For articles, see f2 eZine Archive #13 - January 2003- March 2003

rchive 13 - January - March 2003
WIPI Features

Photographers in Hostile Environments By Stephanie E. McGehee, living in Kuwait
Text & Photographs By Sara Terry
Joan Almond: The Past in the Present by Susan Scafati

special WIPI Feature from Abroad, Kuwait

Photographers in Hostile Environments
By Stephanie E. McGehee, living in Kuwait

Wars, riots, terrorist attacks, government overthrows, bombings, car accidents, train wrecks, floods, earthquakes, etc…all a part or our everyday life as a photojournalist. With increased tensions all over the world, insurance companies are insisting that members of the media take awareness courses that may save their, or someone near them, life. Having just returned from an extensive course provided to me, by Reuters News Agency, of which I have been their photographer in Kuwait for 12 years.

They retained the top risk management company called Centurion of which conducts a week long intense training at a beautiful 65 acre transformed English Manor. An Ideal location for getting blown up in a simulated mine field and taken hostage by hostile forces!!

Intensive First aid, Bio-chemical warfare, and hostile environment training is all for the sake of our personal awareness. We were subject to situations that felt so realistic it was hard to differentiate if it was real or not.

With the increasing threat of chemical warfare, we had a special day, just allotted to nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) safety. First of all, what is most important is that your mask, and suit fits you perfectly and the filters are still reliable. So many are out of date and not usable, most filters you by on the street shops are over 10 yrs. Old from manufactures date! In the case that a photojournalist is going to a ‘known’ area, where there may have a chance of contamination, you would already be wearing your full suit except for your mask, and gloves. Pungent odor of Almond, and fresh mowed hay, is a sign of chemical attack. You have nine seconds to get your mask on ..Taking it off is another story, you must rid yourself of any chemicals on the outside, before, with a powder that you have to carry on your person especially made for this.

Biological weapons ore hundreds of thousands times more lethal than chemical weapons. But chemical weapons must be inhaled or swallowed to be effective and are harder to use in mass warfare, and they also don’t last as long. This could be like an Ebola virus, or botulism, plague, cholera etc. These chemical weapons could be dispersed by missile and effect an area of around 2,300 sq. miles………..
But, if a terrorist released 100 kilograms of anthrax from a tall building, it could kill up to 3 million people…please remember that.

Still want to be a photo-journalist?

The course covered so many of the aspects that photojournalist confront periodically during their career. And when you read the statistic of how many photojournalists are killed or wounded every year around the world, it is amazing. 51 photojournalist killed last year alone!

Our days went something like this…after breakfast, recognition of land mines and personal mines, before coffee break, we were ambushed and kidnapped. After lunch, we learned to carry victims to safe areas and treat them with first aid.

After learning and getting a first hand look at mine fields and anti-personal mines, we then had to go through a field of then and drop for cover every time we detonated one…we had to run across ‘sniper’s lane’….(easer said than done) …booby traps were put under our cars, in our phones, and mail bombs were sent to us….all so that we, the press, can save our lives in order just to do our job.

Most of the training was a real eye opener for all of us. One of these, was when they took us to a shooting range and they fired live bullets of all type of weapons used in the ‘real world’ of today. To see the bullet just go through brick walls and steel beams as if it were paper, was incredible. When we all seem to think you are safe if you stand behind a brick wall, in many cases it would take a single bullet to penetrate that wall. As small word of advice, run, and if you can’t, fall to the floor flat ! In most cases the bullets will be shot above the base of the wall. And if you think for one minute that the steel in your car will save you, think again, it is as thick as paper when a bullet is fired into it.

In this new world of war and conflicts, we have become accustom to checkpoints and hostile confrontations with rebel or government forces while traveling from one sector to another. So, this is also an important part of our training, to know how to deal with these forces and how to get to where you are going with paying the least amount of bribes or getting taken prisoner yourself. As journalist we usually travel in sets , so we have to get our story straight and elect a spokesman for the team. Usually we have too much money on our person, because we always pay cash when we are on the road, and these rebels know it. So many times we are very vulnerable with out realizing it. I will give you a tip, only answer the question that is asked of you, and don’t answer or give away any thing or info no matter what it is, without being asked. So many people just offer everything just in fear, and then they get in trouble.

Of course war environments are not the only things that photojournalist cover in our daily life. So we also learned about how to handle riots and protest marches. These days, more than ever, people are getting more aggressive against police and in return the police are reacting to protect themselves from homemade bombs, fires, and hostile protesters.

The protestors now mistake a photojournalist for a police spy, and are at greater risk than they realize. Don’t forget, from our photos, protesters can be identified.

