Transcript:

Speaker This picture is a picture of a young refugee girl that I took at an Afghan refugee that I photographed in Pakistan, Peshawar, Pakistan, at a camp called Cello's. I'm sorry, this is a picture that I took of an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan near Peshawar, Jalozai refugee camp. And I took this about late March of 2001 before the post September 11 events. And at the time, there was, um.

Speaker Julie, did you that?

Speaker Yeah. So anybody behind there, we're hearing everything. Coughing Well, clearing.

Speaker Can you guys hear me back, there is only one person who is it, Ruby? Still rolling. Let me start again.

Speaker Yeah, take very slow and also tell us where it is, but also tell us what's going on. A little bit of background.

Speaker OK, this I took this picture in Jalozai refugee camp, Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan near Peshawar. And there was a one day I was there photographing and there was a big storm blew up and tore apart many of the tents and in many of the temporary homes that that the refugees were staying. And and just after the storm, this incredible light hit with the with the very dark clouds and and the sun, sun, sun setting, but just peeking through the clouds. And this young girl was kind of kind of running up to me, but yet afraid, somewhat afraid to be seen by me at the same time.

Speaker And and I took this picture of her as she was standing among the tents there.

Speaker And it was this. At what point was this during the war after September 11th, or at what point was this?

Speaker No, this was actually late March of 2001 before the the events of September 11th. At the time there was Afghan.

Speaker Pakistan has always had a lot of refugees coming in from Afghanistan for 20 years because of civil war. And now this a year ago, because of because of a famine after three years of drought, compounded this problem of not only the civil war, but now you had people literally having to leave their homes because there was nothing left to eat and no hope. So in September of 2000, people started coming in large numbers and by January, it was a major crisis. And what I went there in late February, there was at this one camp, there were about 80000 people who were not receiving assistance. The Pakistani government had decided that they were not going to allow the aid organizations to assist these people because they saw that as being like a magnet to the aid they were receiving was was a magnet drawing these people over the border. So here was a camp of 80000 plus people. Literally a thousand people arriving a day and they weren't getting much assistance at this point.

Speaker And what is your purpose in photographing refugees before you start again?

Speaker You know, we're getting people are walking. I don't know if it's upstairs or outside.

Speaker Well, it's like all of us. So, Joanna, would you just go and tell people that every move they make in the building where people might be up stairs to they are cut, OK?

Speaker So that said.

Speaker OK, so you don't ask questions, know, I kind of just want them said, I'm sure. So what is the point of shooting refugee camps?

Speaker At the time, I wanted to go to to Pakistan because some of the work that I've been involved in the past year and a half had dealt with the movement of people in Haiti, in Africa, North Africa. And here was another case where you have large numbers of people moving. And at the time, I wasn't sure. I mean, it had kind of fallen off the radar for for at least the West for 20 years. You had refugees coming out of this place. And now that even though there were so many, so many more coming, people didn't really care. So a kind of. Felt I felt I should go and take pictures that could be seen in the Western press and also personally my my interest in in the movement of people and why people leave their homes and pick up and go somewhere else. So my original idea was to was to actually try and go and walk with some people as they left their home and follow their journey all the way over the over the border into Pakistan to do that. No, I wasn't able to do that. A magazine, U.S. News and World Report magazine in Washington, D.C., sent me over there in order to try and do this trip. When I got there, the Taliban wouldn't give me a visa right away. So I was waiting around waiting for a visa to be processed. And I realized that for logistics, for for many reasons, what I wanted to do at the time couldn't be done. And so I realized that there was this huge what I felt was an important story right there and right in front of my face. So I began photographing it. And when I returned to the United States with the pictures, U.S. News, I wanted to publish these, made a layout with them, but for one reason or another, a news weekly magazine, different different things happened. And for one reason or another, they weren't able to publish them right away. So my editors there were very kind. And let me release the pictures right away, because they felt, as I felt, that they should be seen as quickly as possible and that's when they were published elsewhere.

Speaker And what are you hoping will happen when people see these pictures?

Speaker You know, I it's hard to. A lot of times we talk in terms of very, very idealistic ways, like, oh, I hope I hope that that this will make this will make a difference somehow, that these pictures will be seen and and policy will be changed or or money will be given or things like that. If that happens, that's that's. That's great. Yes, that is a great goal, but I can't say that I really think that that can always happen. It's more about trying to in in my own way, just just to kind of show the other side so that people can be presented with the fact that at least where I'm from, that people don't live like that in the rest of the world.

