films. And in the process actually benefits more than the victims being, being, being filmed, you know?

So, we create a situation where we, we all say all human beings are equal but we know that some human beings are more equal than others. And normally it is the more equal than others category of human beings who tend to go down to the global South to where people, places where people like me are from to intervene with their great work, you know?

So, if you look at how people, brown people, black people, people from the global South have been represented in photography over the past couple of 100 years, it is worrying. It is worrying if the intent is humanitarian, if the intent is to help, why do we create images that further dehumanise an already dehumanised people? You know, millions of probably billions of dollars have been put in eugenics, you know, all these things to justify racism. We've, we've infested the religions of the world with our racist biases, colonialism took everything from us and all he created is for me to be able to speak English and, and, and slavery, you know. In fact, you still find the language of slavery and colonialism even in the practise of photography, you know?

So, so what are we saying? What, what I'm saying is that, I mean, we are here honouring Tim Hetherington and the great work he did, his heart, his passion shows, you look at his photographs today and you can see the vulnerability and the risk he took to really humanise these experiences. But we don't have enough people like him and because of that, photography, this practise, this specific practise of photography called humanitarian photography; that is supposed to help the global South, actually often ends up impoverishing us further and the dynamics what leads to this impoverishment and the difficulty this causes us stems from a very innocent part of this triumph, mainly the spectator.

You know, people are so used to a negative representation, racist jokes, images of, of malnourished African children with flies and children dying with vultures standing over them. People are used to these, these negative images for so long that when organisations like Magnum are held accountable for some of the images in their archives that they still sell, that they still, that they, they still exhibit, they get shocked, they get shocked that this offends somebody. Sometimes, if you think the photos are damming, you should read the captions that come under them and whilst we, we, we, we think through these things, we have to remember the [laughter], we're still, we're still dealing with Boris Johnson and co being held accountable for racist comments. That wasn't a big deal, and you know, the comedian, so what? And, and he could still become President, you know, a Prime Minister, whatever he's called.

And then you have, if you remember 2013, when black people mainly were hounded all-over, all-over London with vans, you know, like, like stray dogs. They were hounded, you know, ‘Go home or face arrest’, you know. And she went ahead to also become Prime Minister almost as if, if you can show how much you hate migrants or black people, you can become Prime Minister of the UK. This is the legacy you bring. This is when, when and, and this is, this is everybody in the UK, everybody in Europe, everybody in America. It is a system, not a person. It's not, it’s not an individual and what we are saying is that if you really want to practise humanitarian photography and you're coming from these parts of the world, you're coming from your high Thrones of privilege into Africa, into India, into some of the poorest parts of the earth to, to work, do a bit of history. You have to remember that most of these parts of the world are poor because they were looted because they were enslaved, because they were colonised, that the very crown on your Queen's head to, to the soil on your plantations hold our blood. You know, and so Africa is poor, and Africa is not poor because of a coincidence. This is Mali, this is Goundam. I've taken you to Goundam in Mali. This is a picture. So, Mali, one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, the Mali has massive gold reserves. And then when Obama and Sarkozy and whoever other, whoever else joined them when they violently overthrew Gaddafi as part of that spillover, a lot of arms got into wrong hands, and now Mali is a disaster. They have thousands upon thousands of internally displaced people. When you get to an area like Goundam, you have over 8 jihadist groups fighting for territory. You have bandits running helter-skelter, and most of the time, if somebody shows up in the hospital it, it's because their disease have reached a very critical, critical stage.

How can you be so rich? How can you have gold right from your southernmost borders to your northernmost borders, right from the eastern most to the westernmost, and yet be so poor? And I'm saying that as we practise this photography we call humanitarian photography. We have to remember that the reasons why Africa is poor is not because the people are lazy or incompetent. Many times, these people are poor because they were robbed. Because they were robbed, and they continue to be robbed. So, what can you do? As a practitioner of photography who is interested in truly changing the world, who is genuinely interested in drawing attention to the suffering and, and and to the problems of the world, what can you do? To the well-intentioned photographer, what can you do? And there's something I want to simply say that if you look at the trigon relationship, I said, we'll discuss photographic subject, the photographer, the spectator. The expression photographic subject is another problematic one. If I am the subject, it means you must be my Lord. You must be my, my queen. Your Majesty, your subject listens. So already there is a problem, you know?

The way we think about photography needs to change. The person being photographed is not a subject to the person photographing. Oh, that's not what it means. That is exactly what it means. So, we manipulate images, we, we, we shoot from angles. And by the way, these are images from, from Sierra Leone, something a bit more positive. So, Sierra Leone is a beautiful country. It's a land of giants they, they have this beautiful wrestling they do. There's just not enough time. My 10 minutes, I probably would do 15 minutes, forgive me. And, and, and, and, and yet, while working in Sierra Leone, I discovered one thing they have probably the highest record of hypertension in Africa.

Hypertension is something black people tend to suffer from and, and to do this story the, the question of the spectator comes in; who is interested? Who is watching this? And many times you have to find the person who can fund your project. So, this particular one I did with Novartis Foundation, you know otherwise you can't do the stories that matter to you. Yeah, you know, so also in, in Senegal, one of the things I personally discovered is that they use a lot of, a lot of monosodium glutamate. I don't know if you know what it is, monosodium glutamate. These are supposed to be MSG, like spices, you know, you know, like these MAGGI Cube and Royco and all these things. They put a lot in their food and, and it is believed to be a major contributor to the cases of hypertension and sometimes it is not always war, humanitarian photography isn't always about going to war and shooting people dying or refugees running. There are some stories that are more nuanced and the more nuanced the story, the more complicated it is, especially because most of us, most of us grew up on, on gory images and our sense of a strong photograph is something that is gory, somebody must die or be dying if nobody is dying, if nobody's crying, we are not in Sierra Leone. Shortly after the country was declared free from Ebola. You know, if we don't see images like this, people weeping, people broken, then we think the photographs are not strong enough, you know. But I want to challenge you to look at what is a strong photograph?

Why would you consider a photograph strong or why would you think, oh, this is just a nice composition. In Sierra Leone, I met Princess. Princess is the lady to your left in this photograph and she lost her two children, her husband, her siblings, her, by the time Ebola was over, she had lost about 24 family members. The only other survivor in her family was her sister, who is standing right by her in this photograph. And I thought I had seen the human condition in some of its lowest, some of its really lowest, until I met Princess. And, and she was talking, and she talked about how her, her husband's family came and took their home, and now she had nothing. No children, no husband, no job, nothing. And when she considered prostitution at that time, she realised that even for that she wasn't qualified, because who would want to sleep with somebody who has Ebola. You know, for the first time, this was the first time I remember standing behind the camera and the camera became my, my, my mask, you know, because I was bawling, my heart was bleeding and I was crying. And yet I had to ask myself, how do I photograph Princess in such a way that her humanity comes through. Because she's more than just a victim, she's a survivor. But even beyond being a victim or a survivor, she's somebody's Princess. She's somebody's Princess and this is what we are saying. Will this photograph win an award? Typically, it's not gory enough, and I've been, I've been a jury. I've performed jury duty for the World Press Photo. So, I know the kind of images people bring in, you know?. And we, we have to question these things. We have to question these things, you know? We need spectators who are interested in more than just the gory. There's a portrait of my parents. The only portrait I've ever made of my parents. My dad is 75. About a month ago he suffered a stroke, you know? And I made this photograph a few months before that, the only photograph I've ever made of my parents, sometimes the hardest photographs to make are the ones closest to you. Are the ones closest to you, you know? But are these what spectators are looking for? Are these what we want to feed them? You know? So, yes, let me, I think if I joke, I'll, I'll, I'll go through all these things and never finish. I think there's not enough time to discuss, to discuss this in full. But I wanted to challenge you. I wanted you to understand that. If you think of photojournalism, don't think going into the global South, maybe you should think of a lobbying or the Boris Johnsons and the Theresa Mays, and the people who call footballers funny names and throw bananas at them or send them banana emoticons. Maybe you should begin from there. Maybe you should go to the root. You, you come from a culture that that was built in eugenics, and all these lies that make you believe. Yeah, all human beings are equal, but some are more equal than others. You cannot have a bias and photograph objectively. In fact, it is actually impossible to photograph objectively. But when you have a bias, when you come from some parts of the world that some of us come from, it is extremely difficult. And this is your responsibility as a, as a, as a, as a centre point of this trying relationship, you are the photographer. Your work will always be subjective. Every single photograph you make will always be a self-portrait. And please, when you photograph people, they are not your subjects. There wasn't enough time, but I hope that this would already provoke conversation amongst you. My name is Nana Kofi Acquah and thank you for your time.”