Which brings the issue of Bullet proof vest, helmets, chin guards, face masks and combat boots! All just to cover a story in downtown Genoa, Italy!!!!   So please, the next time you see a photo of a protest march gone wrong, or rebels waving guns, or military conflicts, think of the person behind the camera and how that photo was taken.

Stephanie McGehee
See Archive #9 , January 2002 - March 2002 Stephanie McGehee portfolio of images from Kuwait


WIPI News Article #2


Text & Photographs By Sara Terry

I should say, from the beginning, that I never flew into Sarajevo on a military cargo plane, listening anxiously for the sound of artillery fire. I never saw anyone killed in the infamous Sniper Alley that was a death trap during the nearly three years of the siege of Sarajevo by Serb forces. I never had a gun pointed in my face, I never feared for my life, never interviewed a man who would die the next day, a woman who had been gang-raped, a parent who had just buried a child, or a family which had fled the blood-soaked soil of a village burned to the ground in the name of "ethnic cleansing."

No, for me, the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Hercegovina was something that happened far off, in a place I'd never been. It was something I struggled to understand, or ignored when the news was too depressing, from my home in Boston, where I wrote of other things. I did not come to Bosnia until the fall of 2000 - drawn at last by a newspaper article that said that just as Bosnians were starting to return to homes they had fled during the war, the international community was becoming "fatiguedî with the Balkans tragedy and was starting to move its aid and attention elsewhere. I was outraged by such international shortsightedness, by the fact that the West was preparing to turn its back on Bosnia, just as it had during a war that was marked by the worst genocide in Europe since the end of World War II.

I felt compelled to go, to do whatever I could as a journalist to be a witness to the country's ongoing struggle to rebuild a civil society. Although I began my career as a print journalist, working first for The Christian Science Monitor as a staff writer and later as a freelancer for The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Fast Company, by the year 2000 I was well into a career transition into photography and had been ready for some time to take on a long-term documentary project.

So I went to Bosnia to cover the aftermath of war - to try to capture the images that are the all too often forgotten companions of the vivid pictures of war itself. I came with the conviction that war is only half the story. I believed, and still believe, that what happens in the aftermath of war is as newsworthy, if not more so, than the destruction and horror of war. I went to Bosnia with a desire to document the incredibly difficult period when humans move out of war's desperate struggle to survive, and begin another equally mighty struggle - that of learning to live again. In the two years I've been working on this project, I've become convinced that we need post-conflict images to remind us of our humanity - to testify that war is not the final word on who we are as human beings, or the final image of our spirit.

My experience of Bosnia, then, has been marked not by war, but by the echoes of war, by the scars it has left behind. My work and travels have been marked by the struggle of rebirth, not the horror of destruction. I have spent long hours with many widows of Srebrenica - the Muslim women who lost some 8,000 men and boys in a 1995 massacre by Serb forces. I have been with them as they return to visit homes they fled in terror, I have been with them when they have laughed, cried and prayed for their dead. I spent a rainy afternoon with a man as he exhumed a shallow grave containing his father, killed eight years earlier by Serb neighbors. I have stood on the freshly laid concrete floors of homes being rebuilt by returning refugees, determined to reclaim their land their lives. I was in the crush of a group of young people, crowded in the square outside the National Theatre in Sarajevo, cheering wildly as they greeted Danis Tanovic, fresh from his Oscar victory for his film about the war, "No Man's Land" - a victory he celebrated in his homeland on April 9, 2002, just one day short of the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the 1,325-day siege of Sarajevo.

I have spent days in a warehouse lined with body bags, filled with the remains of recently-exhumed victims of the Serbs' 1992 ethnic cleansing campaign - while family members, mostly women, walked the aisles of skeletons, sobbing quietly, looking for loved ones; while one woman picked up skull after skull with her bare hands, searching for signs of a son. I have spent afternoons in Sarajevo with the 3K wheelchair basketball team, made up of young men who were wounded by snipers as civilians or while serving on the frontline as soldiers. I have watched them sweat and spin on a dime and flirt with girls when practice is over and I have come away determined that the world's final image of them be their strength and grace - and not the moment when they lay sprawled on a city sidewalk, another tragic victim of war, another image of despair. I want to tell their story of their aftermath. I want to tell it all.

It may sound like a callous and cynical thing to say, but it is easier, in some ways, to cover war and conflict than it is to cover its aftermath. The story of war is obvious; its pictures of sorrow and death are the stuff of Pulitzer prizes. It is of course true that the physical dangers are exponentially greater, that there is genuine risk in working as a war photographer or reporter. I have no criticism of my colleagues who cover war, and risk their lives doing it; war must be covered, the world must be alerted to the tragedies and travesties committed in the name of humankind. But as I said at the beginning of this essay, war is only half the story. The end of war does not mean peace. It is simply the end of war, the end of death and destruction. Every story of war includes a chapter that usually goes untold -- the story of the aftermath, which day by day becomes the prologue of the future.

