|THE PANORAMA OF WAR|
|I am not a war photog. Never have been, never could have been. I celebrate the nerve, passion and sympathy for the human condition that drives photographers to war zones time and again, but it's not something I could ever have done well. This story, called the Panorama of War, was actually an aftermath story. I wanted to bring panoramic cameras into former hot zones to show the sweep of destruction, the damage far and wide, conflict wreaks on people and places. LIFE agreed to send me, and published the story well. It won the first "Eisie" in the category of journalistic impact. |
It was a difficult story to do on a number of levels. It was emotionally difficult, day after day, to photograph displaced people, people hurting for food, water and medical attention. It was horrible to see once proud cities and homes reduced to rubble and ash. Physically, it was hard. The watchword of going into places like these as a journalist is to travel light and fast. I was traveling with two 617 roll film cameras (couldn't do with just one, as they don't have a camera repair shop in Mogadishu), two 35mm film cameras with lenses, and a Mamiya 7 rangefinder 120 camera. I also had a small tripod, a flash system, and of course a stock of 35mm and 120 format film. This is not an easy kit to pull across the border of Rwanda into what was then Zaire. It was even more difficult getting it through a variety of military checkpoints on the way from Kigali to Entebbe Airport. It was flat out ridiculous trying to get it out of Grozny, in Chechnya.
This story was one of those risks LIFE took by sending me, untested in these types of places, to shoot an unframed, unplanned story. When working like this, you don't make appointments or phone calls, you just go and try to work it out on the ground. You pick up fixers and translators along the way, or for instance, in Mogadishu, you pick up your own private militia, who try to keep you safe. You roll with the punch, and hope for the best, as well as hope to get out unharmed. You develop strategies for not getting your film or gear stolen or confiscated. You adjust to a reality that is absolutely alien to someone raised in the developed world. At night, you do your captions, make your notes, shake your head, and at least occasionally, weep in the darkness of your room about what you saw that day.