Conflict imagery in the digital era

The final network event was held in New York with our partners at the Bronx Documentary Center. It brought together experts working across photography, filmmaking, curation, and research, to discuss how the pressures of the digital era are shaping professional values and experiences for those producing conflict and post-conflict imagery. The discussion considered the ways in which the photojournalistic industry has responded to the rapidly-changing digital environment and the weaponization of imagery by an array of actors. Who is now involved in the collaborative storytelling processes? Whether there is a noticeable shift in the aesthetics of war due to the popularity of certain platforms (Instagram, TikTok)? How do photographers or filmmakers ensure visibility of their work in an era of information overload? And how does the Russian war in Ukraine affect our understanding of these issues?

The final Tim Hetherington Collection, Conflict Imagery Research Network event took place on 6th April 2022.

Mike Kamber: “My name is Mike Kamber, I'm the, the founder here at the BBC and we want to thank everybody for coming tonight. We're excited about the event. There'll be some people trickling in because I know a lot of people are coming after Work, so there'll be a few more people coming. And we're particularly, you know, gratified that everybody came tonight. Tim, Tim helped get this place going. Tim was my roommate back in the day, and he helped do a lot of the thinking and discussions around this place, and then his, his death in 2011 was actually the catalyst. We, Tim and I were saying, “Well, we don't have the money to start it,” you know, and then when he was killed, Jeremiah Zagar and a few other friends said, “Let's just get some volunteers and just get that place started up.” So that's, that's how the BBC started and that's why we're here today, so, yeah. 

[Applause]

OK. Real quick, we've got an exhibition Peter Van Agtmael is opening next week across the street. We've got a gallery about three times the size across the street, and then our students, we've got about 100 students in our after-school programme; they've got a big show in June, so I'll check that out and we've got our Latin American photo festival in July, so there's a lot, a lot coming up. 

We're back in person, nothing's on Zoom, so come on out please. So, I'm going to read the bios quickly and then we can get to it. We're pretty informal here, so if you have questions, you know this is always better when it's a real conversation instead of just people sitting here listening to, to folks go on, so please interject if there's something you want to know about. And I thought I'll read these bios and then I've got a clip of Tim, it's about two minutes long, it's an informal interview I did with him, me and Shoshanna, a bunch of years ago. And so, we'll roll that, and then we'll get into some questions real quick. So, I need my glasses.  So, this is my friend Sebastian. He is an American journalist, author and filmmaker. He's noted for his book, The Perfect Storm, True Story, Bet Against the Sea, creative non-fiction work which became a bestseller. He's also known for his documentary film, Restrepo and Korengal, which he filmed with Tim, with Tim Hetherington they were, they were filmmaking partners and just and best friends. He also wrote the book War, which was published in 2010. He’s been a contributing editor for Vanity Fair and a special correspondent for ABC News. He's received both a National Magazine Award and a Peabody Award. Thank you Sebastian for coming up.

And Stephen Mayes is also an old friend. We were saying Stephen Mayes was here, that the night we opened up in 2011. It's great to have you here again. You've been here many times since then, of course.”

Stephen Mayes: “Absolutely.” 

Mike Kamber: “Stephen’s an American photographer. He's worked within the fields of photography, art and journalism since 1987. He was the vice president of Getty Images and the New York head of the VII Photo Agency. From 2004 to 2012 he was secretary to the jury of the World Press Photo Contest, and he is currently the head of the Tim Hetherington Trust, so, great to have you here, Stephen. 

Lauren Walsh teaches at the New School NYU, New York University, she's the director of the Gallatin Photojournalism Lab, which has actually sent us some tremendous people over the years and we're always grateful they come up here a lot and some of them volunteer.”

Lauren Walsh: “I’m glad to hear they’re doing well.” 

Mike Kamber: “She's also the director of Lost Roles America and National Archive of Photography and Memory. Walsh's newest book is ‘Through the Lens: The Pandemic’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ was just published this year; great book, really worth looking at. Her other books include ‘Conversations on conflict photography from 2019’ and ‘Shadow of Memory’ from last year. She has also published widely in mainstream and academic journals and anthologies. So, thank you.

Ira Lupu is a photographer, multimedia artist and writer born in Odessa, Ukraine. She currently is based in New York City. She is a graduate of the New Media Narratives programme at ICP International Centre of Photography. She's also a graduate of Victor Marchenko's School of Photography in Kyiv. Her ongoing project on dreams and screens focuses on the experiences of six online sex workers in Ukraine and the US. It explores the place where an electronic body transitions into a real one. Initially supported by the, is it pronounced sibili?”

Ira Lupu: “Ability.”

Mike Kamber: “Typical American…Photography and Multimedia Museum. The project was published in the British Journal of Photography, Vogue Italia, ID and exhibited through Copenhagen Photo Festival. She's also been involved in the Bristol, Bristol Photo Festival, Verzasca Foto Festival and Odessa Photo Day Group. She'll be exhibited this year at the Rotterdam photo and Rotterdam artwork, Rotterdam, Rotterdam Art Week. So, I want to thank everybody for coming and we'll get rolling. Can we, Cynthia, can you help us out and just we'll see that first clip of Tim, it’s just a couple of minutes long.”

Tim Hetherington: “My parents always moved around when I was growing up. I lived all over the place in Britain. I never had a community life, I'm a chameleon and what I do now is, is a reflection of that. Images seems to be the most useful way to, to, to try and work out who I am and who, what is this? What is the world? My relationship to it and it and my place in it.

And so, the photographs act as both maps of the subjects that I photograph, but also of myself, they’re subjectively that way. And you know, my whole, my whole practise I think is about a journey to find the world and to find myself in the world.

I find that wire photography, I find people that do that really amazing because they can make very beautiful pictures all the time, and it's not the, the ability that I, I can make a beautiful picture, I think we all have the capacity to make beautiful pictures but what that tells me about the wire photographers is that they have the energy to do that day in day out and that I find increasingly that I can't, that for me photographs or images are emotional investments, and that I'm unwilling to go on the streets here in New York with a camera because it's making, I see something because even that action of making the photograph for me is a confrontation that takes emotional energy and so I’m not going to do it.

And increasingly for me, the worry with my work as I get older is that it, it takes my projects take so much emotional investment, I invest so much of myself emotionally into my work that it's completely exhausting and then as I get older I worry about, like how can I have a relationship or have a family and do this, and yet really, that's what my work’s about, it demands that, really.”

Interviewer: “I mean, how long can you do it for do you think? Another 10 years, 15 years?”
 

Tim Hetherington: “I have no idea. I try to get that out of my head. I kind of look into my work and what do I do and what do I give value to, and I give value by the emotional closeness that emotional closeness, I think. I can bring people connection to the subject matter in a way that a lot of image makers don't do that, I can do that. I often think about stopping work and just stopping it, I'm not interested, it's just too, too much, too much. I don’t want to have this in my life, this thing. 

Whenever the day comes where I die, whatever it is in terms of being hit by a bus or die peacefully when I’m older hopefully or whatever. I think that, like you know, I'll never, I'll never kind of think that I didn't have a, a real life full of experiences, I really kind of saw all kinds of stuff. It’s great, it’s very satisfying.” 

Mike Kamber: “Sorry to end on that note, and I think we'll just roll, this is just a group of photos that we've collected that, you know, were on Tim’s hard drive. There's work from Afghanistan, there's a lot of work from Libya that I know people have never seen because it has never been published. There's some of his Sleeping Soldiers stuff. So, we're just going to loop this and it's not in any particular order, it's not meant to correspond to any specific thing that somebody might be saying so, but it's just as a background reference, so. But it might also bring up questions and ideas for you in the audience. We'll go from there. So, one of the things that we really want to talk about tonight is the way things, the way the whole digital revolution has transformed, where we're at, where we're at today. And I was wondering if I could ask you, Lauren, about that. Tim shot a lot on film, and he shot a lot of long-term projects, and he did, you know, focus on conflict but things have in ten years, things have transitioned so much digitally, and there's just such a profusion of images, and I'm wondering if you, you have any thoughts on Tim’s work visually where we are today? I know that’s a very general question but...”

Lauren Walsh: “I mean, well first also, just thank you for having me here and thank you everyone. I think with regard to the question of how is the digital landscape transformed the field, a few things come to mind, and I think they have, there are positives and then there are negatives. And so, some of the positives would be that there is a greater ability for journalists, photojournalists around the globe to get their images out and seen whereas historically it was much harder if you were not, let's say, western, to get your images published widely. So, I think that's one of the positives.

I think one of the cons or at least things to be thinking about is as you're saying, if there's a kind of really crowded visual landscape, how do you get people to pay attention to your image? And I think there can often be a bit of a cut-throat race to make things more sensational because that will grab eyes but then, like, how far does that go? Like how, how much sensation do you have to create? And I think the other thing for me in terms of digital is that it in some regards means we get the information faster, but it also means that bad actors are more quickly responding to, let's say, the conflict photographer wherever they're based. It's easier to figure out who they are to try to track them or target them.”

Mike Kamber: “Can you say more about that in terms of target, targeting? You're, you're saying just because of purely because of the digital locations involved?”