Speaker That's great, I want to come back to that idea, but before I forget, I wanted to ask you just to elaborate a little bit on I think it's really fascinating that you're interested in the movement of people to make clear for the audience. What are these people suffering that day that makes them pick up and leave their homes and risk so much just to set the context for the audience, why are they leaving? What's going on?

Speaker Well, let's talk about Haiti, because we can show you we can show your pictures, OK? Yeah, you don't have to stick with Afghanistan or this particular image.

Speaker Yeah, well, it's I mean, why why are people leaving? Why. Why are people on the move? It's it's it's different in so many parts of the world.

Speaker And yet it's similar. The search for a better life or or, you know, boils down to economics, I guess.

Speaker And in a lot of ways, sure, there are political reasons or whatever, but people, for one reason or another in the places that I photographed are leaving because there's not enough to eat.

Speaker They are threatened by a particular political regime or or circumstances where they live. And there's no choice but to and there's no choice in their minds but to but to risk their lives in order to leave often risk their lives in the case of the Haitian refugees. For them, it's to make a crossing in a boat that's, you know, a miserable boat. Most of them don't know how to swim. They are they risk everything. It's the journey is incredibly dangerous. The numbers are that most people die trying to make the trip and but they're willing to take that risk because they see that their current situation is not sustainable. So it's worth them to take to take enormous risks to to up and leave. And it's kind of for me, it's a timeless story in the sense that now, you know, people have been immigrating, migrating for four centuries. America at the time I did the Haitian story, it was interesting to me because of the fact that, you know, America was was built in many ways by people who took boats from their countries to arrive in America. And then you have, of course, the the obvious parallels of slave ships and things like that. And it's a story that that's timeless and yet is a current event that's happening right. Right in front of our eyes. And that's what drew me to the story.

Speaker That's great. That was really wonderful.

Speaker And. I just lost my train of thought.

Speaker And you could tell what the name of the boat was that they were on the name of the boat was the believe in God, I think the name of the boat the refugees were on just to set the name of the boat that the refugees on was the belief in God.

Speaker So when I was on the boat, went to yeah, I was.

Speaker Truly, well, I wouldn't I wouldn't take the trip again if I knew what I was getting into. It was a lot of a lot of luck and and probably stupidity on my part to have taken that boat.

Speaker But so you were on the boat before the coast. I mean, you did not know you were going to be rescued.

Speaker You know, we writer Mike Finkel and I.

Speaker Would you like me to tell the story?

Speaker I'd like you to tell it fairly succinctly, to give the audience a sense of the kinds of risks that you and other countries have been willing to do to get important stories.

Speaker Well, this was a story that, you know, I read the numbers, the statistics to every every so often a story appears in the newspaper of X amount of people died, found washed up on the shore or whatever in a boat trying to make it to the United States. But I never have seen I've never seen a story where I understood what that really was about. I was always very, you know, dealing with numbers and and abstract ideas in that sense and policy. I was very interested in knowing what that must be like to want to take that risk and to experience that. So I went to Haiti and got on a boat and knowing that it would be very, very dangerous. I didn't want to do it as a stunt. I thought I'd taken all as many precautions as I possibly could. But in the end, it came down to the fact that there was no way to tell the story without taking an enormous risk. And I got very lucky and I didn't fully understand the risk when I took it. It was it could have turned out much worse. But I took the boat. We left. There's a there's actually a story before that where where I was I was threatened with my life. I'm sorry.

Speaker I have got something in my mouth. When you when you're doing this, you can start that again with water, what it was like, you don't know what it's like. Right. Absolutely. OK. It was really, really great. Um, so you were telling the story before that one?

Speaker Well, we in trying to get on this boat, we had to make a deal with a boat captain who agreed to take us. And it took several weeks of trying to convince them that we weren't spies, we weren't Coast Guard or CIA or whatever, that we were just really interested in their journey. And, you know, we tried as best we could to to to get a very fragile trust from from these people. And in the end, we took the boat. But before that, we had this three week ordeal of of literally somebody riding up next to me on a motorcycle with a megaphone, announcing to a crowd of chanting people how they were going to kill me that evening. And and then I was hidden in the bottom of the boat by the captain, along with the writer, spent three nights hidden in this boat not knowing what was going to happen, not knowing if the captain was a part of the angry crowd or if he wanted to take my money or if I really could trust him and in the end could trust him. And we left and we spent a couple of days in this boat and realized that this boat was sinking and we had no idea that we would be rescued by the Coast Guard. We were certainly happy with the way you were, but it was yeah, it was a very pleasant surprise to see that Coast Guard boat arriving.

Speaker And why were they chanting that they wanted to kill you?

