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Previous | Next :: Weeping Croat Soldier : Osijeck : Croatia 1991 | February 5, 2010, 4:50 am

 Weeping Croat Soldier : Osijeck : Croatia 1991
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Don McCullin he is one of my few real heroes in photography. He is one of Britain's most renowned photographers. Here is a link of him speaking about his life in photography at the age of 75.

He is an interesting man (and to quote Lynda) he is so obviously damaged by his experiences. He does not even like to call himself a war photographer when he was certainly one of the worlds leading conflict photographers back in the day.

He is so different from so many photographers and people in photography and journalism in that he does not regard himself as in a special place or as a high and mighty chronicler of events. It seems he almost sees himself as any other human being attending these often appalling man made tragedies . He feels himself sullied by these events almost as if he was no different to a combatant. It appears He feels almost guilty looking at his roll and his pictures. He certainly does not appear to regard himself as the separate chronicler lifted above these events by the moral high ground of his motivation and purpose.

Sometimes that moral certainty that some have can propel those individuals to take risks and really excel in revealing the truth, but it is a peculiar state of mind.

I heard a photographer I actually really admire laying into other press representatives in Haiti because some of them wanted their clothes washed at their hotel. My much admired and distinguished friend was disgusted because there is a water shortage for washing clothes. Its true of course. But there is also a food and drinking water shortage. But not even the most idealistic would expect press people to operate without food and water because many ordinary people are having to do so . So what's the difference with clothes washing or eating and drinking water ? ....... Or even using the sat phone or getting fuel or shelter ? These are all activities and commodities not freely available to the general population of Haiti..... Most press people by necessity and through their relative access to funds and influence have all this and more. So to choose some of these things as OK because you are using them.... and some as morally repugnant...... because you are not using them, is just arbitrary. It is just a judgement call. It's not an absolute of morality. I know it feels uncomfortable but anyone operating in their capacity as a press representative will be traveling and living at a vastly higher standard of life than the locals in any disaster situation, it is inherent to their roll in that situation.

In a way its disingenuous to pretend that you are operating in a morally superior way because you are not doing this or that. The fact is you have arrived from the first world and your task is to convey the reality of a given news story to the people of the first world and while you are there you operate with the advantages of a person from the first world whether or not you deem clothes washing to be essential.

I don't really see a discernible moral difference between any of the first world press people in a disaster situation like Haiti. Some have what they perceive to be a higher moral purpose and motivation....... Some are just doing their jobs........ But it makes no difference to the people of Haiti...... and anyway the guy working the sat dish for the huge TV network is probably having his food and water flown in especially by the network..... The radical photojournalist is more likely to be competing for scarce resources with the locals.

Im not pointing this out to support the network types against the independents......... I am an independent type myself........ but I certainly think we have to be a little careful when we take for granted the moral superiority of our own actions as against the slightly different actions of our colleagues that we view as reprehensible........ after all we ultimately have so much in common with them....... and some of the things that we feel distinguish us from them.......... for the people of Haiti and other disasters .... would be totally indiscernible.......... a distinction without a difference.

Talking of which....... I heard Eamonn McCabe the old picture Editor of the Guardian making a distinction between the way the Guardian carefully and morally chooses its pictures as opposed to how other newspapers choose their pictures from disasters. He also made a distinction between photojournalists and just News Photographers (implying news was more exploitative). In his view news guys turn up for two days only. Whereas true photojournalists are there for weeks. Again this is just an artificial construct. The length of the stay does not determine whether its exploitative/ or news / or photojournalism to make pictures nor does the fact that you did or did not have your clothes washed while you were there.

I think there is something very important about the roll of the photojournalist. Journalism is in my view very important in free societies. I do view it as a moral activity. Still, I don't quite have the moral certainty of some. A certainty that allows me to see my approach as always correct and beyond question or to be judgmental of colleagues in the way they act. But equally I am not quite at the Don McCullin stage where he almost appears not to distinguish himself morally from the combatants in his culpability for the human behavior and war and conflict he has witnessed. In my view his work and his personality, as he appears now, are a lasting testament to his integrity and morality.

Cheers Jez XXXXX

PS............ Here above is a picture I shot in Osijeck in the war between the Serbs and the Craoats in the 1990's. It shows a Croat solidier weeping at the death of a fellow solidier.

A client of ours was requesting it today so Matt had it on the desk top ready to be sent.

PPS......... When Yugoslavia first began to implode I flew to Belgrade to witness tanks on the streets as Milosevich appeared to be about to order his armed forces to battle with students and dissidents who were massed in protest. I was on an almost empty plane beading to Belgrade. Andrew Wiard a fellow photojournalist was on the plane. I went to chat to him. He told me Don McCullin was also on the flight. I was amazed. I knew he was rumored to be coming out of retirement. But I never really thought I would be on a story with my hero Don McCullin. So I went to the back of the plane to find him. I introduced myself. I joking said hey you know you are on the right plane, heading for the right story, if you are on a plane with Don McCullin.......... He said: So you are you going to Kurdistan too?......... hehehe....... of course I was not....... I assumed he was getting off in Belgrade like the rest of us......... but he was flying on to look at Northern Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War........ I felt like a bit of an idiot........ :-))

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