Lauren Walsh: “Yeah, I mean, if you're publishing, let's say, in nearly real time, right, your location, even if broadly like they know where you are based broadly but we also now for the photojournalist who is in a conflict zone, if, if journalists are being targeted, they have to be really smart about cyber detection, right? And like turning off certain geolocations that they can't be picked up by anyone who's trying to monitor where they are.”

Mike Kamber: “Right. Yeah, that's something that Tim, Tim didn't have to think about 10 years ago. Opens up a whole line of, yeah. 

I've got a quick question for you, not a quick question, but you know I got to New York in 1986 or something and you know, I began to meet these older photographers and they were, you know, the whole their whole mantra was you know, photography is obsolete, photojournalism is dead, you know, and every 10 years like I hear this conversation. It's not relevant anymore, you know, you as a Ukrainian can you talk about how you feel in terms of how, has photography been central to public awareness?”
 

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, I think it's interesting how it's not only the tools that with which we produced photography changed. It's also in this, like, current like social media era, it's like even the way how we consume information about war and how we even because let's put it this way, I think this war is probably one of the first in the world that is being not just televised but like streamed. It's not the first one when we have social media, I think it's been like pretty like a lot of conflicts, but I think it's characteristic to Ukraine that even in poor areas, like almost every farmer would have like a smartphone. Also, for now we have like a quality of image it's kind of like good. So, for example, the way I've been consuming information about war and building my own movie of the war, which by the way, like every person now has like their own movie, right? Because we don't have a straightforward way to consume all of that. It's been mixed between the official information from the media, but also like as a Ukrainian like I track all the like telegram channels and like immediate information, air raid alerts and all that stuff. And of course, like I'm, and to every Ukrainian, is technically exposed to, like, enormous amounts of immediate information, yeah. And then maybe, like the most, the most I don't know, like bright or interesting or like sensational clips, of course, they get spread like further, but this is like immensely big part, like for viewing this war right now.”

Mike Kamber: “Right. It's amazing because when I started covering conflict in the 1980s and 90s until we got to the airport and got our film back to New York or Miami, there were no pictures coming out. So, it's completely, um…yeah…live feed. Yeah, it’s astonishing.”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, there was just like a bombing the other day in Odessa, where, like, part of my family is. And it was like the first bombing, like, of this scale. It was infrastructural but still, you know, it's kind of like nerve-wracking, especially after months that nothing like was happening. And for me, you know, even though it's forbidden right now to be immediately publishing the consequences of bombings because it is said that it will help like Russian soldiers to kind of like, correct their targets and the next hit would be more efficient. But for me, it's like technically, of course, when it was like the first bombing and like one Western journalist immediately put everything out, he was extradited from the country already, and at least I was able to see I’m like, oh, it's not in my neighbourhood, but it's in the neighbourhood where, like, a lot of hospitals are and also my ex-boyfriend lives there. So that's good. Yeah. So, it's like a very different way, yeah. Consuming.” 

Mike Kamber: “And so that gives us a lot to talk about right there. Yeah, yeah. Steven, you, you knew Tim well and he was a friend of yours. How do you think he would, how do you think do you think he would be in Ukraine today if he was alive and how do you think he'd be approaching it? Because Tim never did what the press did; Tim was always doing something else.”

Stephen Mayes: “Some of my, my too much feared words are ‘Tim would’. We have no idea, he had no idea even, he had, he had strong ideas about how he wanted to get somewhere and not so much where he wanted to get to, I think. But yes, he would have taken intense interest I think that's, that's for sure whether we’ve been there or not. But I think it's it's, you know, Tim was what's one of the many fascinating things about Tim was that he was really, he wasn't really about the medium of photography; he used the medium of photography, that's not what drove him. He was really a curiosity and I think that's, you know, any discussion of photography starts, obviously with technology because it's a technological medium dating back to 1840, but I think it, it's, it shouldn't end with technology. Obviously the changes we're seeing at the moment in the media how it works, and everything are very technologically driven but I think just in the same way that photographers are likely to be the last people in the world to find out what's happening with the visual image because we're so mired in the history of photography and the practise of photography, there's almost other stuff happening around imagery we're not paying attention to. I think the same is true of the media in general. Like the last people, we need to ask about how to fix the media is the media. I think that the, the conversation really lined up here there should be psychologist, you know, expecting communication, there should be a gaming person that gets them to gamify, who understands how social, you know, how they socialised information. There needs to be a hacker, there need to be advertising person. I mean, these are the people who are actually really driving communications at the moment. The media is tagging along to doing what they can from yesterday's market but yeah, I think we're looking in the wrong place for our answers on this panel to be honest. Because it's this stuff is happening out there which is very fast, very live, technologically- driven, but what we forget in that is that there really isn’t an us and them situation. 

At this particular moment, you know, where, where information has become so politicised and polarised, there's a feeling of us and them. Like you know, I believe this and they believe that, truth is, we all work on the same psychology. And if I'm going to be critical of anyone for how they think, I have to go by that same criticism myself because we, we all boil in the same pot, you know, we're all humans. And I think that's really, really important to remember that there are no monsters out there, but people doing monstrous things. We, we're all cut from that same cloth, and I think that's really what we need to focus on rather than technology which separates us, you know, combines us, whatever or, or political attitudes, which obviously, very obviously separate at the moment. And particularly, you know, in Ukraine at the moment.  It's not really about the separations that has to be about any of the similarities and then figuring out how do we, how do, how is that affecting me and my reception of information, what do I do with that information? Rather than saying I'm sitting on some kind of high hill with no review of what's going on and see this, this and this. I'm part of that scene; we all are. We have to include ourselves in that.” 

Stephen Mayes: “Right. Yeah, very much so, yeah. Um, Sebastian, I was going to ask you, I mean, you've, you've written books on war, made, made, made movies about war, can you. what is your, what is your impression of, of what's happening in Ukraine through, through images and video?”

Sebastian Junger: “The first war I was in was Sarajevo was in Bosnia in 1993 and it reminds me a lot of that. I mean, first of all, you have a professional army, that's encircling, bombarding cities, trying to lay siege to them, yeah, using snipers to terrify the population to drive them out using it seems, it seems that they're using rape. So random execution, I mean all the things that made Bosnia sort of so newsworthy and horrifying when I was there, they, they seem to be doing it again. Kosovo was the same way, I was there as well and the power of the image to sort of shake the worlds morally and wake, wake the world up and get them, get the world to act is, I mean, had a huge impact on the war in Bosnia and it's and it still is today. 

And I mean one of, I mean this is rusty, my mind is rusty and this is a long time ago, but if I remember correctly, one of the things that sort of galvanised a direct NATO ultimatum and ultimately action was just another mortar round landed in a marketplace and killed a bunch of people but there happened to be a News Group right there and the footage was absolutely horrific and the, and, and it recorded like from the first, you know, wounded people dragging themselves towards the camera and just unthinkable things, things you can't unsee, you know. I mean, just awful.

And, and that, that affected the war on a military level, right, because the world, NATO was pushed basically like we can't, um, it presented the world with something that it couldn't live with, and obviously that has just happened in Ukraine. I mean, these ghastly executions and that seems to be the towns around Kyiv, um, that now all of a sudden, you know, Europe, the EU is talking about no more Russian coal, no more this and that. I mean, they have, it has real consequences and quite quickly. And I don't think, and you know, I mean, I'm a writer, right? And I believe in words, and they have enormous power in certain circumstances, but I don't believe an article about that would do the same thing. I don't think it would have the same effect, same information, etcetera, I don't think it had the same, there was something about those lonely bodies, like in the streets that just, you can't, you can't look at them, you can't accept it.” 

Mike Kamber: “Tim, Tim was also very interested in, you know, kind of the universality of war. And he, you know, he would talk about Homer and, you know, the Iliad and the Odyssey. And, you know, we would have these arguments and, and it's, it's interesting that they're saying, you're seeing the same dynamics play out today as, you know. And I was with you in in Monrovia when the capital was surrounded, being bombarded and the presence of the press helped to provoke a…”

Sebastian Junger: “Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah and Tim was, Tim was very interested in the self-image of combatants, right? So you know, in, in, in Liberia and even with American soldiers and certainly in north, in Libya, where he lost his life, the, you know, these young guys, mostly men, were very self, were aware of what they look like and they were aware that they, there was a way to look like what they thought a fighter looked like and that, that image was taken from Hollywood, which in turn took the image from reality, which then took it from Hollywood, you know, this sort of feedback loop. And so that there were fighters in Libya. And and I mean, you know this from West Africa where you just, you know it's clear that's coming right out of American media and either a kind of Rambo thing or a kind of rap that, you know, whatever gangster, you know, I mean whatever. It's a sort of like collage of American, American visuals for us, our ultra, ultra male, ultra-aggressive sort of image and, and Tim was fascinated by how that, that, that, that feedback loop of image and fighter and image and, um, well, you know. I’ll just sort of end with this; he was also quite interested in this, it's really interesting how in war is the, the combatants often adopt the style and the, and the clothing of the people they're fighting. So, American special forces are growing their beards out basically look like Afghans. And now the Taliban are doing everything they can to look like American soldiers with all the cast off uniforms and on the American frontier, I've written about this, on the American frontier it was a lot of cross- emulation going, you know, across the, the white native divide and, you know, pretty quickly, the, the, you know, on the frontier of the, you know, the, the Caucasians were carrying Tomahawks and scalping knives and, you know, not wearing pants, wearing breech clouds and moccasins and, and the native people were, you know, were wearing overcoats. And Tim was absolutely fascinated by that sort of like cultural exchange that happens, and particularly in the sort of visual level that happens in war.”

