Alison Baskerville has worked as a professional documentary photographer since 2010. After completing her degree at the University of Westminster in photojournalism, she has focussed on the impact of conflict on women’s lives in war zones around the world, including Afghanistan, Mali, Israel/Gaza and the Philippines. Along with her work in conflict she also investigates social and domestic issues both abroad and in the UK. Her work has been published by the Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Mirror and BBC Online. She has also completed commissions for Plan International, Care International and the Royal British Legion. Her work looking at the role of female British soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan has been exhibited in the Oxo Gallery in London.
Alison regularly speaks on her chosen subjects, appearing on BBC and Sky Television as well as participating in seminars such as panel debates at the Imperial War Museum and guest speaking at the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival.
What first attracted you to covering conflict? Tell us how you got started and who helped you break in.
I was serving in Iraq with the Armed Forces and I was shocked by the situation out there. We went through a lot of incidents where we lost colleagues and it changed the dynamic of our small group. I could not find the words to record what had happened and became interested in photography as way of memorialising those around me. I then went home on a short break and bought a book by Larry Burrows called Vietnam. After reading this I felt compelled to document the impact of violence and conflict on people and since then I have set out on a journey to try and offer some understanding on how we effect it.
What’s something you can’t survive without in the field?
Well apart from my cameras it would be my small bag of ground coffee and some filters along with a travel mug. Whatever happens I know I can end the day with a decent brew!
What makes your approach different to getting attention from editors?
I don’t chase the most sensational image. I’m more interested in the long story and also looking behind the news as this is often where the truth lies. I am very intent on maintaining as much integrity in my work as I can and keeping some humility for the subjects of the image. Without them my work would be pointless and I feel that they should be respected and offered some dignity, even when they are suffering.
Describe that item you carry around with you all the time and never use.
Probably my Arctic Butterly sensor cleaner, but one day if could be of use! I tend to use a paint brush to keep my lenses clean and also a lot of black gaffer tape to seal the edges.
What media/news/feeds do you follow and why?
I follow all kinds of news sources, however I’m careful not to become over saturated with news and tend to listen more to podcasts on the world service and also watch a lot of documentaries online.
How do you measure risk and how do you protect yourself?
I read as much about the country as possible and also test the water to see what the value is of covering the story. I am reluctant to enter any place of risk if there is no idea of output and it’s overall impact of those that are photographed. I get very tired of seeing those who shoot with the idea of entering images into competitions. For me, there is something distasteful about entering images of others suffering into awards. The only exception is when it’s a really unknown issue and the award creates a better awareness of it. It’s the only way I would enter any competition.
Describe your most rewarding career moment.
I think this was the moment when I shot a portraits of young male British soldiers in Afghanistan. It was the first time I realised that I was not interested in the most obvious shots and wanted to really investigate and portray the human element of conflict.
Tell us about your most recent assignment or work.
A trip to Hargeisa in Somaliland focusing on the women in the city. I loved that they had this initial appearance of being fairly conservative, but behind closed doors they are the social influencers and decision makers. It’s like they let men think they are in charge, but the reality is that the women are quietly taking over.