On November 30, a selection of photos from her exhumation and identification section of the project was awarded the Grand Prix Jean-Louis Calderon at the 17th annual SCOOP and NEWS festival in Angers, France, the festival's highest honor.

You can learn more about Sara Terry's project,

"Aftermath: Bosnia's Long Road to Peace,"



WIPI News Article #3

Joan Almond: The Past in the Present
by Susan Scafati

All Images ©Joan Almond

Joan Almond's photographic eye has gazed territories that many western people will never see. Morocco, Algeria, the walled city of Jerusalem, Egypt and India are among her muses of the past two decades. Her images together read more like a diary, filled with visions of personal encounters and private lives. Through her patient pursuit of natural moments, an intimacy unveils, blurring the borders between outsider and native.

Regardless of where Almond is, the picture is more about seeing things in a way that has not been captured. Fortunately, her gender has been a profitable aspect in obtaining entry into worlds where others are restrained. Almond points out that in some ways "it may be a hindrance being a female, but to be a male and get into female quarters is nearly impossible." Thus she has been able to get some shots that male photographers who tread the same terrain are never able to get. In her book, Joan Almond: The Past in the Present, which spans her career in pictures from 1976 to 1996, she acknowledges, "My status as a women off the beaten track in developing countries can have its disadvantages. Moslem men usually forbid their women to be photographed, but I have found that women alone can be just as curious about me as I am about them, and so become willing subjects."

One example of this was in a village in Egypt where the people were being displaced because of a dam being built. The women there marry between thirteen to fourteen years old. Inside the home of a bride-to-be, Almond recalls one of her favorite memories. As the father sat in one room, addressing the invitations for the wedding, the daughter took Almond into her room to show her jewelry. There Almond found herself among a group of henna-painted girls whose expressions include singing, dancing and giggling, but whose cultural conformities restricted them from talking. In male-dominated societies such as these, Almond was touched to find the spirit and energy succeeding to emerge from her speechless company. In capturing these areas commonly interpreted in the West as less civilized, we can preserve the rudimentary elements of communication, relationships, and dynamics from which western societies have drifted away.

The ease sensed between Almond and her subjects stems from Almond's natural ability to not just physically enter a new territory, but to internalize her surroundings into a new frame of mind, a multi-dimension perspective. She notes, "it's much more inspiring to jump into a place where you've never been to then to photograph somewhere you always had." Initially, she enters an unknown situation without photographing, but extending her appreciation of the culture and concern for its possible diminishing without record. She finds that if she gives her subjects something like a Polaroid or money in return for taking a picture, they are less likely to feel violated, that something has been taken from them. Almond reveals in her book, "For me the hardest part is dealing with their delicate personalities and making sure that I do them justice. Photographing people I admire is the most rewarding part of the whole adventure."

After September 11, 2001, Almond felt even more of an obligation to provide documentation of the Middle Eastern people as she had seen them, which was unlike the stories circulated in the media. Almond felt, "People need to know some things about these people that they're simply not hearing on TV." Her reaction turned from hesitance to release a book with images of Arabs, into choosing to write the text for the book herself, in order to say what she needed to say. In her book, Joan Almond: The Past in the Present, she states, " I attempted to document the past in the present and to portray a way of life which is quickly disappearing from our consumer-oriented world."

Her approach to these cultures, combined with meticulous platinum / palladium printing, invites the viewer to share the collected moments intimately as she has. One of Almond's greatest gifts is her heightened sensibility for passing moments- glancing eyes, soft shadows, subtle gestures. With the camera as a tool to extract what is meaningful, beautiful and timeless, her work feels more like quiet thoughtful insight. Altogether her photographs reflect what is her own eye for solitude, empty spaces, brief glances, stirring emotions and meaningful gazes. Almond writes in her Artist Statement, "We have much to learn from these tremendously simple and beautiful people."

Joan Almond is a Professional Photographer member of Women In Photography International, Her work is featured this month in a solo show

January 23 - February 28, 2003

June Bateman Gallery
560 Broadway, Suite 309,
New York, NY 10012 . Tues-Sat.  11am-6pm

Proceeds of her prints will be donated to "Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children." For more information see or

Photographs in the article are from, Joan Almond: The Past in the Present, and are available in limited edition of 65 copies (including five artist proofs) with a folio containing two platinum prints, Casbah Street and Granddaughter with Tobacco Leaves, each hand coated, printed and signed by Joan Almond. For more information, please contact St. Ann's Press, or visit

Article by Susan Scafati,



For articles, see f2 eZine Archive #13 - January 2003- March 2003