Mike Kamber: “Right, right. Lauren, I feel like some of what he said ties into some of what you've written about?”

Lauren Walsh: “I mean, I think because I also am seeing resonances with the Bosnian War, but I would have a slightly different spin on it because it's a nearly four-year war with a tonne of coverage and imagery and it wasn't really until after the Markale massacre, and also the Srebrenica massacre, where it was 8000 men and boys in the space of a few days were just rounded up and executed.

So, for all the images that were taken, including of concentration camps, we didn't militarily intervene for a really long time, and that's one of the biggest critiques. And then NATO essentially did air strikes and ended it very quickly. So, I think, I mean, I'm not, I am someone who maybe a little less questioning of the, I like asking the critical questions, but I also think that the journalism, the photojournalism is vital. And I think it's really important all the documentation we've been seeing out of Ukraine and it, it really, it has not pushed us yet, obviously, to do any military intervention, but I do think you're right in what you're saying that the images that are just coming out of Bucha have changed the conversation, right? And now, although we've been hearing descriptions of war crimes for close to two months, now we're seeing the war crimes and now it's, you know, the upping the sanctions, I think some European countries are, despite being part of NATO, are shifting from giving defence weaponry to giving offence, offensive weaponry, which is a shift in the stated goals at the beginning so, I think it remains to be seen are we really going to get militarily involved, I don't know. But the, the image is also if this rolls forward and if there is war crimes trials at the ICC the images will be incredibly important for that as well.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah. Right, right.”

Audience member: “I have a question about that, actually.”

Mike Kamber: “Sure.” 

Because, I mean, who controls the meaning? 

Audience member: “I feel like the meaning gets more obliterated because of the fusion of the images of all this live stuff happening, but you see deep fakes and all types of manipulation going on, things that are happening or not happening. So, I feel like the idea of the meaning is looser, and then it's got to be corroborated by the news organisation that, who supported that news organisation in the first place, who’s making editorial decisions to go do. So, I feel like I'm losing meaning in what I'm seeing and what I'm understanding like never before and I feel for me, that side of the visual shift looking at you in this situation like you’ve been in, I think we’re having like an, almost like an ontological shift in what the meaning is of this journalism in war photography, for me.”

Mike Kamber: “Do you? Do you have anything, do you want to respond to that or?...”

Ira Lupu: “I think actually, one of the tools of propaganda is to make you think that you're going crazy a little bit. So, I think partially it is being used to maybe consciously, but also coming back to what Sebastian said about this image of a masculine soldier, I think it's also interesting how this is being consciously exploited by also like the Russian side now with the Chechen squad who, like it's been proven that they don't have any, like real military, not excuse, but like power, they don't really do anything at the battlefield, but they're like jolt up, dressed up. They are really like, they can say, like scary things, they are like scary looking, and they say that, like basically Ramzan Kadyrov has, like, he's now like a social media superstar; he's basically the social media manager of the Russian side of the war and we see how this imagery is like being, you know, exploited, um, consciously to breed this…”

Mike Kamber: “Right, information warfare is basically what you're talking about, right? Not sure that addressed exactly what you are?...”

Audience member: “Obviously I support Ukraine…(inaudible)…There's this manipulation going on, very potent, valuable, but it's manipulation, nonetheless, to present our society, you know, to let's give a speech at the Grammy Awards, which I found that a little surreal. I mean, these are not accents, this is a very intelligent approach to a very postmodern idea of what war is now. They're framing it and teaching us and showing us and, so that’s why I feel like, I don't know, just it's an experience watching unfold right now…”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, yeah, Zelensky’s, like, has a vast experience of, like, video production. So, and his whole like…”

Audience member [Sandy]: “You know, can I ask something? Hi. My name is Sandy. This disinformation that you brought, propaganda, whatever word you used. I was there, you know, January 6th and I talked to people…”

Ira Lupu: “I was also there.”

Sandy: “Oh. I didn’t see you there.”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, next time.” 

Sandy: “You talk to people and becoming the [inaudible] for like, five or six years now, video, and you talk to them, and I go, “Well, it was Antifa”, you know. And I was in Charlottesville. And how do you, I mean, how does anybody else deal with that? It makes me nuts and I think that's perfectly…”

Mike Kamber: “Are you saying the people that were there were explaining the violence was by Antifa?”

Sandy: “No, I was there. So, they, they claim it was a what do you call it? Well, not tourist, but they say it was a demonstration. Crisis actors, yeah, crisis actors a lot, yeah. And they were using that in, in Ukraine. They say that those are, those bodies aren't real they've been placed there.”

Ira Lupu: “Right, right.”

Sandy: “But it's like a cult of certainty that you can't break through and in, in many, and I was, you know, I've been in the front line with a lot of George Floyd and all, and then people go, “oh, that's not what happened” because they're watching TV and I say, “But I was there and I, I just don’t know. It's just a weird problem of these days that we're in.”

Audience member: “Which to Sandy's point and to your point is, is different than the confusion; it's a very different but very powerful part of the play.”

Ira Lupu: “Honestly, sometimes when I like spend like some time reading the Russian side and I'm like, you know, I feel like I start having doubts is very effective for...”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, yeah, sure. They don't, they, they don't, you know, I mean, one of the famous truisms about propaganda is that it doesn't have to convince you, it just has to create doubt. Yeah, that’s a major issue. “

Stephen Mayes: “On the theme of performance and yeah, to see if images, pictures do change things, there's no doubt about that. And I just came across an example last week in fact from 1993, went way back from Bosnia of how, I was actually on a jury which made an award to, for the photograph of someone being rounded up at gunpoint and afterwards shot. And I read last week, all these years later is that he was just picked randomly from the crowd of already arrested people for $500 was paid to the police force and and, you know, serving cops who produced this person for performance, which then won a prize, which then influenced other photographers. And that picture itself was made in, in mimicry of a prize-winning picture. So, the, the, the impact of the picture is for real, who is copying it for why, of course, then becomes extremely questionable. And that notion of belief when we talk about cult of certainty, I'm equally in that cult, I'm very certain about what I believe.”

Sandy: “Oh, me too.” 

Stephen Mayes: “Exactly. So, I think that, you know, I have to identify myself on that same map, we should say…”
Sandy: “You said a really great day, I don’t want to hog the day, about the that we are all kind of the same. I mean, I tried to do this. I did this in Charlottesville and like I said, “If we don't start talking to each other, we are going to have a civil war and we’re all going to die.” We're going to have to, you know, when I talk to them I say, “Look, I’m not so bad this I'm the enemy, I'm the enemy of the people, right? “I’m liberal (inaudible) and if they get to experience of seeing that then and then I get, you know, but it's so hard.”

Stephen Mayes: “It is very hard. And I was interested in what you just you said that the imagery has that certainty we have and so maybe this in, in many ways playing into the hands of others who are trying to influence us. What we can do is talk about it. Well, respond as best we can.” 

Mike Kamber: “Lauren, can I ask you another question about, you know, I'm interested in this idea that that the gate, the gatekeepers have kind of broken down in a, in a certain way and this speaks to something you said also Maria. And actually, we should probably ask this of Alice and Elizabeth because they've been editors for decades. But, you know, there were when I was a kid, you know, I had to wait for time or Newsweek to arrive each week so that I had, that was the only photograph I might see, I mean there was a black and white photo on the cover of the Portland Press Herald, but that was it. Like, I didn't actually have access to images, you know? And now they're just coming, there's just this, you know, deluge, we don't, we don't know, we can't verify them, we don't know if they're real, we don't know if they're coming from. Do you have any thoughts on, on how, I mean, despite this, the images from Ukraine have been quite powerful. Do you have? I'm not sure that I have a question here, just a thought.” 

Lauren Walsh: “I mean, um, and maybe to the point that you were raising before about, like, meaning in context; I am seeing on social media a flood of extremely graphic images and they are not getting published in legacy media, right? There is a distinction between, some of them are, but there's some really graphic stuff by the photojournalists who I respect and it's going up on social media, and so that I do find at least something to think about in terms of my role as a professor, all of my students, like The New Yorker called this ‘the TikTok war’ and it absolutely is. That is where they are getting all of their information, it's from, it's, it's not like Instagram is like old; I’m old with Instagram, it’s TikTok.”

