Markus Heine photographs the human and political relationships of our time. He graduated from Best-Sabel Design School in 2013 with his graduation project ‘Lunik IX,’ about the eponymous district in Kosíce, Slovakia. Heine has also covered conflict in Ukraine, Afghanistan and Turkey. He has shown his work in exhibitions as well as in newspapers, magazines and online-magazines. He lives and works as a freelance photojournalist in Berlin.
What specific challenges do image makers face in conflict zones?
The hardest challenge is to handle your own fear and to handle complicated situations all the time. It does not matter how exactly you plan your trip. Most of the plans will not work especially when you spend a few days on the front line. Everything will come different and you have to handle it.
What kind of conflict zone training do you have? Have you taken a HET course?
I have no special conflict zone training or HET course. I have some first aid training and a friend of mine who works as a paramedic gave me a little introduction. But I am planning to participate at a journalist trainings in Germany.
How do you prepare for an assignment?
The main thing is to collect information about the local situation and to set up structures at home for the worse case. It is really important that you have some people at home who can handle those situations and know exactly what to do.
What advice do you have for prospective conflict zone photographers?
Always balance the risk you have to take and the gain you can get from taking a photo. In Ukraine I had the situation that an ammunition depot from the Ukraine Military was hit by a mortar in the late evening at a safe distance from the house where I was sleeping. I went out on the street and take a look but I didn´t go nearer because for me it was too risky. Another photographer walked, with some soldiers, in the direction of the burning depot. But he was not able to get a good picture because of all the exploding ammunition. On the way back they came under machine gun fire. Luckily they were all fine but in the end I had the better picture with less risk.
The second thing: when you come in perilous situation always try not to panic, look what experienced journalists or soldiers do and do the same.
Describe your favorite gear and why.
I think it’s my scarf. I have it with me all the time when I am shooting in complicated situations. It’s very useful to warm you when it’s cold, or to make it wet and put it under your helmet when it’s too hot. It’s a multitool useable for cleaning your gear use it as pillow or as a triangular bandage. (Luckily this was not necessary till present day)
Describe that item you carry around with you all the time and never use.
I think I use everything I carry around with me. I try only to take the necessary items with me because I love it to travel light.
What media/news/feeds do you follow and why?
I follow most of the main German newspapers and news agency to get my daily information feed. When I am abroad I am searching for journalists or activists who can feed me with necessary information about the local situation and events.
How do you measure risk and how do you protect yourself?
Always use your brain. My personal protection depends on the situation. If it is required I wear a flak vest and helmet. Sometimes it’s not that useful to go over equipped because you can provoke the people around you.
What are the items you can’t survive without in the field?
Good boots, right clothing, my camera and cigarettes. They are perfect to get in touch with local people or to create a cough while the long times of waiting and hanging around.