I am age 50, from the UK, living in NYC for 18 years and have based from West Africa for the past year and half. Freelance photojournalist for 17 years working around the world for publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, Outside Magazine, and a regular contributor to the Virginia Quarterly Review. My focus has been on under reported stories about people living on the margins of society and in places of conflict. I have been fortunate to have my work recognized with a number of international awards, including The International Photography Awards – ‘People Photographer of the Year’ 2010, PX3 Gold Medal – ‘War’ 2011, and the VQR – ‘Prize for Photography’, 2013. My work has been exhibited in solo presentations in the USA, Europe and China and is in a number of museum collections. I was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for leading the first circumnavigation navigation of The Gambia, by foot in 2009, and co-leading the first source-to-sea expedition of River Gambia in 2013.
Philosophy: Being a photographer, what better excuse to hangout with all facets of the human condition?
What or who first attracted you to covering conflict? Tell us how you got started and who helped you break in.
I don’t consider myself a ‘conflict photographer’ – but my work takes me to places of conflict. I am interested in the human condition and using imagery to be a conduit through which people can gleam insight into other peoples lives. Pepé Escobar, a brilliant Brazilian writer and author asked me to accompany him to Afghanistan in 2000 to document life under the Taliban. We made a follow up journey in 2001 to meet the legendary Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was fighting against the Taliban. A month after meeting Massoud he was assassinated by al Qaueda operatives on Sept 9th. I was just back home in NYC when I got the news. Two days later I was next to the World Trade Centre photographing it collapsed – two seemingly disparate worlds I was connected to were thrown together, and I knew from I had to purse the path I was already on.
What are the item(s) you can’t survive without in the field?
My Gerber multi-tool and a bottle of Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap – equally efficient for washing clothes and brushing teeth.
What makes your approach different to getting attention from editors?
I think my personal projects give editors an understanding of what personally drives and inspires me, and shows I am not just following the pack.
Describe that item you carry around with you all the time and never use.
The backup to my backup cables.
What media/news/feeds do you follow and why?
Being a Brit the BBC World Service is always bubbling in the background – big fan of ‘From our Own Correspondent’, Vice News, for documentary pieces, Asia Times (atimes.com) for my mentor and pal, the ‘anarchic’ Pepé Escobar and a healthy dose of Mother Jones for some good lefty scribing, mixed with 10 seconds of Fox News to bring a little levity.
How do you measure risk?
I don’t believe a picture is worth dying for, but pushing forward when others are moving back is in the DNA of an inquisitive photographer. Ask, watch, listen, to gleam as much information before careening too far down the road with no exit plan.
How do you protect yourself?
Local knowledge is key – I listen closely to the nationals I work with and try to get insights from colleagues working in the region. Working with tried and trusted fixers/security who understand the nuances of a situation.
Describe your most rewarding career moment.
Completing the first recorded source-sea navigation of the River Gambia, documenting life along one of Africa’s the last, major, free-flowing rivers – a 1044km expedition, by canoe and motorcycle, with my wife and expedition partner, Helen.
Tell us about your most recent assignment or work.
Embedded with the MOAS – Migrant Offshore Rescue Station ship. The Phoenix in the Mediterranean. This privately-funded search and rescue team are on the front line of saving migrants from drowning while trying to make the treacherous crossing from North Africa to Europe. After a couple of weeks covering the rescues from the POV of the rescuers, the team dropped me onboard a packed migrant boat for two hours carrying 561 people, so I could create a unique set of images from the migrants perspective. I had heard about from the people previously brought onboard The Phoenix about the slave-ship like conditions of those jammed below the decks, but until I saw it with my own eyes I could not comprehend the suffering people endured in hopes of better life.
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