Stephen Mayes: “And I think that's really vital and we, we’re sitting here as though we’re some sort of mediators but that’s an historic role, we're not mediators really at all and, as has always been the case. But I think it's only becoming recognised now is that really the responsibility for the photograph lies with the viewer, not the photographer. And it's up to all of us to be looking and understanding, being very critical of what we're seeing. But we are now viewers as much as we are practitioners and I think that we have to adopt that and accept that role in ourselves as being ultimately important because, you know, the value of a picture is only ever valuable if it was responded to or somebody reacted to it. The media was somehow seemed to be the process, but it wasn’t, it was all about the viewer and now that's, that's more clear than it ever was. I don't want to let the evening pass without at least mentioning the content initiative…the content authority initiative.”

Lauren Walsh: “Authenticity.”

Stephen Mayes: “Authenticity and authority. Content authenticity initiative, which is initiated from Adobe and is now getting huge traction across the industry, and these are deeply problematic approach, but they are fundamentally trying very honestly to address this issue of what is credible in the picture you know, and at least they can set to identify who, what, where, when. The question is [inaudible] remain unanswered but there's something very important happening there, but what I, what I fear of that is that they're trying to talk the, the issue starts with technology and they try and  answer it with the technology and I don't think that, that can work; the technology takes a step forward and I think the, the effort that they’re making to introduce credibility into what we see is really important but it’s not in the technology that saves us it’s going to be us that saves us, if anyone.”

Mike Kamber: “Right, I could argue with you all night about this. I think, I run into people all the time, including relatively educated people, whatever that means, who don't know the difference between the New York Post and the New York Times or a Murdoch paper and, you know, the Marshall Project. I mean, literally, you know, I would like to tell the story about a woman I knew who was quite educated and she, she launched into this thing by how much Obama hated the environment and I was like, “Really”, and I said, “Where you getting this?”, and she sent me this kind of like conglomeration of just tidbits that she had put together off the internet, she had no idea where they were coming from; she didn't care. Some of them were actually extreme left, some were extreme right. You're talking about a level of media literacy that unfortunately I think should, I agree, it should, it's something it should be taught in schools, you know, it should be. It should be like the way they taught civics or something, you know, because it's crucial to our future.”

Lauren Walsh: “There are national campaigns towards that, actually. Towards bringing it into middle school and high school across the entire United States.”

Mike Kamber: “I’d love to…”

Lauren Walsh: “And actually the CAI is partnering on that.”

Stephen Mayes: “Great.”

Lauren Walsh: “Yeah.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, we need it.”

Lauren Walsh: “Yes, absolutely.”

Audience member: “Can I answer your question?”

Mike Kamber: “Yes, hi, thank you. Alice was the director of photography at Time for.”

Alice: “Acting would be accurate, for ten months. But I'm not a photo editor now at a publication, and I'm very happy not to be. I spent many years in the past, Bosnia being the first war that I worked on. Because I think with this, with Ukraine, it would be super, really incredibly hard if you have, with the kinds of budgets that magazines have where you have one photographer to put on assignment; who is that person? And I think we're at a time where, you know, like back in the ancient age of like the early 2000s or mid 2000s or you, you’d turn to Tim, what do you think? How do I do this at a news magazine? How do I get somebody who has a different eye? And with Ukraine, I feel like the wires actually are where my, where I am viscerally moved, like you, Kenny, Malika, and Miracle, that's just like incredible photojournalism, like really showing that photojournalism is essential. So, I do wonder, like with the very aesthetic kind of stylised photographers, what they can do in this cover of conflict. And also, I have another question, maybe one for you, Mike.”

Mike Kamber: “OK.”

Alice: “Why, I keep thinking about this, having worked for many years, covering Iraq and a little bit less of Afghanistan because we didn't touch Afghanistan as much. Why those pictures made people turn away? And why these pictures are making people pay attention?”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, that's a tough question.”

Alice: “So, whoever could answer that.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah. Well, I think, I mean, I can, I mean I worked in Iraq for years, you know, off and on for nine years and I think. You know, I used to talk to Joel Silva, you know my buddy, we would always go in together when we could and um, you know, at one, one point I said, you know, “Are we, when is somebody going to take that one photo like the Eddie Adams photo that turned people against Vietnam?” You know, it's a bit of a myth, but there was some truth to it or, or, you know, the Napalm girl photo, you know, Nick Ut. And Joel said, “The problem is that we haven't taken the photo, the problem is we've taken too many.”

Alice: “That's what I think. It was the beginning of streaming. Although you're saying that this is the streaming war, I feel like Iraq was a way in which, and there was no gatekeepers really on online galleries and that's where people were looking at pictures, but there are pictures that are in my mind, like Stefan Zach from the, the Reader, the soldier lying on the kitchen, blood streaming that are not remembered as iconic because of that thing they were talking about.”

Stephen Mayes: “Let's not forget that Eddie Adams was a pro-war photographer, was horrified when anti-war got hold of that image.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, he hated that his photo had become an anti-war image, yeah. Yeah, he was I think he was a former U.S. Marine, and he was very, very pro-war, yeah. I knew him, I knew him a bit when I got to New York. But I, I think you know, again I think, I mean with the spring of 2003 I think, you know, I really think that was the last gasp of kind of traditional journalism. I mean, everybody went, everybody went to Iraq. There were hundreds of photographers there, at least through the summer of ‘03 and I think there was, you know, amazing work done and just thousands and thousands of images coming back. And it continued for a long while and I think, I also think it was a very complex war and people don't like complexity. You know, I think people like, I wouldn’t say they like Ukraine, but I would say Ukraine is good versus evil and that's the way it's seen. I don't want to get into the politics of it, but it's these are people, I mean, it's hard not to take a side, you know, these are, these are people going about their lives being, you know, murdered while riding their bikes while you know, in a basement taking shelter, you know, I mean, just to pour artillery down on a non-military target, this is unbelievable. This hasn't, we haven't seen it on this scale. Iraq was a super complex war, you know? We did a lot of things I could talk about it for hours, but it was a very complex war. We unleashed a civil war, there was a conflict between Sunni and Shia, Iran was involved. I mean, the US policy kept evolving. I mean, it was, it was complex in a way that people didn't want to deal with. And Ukraine and Russia is something that we can, there's a guy with a black hat and a guy with a white hat.”

Audience member: “But also can I just jump in…they look like us.”

Mike Kamber: “Of course.”

Audience member: “Syria.”

Mike Kamber: “But Syria is a super complex war. I mean, look, there's so many different fractions in Syria.”

Audience member: “I think it's powerful that, that could be me.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah. They're Europeans, I mean.”

Ira Lupu: “Neighbours, it's technically us, right?”

Audience member: “Yeah, it's familiar.”

Alice: “I think the Iraq and Afghanistan also made Americans feel incredibly guilty. Because what was the high percentage of Americans supported those wars? And then when you’re watching people getting killed, you just want to play Nintendo instead of looking at what you supported.”

Mike Kamber: “But they were both. I mean, again, I don't want to go in too, too long, but they were both wars where there were no good answers. We unleashed some holy shit and then we were stuck. We couldn't get out because it would get worse, and we couldn't stay because it kept getting worse. We were totally fucked. So, I feel like, you know, I'm not excusing it. I mean, I remember, you know, Dexter Filkins this was like 2000, the war had been going on 2005, 2006, and he came back to Baghdad, and he had, he just been home on leave in Miami. And people said, you know, what you been doing said, oh, I'm in, I'm in Baghdad, you know, for the New York Times. And people said, “Oh is there a war still going on?” People completely turned it out and it only took a couple of years. So, but you know, I want to ask, oh, I'm sorry…”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, it's just a small element that actually this is also something that happened with the Ukrainian war, because we actually had war for like 8 years going on in a different, in a different way but still it was like, we were like almost offended because it’s like, it's Europe's forgetting war.”

Mike Kamber: “Nobody was paying attention.”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah.”

Amy: “Well, that's what I wonder with, you know, if the war is taking, is going to continue in Donbas.”

Ira Lupu: “Mm-hmm.”


Amy: “Will people start to turn off? Because it's another, it's about other rights.”

Lauren Walsh: “It's going to depend if Zelensky accepts that as an agreement for neutrality. And then I think we're already starting to hit a bit of a fatigue. I think people are, like for, for what like five weeks straight it was the only headline and then Will Smith slaps Chris Rock and that's dominant. So, I think there is, I think we're hitting the turn.”

Mike Kamber: “Stephen, I had a question for you and I'm afraid of. Your answer but…”


[Laughter]

I know we're going to disagree on this but you always have good things to say. The New York Times, I don’t know if everybody saw my friend Lindsey took a really powerful photo of the dead family who had been killed and hit by a mortar shell and the New York Times did a daily piece about it, where they interviewed her and I think about half of the piece was given over to justifying that if they had asked permission, the family would have given permission and it struck me that this was never a conversation that we had 10-15 years ago when I was working as a photojournalist. You saw it, you published it and people said, “great, it's evidence, it's there.” But you could see that the New York Times, in my opinion at least, should probably cut the tape on this was, was terrified that we've used these people's image in a disrespectful way without their permission. And that's a relatively new conversation. Can, can you tell me how you feel about that?”

Stephen Mayes: “And, and, and that, that, that fear was led by Lindsey, you know, who made the picture. 
 
She was there, she had to make it, she responded, but then felt very ambivalent about its application. And the application of the picture is, is really important here, it's not the making of the picture, it’s how it's used, of course, then becomes the key. 

But I, I feel very difficult about asking people's consent because it's, you know, I don't want to be misrepresented by some idiot with the camera doesn't know they're doing and all the rest of it. At the same time, I'm not sure it's entirely healthy for information that I should approve the image either. And you know it takes an extreme, I mean you, you work in the White House also, it's, it's, if every image is approved, you end up with political imagery. You can't have it otherwise. So, you know, consent, knowing consent is really important, but I don't think, I don't think you have, I don’t think you have information in that sense, driven by the, the subjects of the pictures or we are now taking the pictures…It's a really complex weave of, of what's going on, but consent can't be the answer, I think it has to be a factor in consideration but it can’t be it.” 

Mike Kamber: “Right. Did you have something to say about that, Lauren?”

Lauren Walsh: “No, just um, I completely agree actually with what Stephen is saying. I think one of the things that in terms of let's say the us often finding out about the journalists who have been killed in Ukraine is notified, family notification has held information a little bit and then it goes out like a day later, which isn't the same as getting consent, but it's another aspect of thinking about and I, I say that because it was very dramatic to me when, I'm not sure if it was in the Daily Podcast or if I just read it in one of the articles. But to learn that the father who survived that mortar shell found out, found out on Twitter that his family had been killed.”

Mike Kamber: “Right.”

Lauren Walsh: “So it's it's, I mean it kind of goes back to your first question, the update of the digital landscape and what does it mean for the movement of images and the reception of images.”

Mike Kamber: “Right, right. Sebastian, I had a quick question for you; maybe not so quick, but you know curious, do you remember conversations with Tim around Restrepo? Because Restrepo, you know, when I saw it really kind of changed the way I thought about Afghanistan. It focused on the soldiers in a way that was sympathetic, but it also showed them killing civilians by accident. It showed them in these completely hopeless situations, you know, a small group of guys controlling a valley like, you know, the size of Delaware. I mean, it was just, you could kind of see the pointless insanity.”

Sebastian Junger: “When Tim came into the projects, I, I'd already taken a trip out there and I had sort of formulated this idea in my mind. Like I want to, I want to primarily write but I was also shooting video in the hopes that maybe I could figure out how to make a documentary. I wanted to, I wanted to portray a platoon in combat as they experienced it. So, the soldiers were not interviewing generals about their own war, they weren't talking to ambassadors, there was no big picture for them, it was very much what, you know, like their reality and that's it. And, and of course, soldiers are totally subjective because what they have and they have a very intense agenda, which is to not get not get killed and go home and complete their mission, right?

So, they're totally subjective; they're not trying to be fair and balanced about the Taliban, right? And so that was the project that I conceived of. Tim came in and in a few months into the deployment and we immediately hit it of, and I sort of explained what I was trying to do and you know, Tim was, Tim immediately fell in love with the project. I immediately fell in love with Tim. I mean, you know, we were just such a good, were such a good pair journalistically, and we, you know, we really, we became best, best friends and embarked on this and the conversation was, you know, basically, we're not reporters, like, we're documenting something and we, we're not only are we're not trying to be objective, we're actively trying to be subjective. We're trying to get as close as we can to these soldiers and see the war through their eyes. One of the things that, and had these guys done something morally reprehensible, because we really liked those guys, and they liked us and our survival depended on them. I mean, there was all the things that would cloud someone's objectivity was going on. And had they done something morally reprehensible, it would have been extremely hard for me psychologically, emotionally, to deal with it. The civilians that were killed, you know, were killed, it was an air strike, you know, they're not, you know, whatever, these, that's just completely above their pay grade. And, you know, they're Rifleman basically. And. But had they done something that occasionally happens in war, even with U.S. forces that kind of revenge killing or clearly, you know, not being careful with civilians and or even gloating. I mean there was, the one thing that got uncomfortable was that they, one guy they gloated about, they killed the guy on the other side of the hill that was shooting at them, you know? But they, they killed him like pretty intensely and they were sort of, they could see it through the, sort of this sort of optical device and they were sort of whooping, you know, really like whooping, yeah, you know, whatever. saying some ugly stuff. 

And, and I asked the, and it just made my skin crawl, and it made Tim’s skin crawl, right. And I asked the one of the guys I was like, “What is that about? Because it was kind of ugly what you guys were saying about that guy who got killed.” And he's like, “Listen, I know, but for us it’s one less guy who’s going to kill our buddy. One less guy out there who might kill our buddy. So that's what we were cheering about.” And when he said that it's like, “Yeah, OK, I got it, you know.”

Mike Kamber: “Life reduced down to its most basic level.”

Sebastian Junger: “Yeah, yeah.”

Audience member: “Maybe also kind of something, it was like an ‘othering’ as well, like an additional layer of like, I don’t know, a dehumanising a bit to as a coping skill as a coping because it's a horrific. Even though the guy was shooting at them but ultimately, just like, you know, ended someone’s life,, so maybe it's about that a little bit.”

Sebastian Junger: “Yeah, yeah, I mean and it's the result of that thinking, right. I mean, soldiers dehumanise the enemy because otherwise they have the moral burden of killing humans. Right. And these, these aren’t decisions they're making, right. This the decisions that we're making as a country to have this war and the soldiers are carrying it out so that dehumanisation is psychologically necessary. Yeah.”

Mike Kamber: “One of the things that fascinated me about, fascinated me about Restrepo; I talked to some people. I mean, if you haven't seen it, you should see it; It's really a great film. I talked to some people who are like, “God, that's the most powerful anti-war film I've ever seen.” And also, Republicans and soldiers love the film. They thought it was a pro-war film.”

Sebastian Junger: “Yeah, yeah, I mean, I get that like when I give talks and stuff some, some guy come up to me and said: “I joined the, I joined the service because I saw Restrepo.” And I Just really wanted to, you know, and I I've heard that over and over and over again, yeah. And equally I've heard over and over and over again, you know, it's like the ultimate critique of the war and of course, everyone wants to know. How did we mean it? And Tim and I were very united in that like, look, we're, we're journalists, we're not or against anything really, you know in, in that political sense. And but we want to show you, want to show you the world so that you can make your own decisions. My wife said something really, really smart about, about theatre, which I realise is also about journalism, she said, “Theatre or journalism doesn't tell you what to think; it tells you what to think about.” And that's such a, I mean, that's just like a tool, it's like a Leatherman tool for opening, opening complex questions about, about, about journalism like, yeah, what to think about. And then it's your job, you know, then now you have to do the work.”

Mike Kamber: “Right. I also, one other thing I wanted to ask and I don't know if anybody wants to respond to this, but we've seen some of the Sleeping Soldiers series tonight and you know, Tim was living in, in, in the, you know, in the bunkers with these guys and he would kind of crawl around when they were sleeping and, and take their picture. And I remember you saying, you know. You know, you were like, “Tim, what the fuck are you doing? Don't you get it? You know, this is, this is how their mothers, you know, think of them.”

Sebastian Junger: “Their mothers see them.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah. I wonder if there would be like the, the room for the complexity of photos like that today. Or if, do you think that the landscape is so instantaneous and so because those are photos that…”

Ira Lupu: “I think actually something like that is happening already. For example, there is like really popular, I would not say trend, but it definitely got this like meme quality to it is like pictures of Ukrainian soldiers with cats or animals. It's like a separate trend, let's put it this way. And honestly, like even myself, like when I see it, I feel very, like, emotionally invested into it. Yeah, so I think this is something that is already happening.”

Audience member: “And it gets used as a tool, too, because…” 

Ira Lupu: “Exactly.”

Audience member: “We've all seen this Russian soldier photos that the propaganda machine is pushing. They're just lambs, you know? So, I mean, it's a complicated equation.”

Ira Lupu: “And the destroyed shelters and everything. But also to Sebastian's point about, I, I really wanted like to bring up this aspect of that today actually there is also even an opportunity to be kind of like involved in this moment of cheering, of killing the enemy because there is also like a lot of footage released from [inaudible] and you can actually like even here, like the soldiers, like, cheering when they hit the target.”

Mike Kamber: “Right. Yeah.”

Ira Lupu: “And you can't help but you also like feel kind of like, you know, happy or sad if you’re Russian so…”

Mike Kamber: “Right. And you know the, the famous, the famous Saigon execution that Eddie Adams photo from Vietnam was so shocking because we had never really seen the moment of death. And now it's actually quite routine.”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, yeah. And I, I think this is one of the reasons like all this, like consistent footage and media and all types of different media is why young, more and more young people keep signing up to their militaries. Like, every day I get to like news about like, some of my friends, like signing up who like normally I would never think is like a person to go to the war, so.”

Stephen Mayes: “There is an intrinsic issue with photography which is about the aestheticization of just putting a frame on somebody; you can't make a picture without an aesthetic judgement. And in the last week of his journalling before he died, Tim was thinking about this. He was talking about the smell of burning flesh. And yet he was having to make his pictures to be able to look at. And he had to make these beautiful pictures of this horror with this truth. And the conflict between reporting and truth is very, very stark; is that if you report the full horror of it no-one’s going to look at the photograph without turning away, and what's the point if you show something so horrific you can't look at? That was a very interesting point you made about this; actually, we've started looking at it now and what is that difference? But there is, there is an intrinsic thing with photography which is that you have to make an aesthetic judgement and you have to make it appealing.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah.”

Stephen Mayes: “To look at and what you’re photographing is not appealing in the slightest. So, there's a there's a grind there, I’m sure.”

Mike Kamber: “There is. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It's at the heart of a lot of, you know, Larry Burroughs photos from Vietnam and a lot of people that just take these stunningly. Yeah, they almost look like theatre sets. But you know they’re real, they're so beautiful. Yeah, I, in Iraq, I went out, I mean, probably the worst photos ever took; the sun was just coming up, there was this beautiful golden light illuminating, you know, the bodies and the helicopter and the smoke. It was just, it's like being in this amazing, so beautiful. And there was just no way to make it ugly, really. You know, I mean, I took some ugly photos, but the New York Times didn’t print those, but anyway. That’s another story. Do we have any? Yeah.”

Audience member: “Yeah, I really, I'm curious what your sense is on who’s photographs you’re actually seeing. I'm working as a photo editor now and I would see thousands of photos a day and something that I've noticed looking through all this stuff that some of the most lasting affecting images for me are from Ukrainian photographers were getting picked up like flyers. And at the same time with a lot of legacy media organisations, and this is not everybody, but they're relying on a lot of the same photographers who have defined conflict coverage over the last 10 years, say, and I think we need that balance of perspectives. But we're, we're really seeing like an uplifting of folks who are from there and we're making a proximity to maybe lost from Western eyes.”

Ira Lupu: “Yeah, exactly. But on the other hand, like yesterday, I looked on the front page of New York Times like digitally and there was like, you know, like 15 pictures, just like, you know, scrolling.

Like just what’s the word.”

Audience member: “Slideshow?”

Ira Lupu: “Slideshow, exactly. And all the 15 photographs were taken by Western photographers on the front page and only one was taking like I was actually trying to Google this person. Seemingly, he's like Russian AP photographer, he’s mostly doing like the…yeah…”

Lauren Walsh: “And those are really interestingly captioned as the People's Republic of Donetsk. That's how AP is referring to his pictures now.”

Ira Lupu: “Alexei.”


Lauren Walsh: “Yeah, Alexei. I forget his last name.”

Audience member: “You know, also I have a bunch of young photographer friends, very talented, but haven't really made it, you know yet. And they are self-funded, they're funded there. They're there now they've come back and return. And they're, they're taking some extraordinary pictures that are so moving. So, they look like reverends, you know, and it gives them an opportunity, it's kind of like a democratic, social media is giving it like a democratic playing field, right where you could, you don't have to be like the top of the field guys.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah. For better. For worse. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.”

Lauren Walsh: “Well, it might be democratised in that sense, but if they're self-funding, they don't have a security detail with them, they're not in an armoured vehicle like it's really, really expensive.”

Audience member: “Oh no, I know. I know, but they're doing it, they're risking their lives. They're going to move. They're going, I don't know if you can. You know, it's just, it's fascinating to watch, you know, you know, they're my colleagues, and you know what I do. And they just had to go there but they're, they're being all of a sudden, this stuff is being seen and they're being recognised for the great photographers I know them to be.”


Mike Kamber: “Yeah, Egypt. You know, I could be wrong about this, but you know, I did a story for the Times way back, and Egypt was really, I think the first conflict where people were just taking cell phones and just getting a bus ticket and going. It was the first time I’d ever heard of that 18/19/20 years old and they were like, “I want to be a photojournalist, I've got a cell phone and I'm going to Egypt.” And that wasn't that long ago. Yeah, sorry. You had a question and then Alice? Can…”

Audience member: “Yeah. I had a question similar to the photo editor. We never see anything coming from Yemen. When was the last conflict photography we saw coming out of there? …[inaudible]… showing us the devastation that's been going on there.”

Lauren Walsh: “It's one of the most dangerous countries on the face of the earth for journalists. So, local journalists will be…”

Audience member: “But not even local people, I've not even seen…”

Lauren Walsh: “No, no, I mean the local, they will be targeted and arrested, harassed, possibly killed. So, it's a very dangerous place for journalists. And then again for the, like on the finances, it's really hard to get outside journalists because it's very expensive for,  I mean there was a lot of coverage in 2018, which is now a number of years back. I believe is the largest humanitarian crisis on the face of the earth; the famine there. So yeah, the, the question is absolutely correct. But why is Ukraine?..”

Audience member: “They have smartphones, I mean, right? And people have smartphones, people are communicating with each other. So, where do we see these images that are being taken?”

Lauren Walsh: “It's probably very dangerous for them to put those images out, but I do think you're right that there could be more report. I mean, it's not a major American headline.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah. Good question. Alice, did you?..”

Alice: “Well, um, similar to kind of that question of…recently on Twitter I saw someone post young photographers should not go if you don't have to, you know, stay home, this is inappropriate  and I just wondered how many of you feel about this, this you know the balance between the people going, who do harm as photo journalists and the importance of photojournalism.” 


Mike Kamber: “Yeah, that's a tough one, yeah. It's a tough one, I mean.”

Audience member: “Could you elaborate on do harm?”

Alice: “Well, I think in recent years there's, there's, you know, conversation, scrutiny about, about photojournalism really causing harm as you pointed out, places can be targeted.”

Mike Kamber: “Right.”

Alice: “Now because of whatever…”

Stephen Mayes: “I think that links into what was said earlier about the performance, because it, there's, there's a, a romance and a mythology associated with being on the front line, which is attractive from a distance.”

Mike Kamber: “Right, yeah. Robert Kappa really set the standard. You really suffer for everybody.”

Lauren Walsh: “I hate that saying it's so it's so dangerous.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, I mean you. In the 1930s, he was just so dashing and so charismatic and so handsome, and he had a beautiful girlfriend and, and they went to Spain and, you know, people have been following them for 100 years now. Yeah, but you know, I will say I went to, you know, I went to Haiti in my early 20s to cover an election; I didn't expect violence. I didn't go there to make a name or anything. But I suppose I did. I mean, it was, it was an opportunity to go and cover an election. And I did have an assignment, but I was 23 years old or something, you know, and I was in the, I ended up in the middle of a bloodbath, you know, children being hacked to death with machetes and such.

And, you know, I don't, I, it's hard to say what makes that different from somebody today who's 23 years old and has a cell phone or something is going in, you know. I think, I think it was certainly much harder for me to get my images out. I mean, it took me weeks to get back and develop my film and take prints to editors and such. But I don't know that that makes me any more, really better than somebody today who is 23 and has a cell phone and wants to go. I think the question is, are you endangering other people? For me, that's really, like, one of the key questions. And you frequently are if you don't know what you're doing and you're, you're hiring a driver, you're going around with local people, whatever, on a, on a shoestring, you're endangering everybody around you, yeah.”

Alice: “And putting it up on Twitter, to your point, I know, I know guys, I just know, and they'll just put stuff out on Twitter and really endanger lives saying this people are here in need. Great, send your bombs, you know.” 

Mike Kamber: “Exactly, yeah. Yeah, exactly. Question?”

Audience member: “Yeah, I was wondering who are the types of people that should be going out and like producing and bringing in this media? Because as a person I rely a lot on social media, a lot of the influx that I see with imagery and specials with Ukraine and the war in Ukraine it's a lot of things that I don't feel, like they don't carry a lot of meaning, especially because a lot of the media that I see is first hand experiences from people that are my age or slightly older. So, who are the types of people that should be reporting to media and who are the types of people that should be bringing it in and talking about it inside of this kind of…”

Mike Kamber: “Does anybody want to tackle that?”

Stephen Mayes: “It’s a great question.”
 

Lauren Walsh: “I mean, I think it depends on what the intention is, right? So, if you're there as the journalist, you have one intention. If you're there as the civilian who's documenting, you have another intention, if you're there, as the forensics expert collecting information for a war crimes trial you have another intention. But I think this maybe comes back to the, the media literacy, whoever raised it first right, like kind of asking the critical questions and understanding the context and thinking through all of that.” 


Audience member: “Well, I was just wondering because a lot of the issue now is the desensitisation of these images and how they don't carry deep meaning because we see so many of them because it's so often we see people being wounded on the streets and like bodies being shown on camera like it's. I feel like my question is more catered to, like, what are the types of people that we feel like do have the credentials to produce this type of media and then talk about it versus like bringing out, like I remember you talking about younger photographers going and how it's not necessarily a younger person's job to go out and produce this type of photography, even though young people can produce that type of photography. So, I don't know. I was, it's an open question.”

Mike Kamber: “Yeah, but I don’t think it's age. I mean, I think if you look at, you know, Catherine Leroy who went into Vietnam in 1966; I think she was 21 years old or 22 years old. She became a legend; she just did decades of amazing work. I don't think it's the age, you know, I don't. I think it's, you know, as you say, it's, it's the intention. Are you there? Are you serious about it? Sure, you had a question?”


Audience member: “Yeah, I just, I, I guess picking up on like the mental makeup. I mean for everybody you're exposed to so much to the images, you know, like the PTSD aspect. And there's the art shield in some way, you know, inevitably seeing because your life is in danger, you're as close as you could be to without, like, pulling the trigger in some of these instances? So like, what's the psychology behind that? Does that separate some of the greats like this or?”

Ira Lupu: “Tim has a good movie about it right? The diary…”


Mike Kamber: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Sebastian Junger: “You know, for me. I mean, just from shooting video and for recording words, like, it, it didn't insulate me later, like in the moment maybe but later it didn't even incurred a kind of feeling of sort of moral debt. Like there's a lot of different ways of looking at this profession, but one, one way to look at it is you are making a living off of the suffering of the world. And God forbid we live in a world where suffering goes unrecorded. So, I'm not saying it's even a bad thing, but there's a kind of moral conversation that has to happen that comes from doing work there. And I have a very good friend, Scott Anderson's older brother, Sean Lee Anderson. The pair of them are, you know, well known journalists. They've been a lot of wars and, and Scott, this is worth actually looking up and it's online. He wrote an article that came out in the mid-90s called Prisoner of war about the emotional consequences of covering war, wars for years, and I just remember this one sentence, he said. It's about the sense of guilt, he said, “I should be, I should be punished for some of the things I've seen.” You know. And the rest of the article is just as profound.

And so for me, PTSD as a, you know, sort of diagnostic sense. For me, like the consequences of almost getting killed, which has happened to me a couple of times are minimal compared to the consequences of seeing other people harmed, other people killed, particularly children. Like that, that, those images, those moments in my life, are still there, they are almost unchanged in me and can bring me to tears in moments if I'm not careful. And risking my life is, is like it's it doesn't touch it.” 

Stephen Mayes: “We we're talking here in absolutes about the role, the purpose. It's important also to remember that there is no single reason for any of this and that we, we've been focusing on journalism the, the manufacture of imagery and distribution of imagery for its current application. But of course, it's got an historic role as well. It's different and some people’s motive for being in a place won't stop them from doing something good or bad in a completely different mental state in that same place. You know, we, we all fulfil many roles at the same time and it's, it's not, you know, they might have happened that [inaudible]…all the good guys are bad and all the bad guys are good at different times in our lives.”

Mike Kamber: “Right. Yeah. To, to just, you know, comment on, on that question again, you know, Joel Sola, who has always been a fountain of wisdom for me said you know, he used to say, you know, “The days that we're winning the prizes and getting these front pages”, he said, “that's the worst day somebody ever had in their whole life.” And he used to repeat that all the time, “That's the worst day someone ever had, and we photographed it.”

Sebastian Junger: “Could, could I say something about Tim, sort of in that in that context? So, he won the World Press Photo Award for a shot that he took out at Restrepo on his first trip, which was September of ‘07. And I sort of already knew those guys a little bit and, and Tim was new there and immediately where, you know, like it, it went off. Like, there was a huge amount of combat almost every day and it's an amazing photo of a soldier guy named Olsen sort of with his hand here sort of exhausted at the end of the day of fighting. And it really captured the futility of the war, I think in a lot of people's minds. 

Anyway, when we went back there in January or in the spring. So, Tim had to write his acceptance speech, right. And we were at Camp Blessing, waiting to go into the Korengal, and he had to write his speech. And, you know, Tim was a very smart guy and sometimes could be a little bit, I think, too abstract. And so, he, so like, he was writing his speech and, and I was, I was bored out of my mind because we were stuck there for days, and I was dying to play chess with him. And I was like, “Is your speech done yet? Come on, man, just play a game of chess.” [laughter] Like, I was so bored I started playing myself in chess [laughter] like, so. Anyway, he worked and worked and worked on this thing.

And he finally, finally finished. He's like, “I think I've done it”. And I said, “Oh, I'd love to hear it.” So, he started reading it, it was so smart and complex and abstract. I literally, I had no idea what he was talking about. He was completely theoretical, right? And I was like, “Tim, man, I don't know, like maybe you should think about maybe start again and think about, think about what it feels like to be sort of awarded this high honour for a situation which is so also so incredibly painful for so many people, including you, like, what's that feel like?”

And he was like, “OK, got it. I'll try.” And so, then he can he, you know, he, he went back to work; ‘clack, clack, clack’, he had his laptop and I played more chess with myself, you know, and a couple of hours later he said, “OK, I think I've done it.” And I said, “Great, I'd love to hear it.” And he started reading and within, before he got to the end of the first sentence he was crying so hard he couldn't finish. And I had to read it. Um, that's, that's one of the consequences of doing this work and doing it in a real way, right?

And if you don't, and we talked a lot about this because it was, it was exciting as hell out there, right? It was intense. It was incredible. We were making our careers. Yeah, I mean, all these things, right? And Tim, the end of the day, we had this talk about it and we sort of realised, and I wrote about this as well, it's like, war is all those things, to claim it's not, you're just a liar, right? It is all those things but it's also incredibly sad. And when you get to that point of it, how sad it is. And Tim, Tim got there before I did. When you get and, that's where he got when he wrote that essay. When you get to that place of in, in addition to everything else, also how incredibly sad it is that this is happening there's a very good chance you want to never have anything to do with it again. 

And when we finished all that out there, that was where both, both of us kind of were. And then the Arab Spring started, and it was so compelling, and we were going to go on assignment there. I couldn't go the last minute. And Tim was very much like, you know, I'm interested in what's happening culturally, I'm not interested in the war per se. And but of course, we all were interested in the war per say, you know, and as was he when he got there. And so just to say that there's, like, these this emotional complexity, which it's like it's a hall of mirrors. I mean, just it you it recedes, it keeps receding to infinity.”

Mike Kamber: “Absolutely, yeah. Can, can we, can we leave this here? And I think you guys will stick around for a few minutes. We've got some food, everybody's welcome to stay. You can talk amongst yourself, but we've been going for a little over an hour so, I want to thank. You guys, thank you, this is. Thank you.”

[Applause]

Digitising Tim Hetherington's Archive

IWM’s acquisition of the Tim Hetherington archive offers a timely opportunity to examine the legacy of a prize-winning photographer. While ensuring that Hetherington’s insightful work can be made available via digital resources to future generations.

  • Libya Diary, April 2011

    Read the diary kept by Tim Hetherington during his time in Libya in April 2011.

  • Photographs and Film

    Explore Tim Hetherington's photography and film on IWM Collections Online. 

About the project

Portrait of a young man on the street in central Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. June 2001.
© IWM DC 63265
Portrait of a young man on the street in central Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. June 2001.

The Tim Hetherington and Conflict Imagery Research Network was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK.

The network project was managed by Principal Investigator Dr Katy Parry (University of Leeds) and Co-Investigator Greg Brockett (Imperial War Museum).

The Bronx Documentary Center and the International Center of Photography were our international network partners.

Related content

A Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy combatant sits beside a hand grenade in Tubmanburg, Liberia. June 2003.
Tim Hetherington, © IWM DC 64010
Exhibitions

Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington

IWM London
20 April to 29 September 2024

Soldiers dig earth for use as sand bags.
© IWM (DC 92500)
Contemporary conflict

Tim Hetherington

Explore the work of award-winning conflict photographer Tim Hetherington.

Hetherington Libya video thumb
Contemporary conflict

Tim Hetherington's Photojournalism in the Libyan Revolution

The outbreak of civil war opened up Libya’s borders, and allowed many journalists to access the country for the first time in over four decades. Photojournalist Tim Hetherington travelled with anti-Gaddafi fighters across the country to document the Libyan revolution.

Prints of a selection of works displayed in Storyteller: Photography by Tim Hetherington at IWM London are now available for purchase exclusively on IWM Prints. This is the first time these have been made widely available outside of a limited print run. Printed on high quality semi gloss 250gsm conservation digital paper, this is a unique opportunity to own works by this award-winning photographer.