Speaker What were they were it was a complicated situation, but basically I was somebody sticking my nose into business that was their business. And where these boats leave from, it's it's it's mostly illegal traffic of some sort of another, whether it's human trafficking or or drugs or whatever. So so they were not happy that I was many of them were not happy that I was snooping around, so to speak. And in the end, some figured that somebody was going to make money off of me. And the ones who figured that they were not going to make money off of me were were upset. And so there were some people who were very angry. And in the end, they were it's I don't know if I can explain this because it just gets very complicated and you deal with history and race and all this sort of thing. But but there were some people who who felt that I shouldn't be a part of this trip.

Speaker Anybody on the trip that felt that way?

Speaker Maybe so, but the there's a kind of a structure that happens on the boat, a little social, many social structure with the captain, of course, being in charge and his his five crew members. And we had we had gained the trust of them and they're in charge. So if there were people who who did not like the fact that we were along, they didn't say anything because they were the captain and his crew were the ones who were in charge. So.

Speaker Tell me a little bit about maybe one of the people that was featured in your pictures show just who they were, what their story, they have to be 16 but know basically what their story was focused on a guy named David.

Speaker Mm hmm.

Speaker Yeah, there's there's a picture that that I have here in this picture, David, who you can see in the center as a very desperate look on his face. And he's actually he's actually pointing at me like this to tell me that that, you know, like we're thinking this is this is at a point when we realized that the boat was sinking in the background of the picture. You can kind of see water leaking through the side of the boat. I mean, this is this is a boat that's made with scrap wood on an island that has no electricity, no running water. The nails that are used to make this boat are often stolen off other boats or other pieces of scrap wood.

Speaker And this tiny little boat filled with people is in this ocean is just talking like this. And every time it talks in the in the in the currents, you can just see the water coming in and we have a pump and we're pumping. But as the fatigue is starting to set in dehydration, we had several people who were passing out because of dehydration, dehydration. And so the pumping was not happening fast enough. The water was filling up around our around our feet, literally. And it was at this point when we realized that the situation was pretty bad, that we were we were sinking and David as well as many others. But David specifically at this point said, I can't swim. And so he really is terrified for his life at this at this moment.

Speaker So that was the moment that he was kind of like one of the first ones. I gave the decisive moment. It was a moment where. I mean, I'm going to leave now, it's sort of the problem voyeurism, you know, photographing the suffering.

Speaker Yeah. Where do I even begin on that when the voyeurism of photographing suffering in this particular instance? It was easy for me because David himself had asked me to take pictures. In fact, he I think he said to me, Chris, you better start photographing now because we're not going to be alive much longer. So in that sense, the the the gray area was pretty was it was cleared up for me because he was the one who told me to photograph. But you're always faced with that this issue of voyeurism. Sometimes there is no for me, there's not a hard and fast rule. It's always it's always a different situation. You're always dealing with each circumstance the way it is there, the way you are at that moment. And sometimes you choose not to take pictures and sometimes you choose to take pictures. In this particular story, taking the Haiti boat was actually there were only five rolls of film that I took over the course of almost, well, three and a half weeks. And that was because it was never a situation where I felt that I could just photograph the way I normally would. And it was about building a very fragile trust with people, very delicate sort of confidence with them. And so I took pictures when I felt it was right to take pictures and I didn't when it wasn't right. And one of the biggest things I learned out of this doing the story was, was the importance of knowing when not to take pictures. And beyond that, I mean, yes, photographing suffering is a is a hard thing. And it's even harder to get your mind around the fact that you're trying to frame the suffering in a nice way so that it looks right. But in the end, you something in your mind, you keep telling yourself, maybe it's just maybe it's just a way to appease your conscience or whatever, but you tell yourself that it's important that I do this, that it's important that people see these photographs. And yeah, the dilemma is always there. You're always you always have the face that sort of internal struggle. And for some people, they find that horrifying.

Speaker Some body may look at me and think that I'm despicable for being able to do that, but.

Speaker I guess that's the the demon that I deal with.

Speaker I'm very interested as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking so much about papà. And the things that he went through, I want to sort of start leading to capture by asking you what award did you get for your story?

Speaker In 2001, I was given the Robert Capa gold medal by the Overseas Press Club for a story I did about Haitian refugees taking a boat from Haiti, trying to make it to the United States. And I took the boat with these Haitians and we sunk in the middle of the Caribbean and were fortunately saved by the Coast Guard.

Speaker And what does it mean to get this award? What's the what is the point of this award? Is that a wonderful thing is it's just not that important. What was the meaning of the Robert Capa award and why would they have chosen you?

Speaker Well, for me, the circumstances for which I receive the award makes me kind of think it was the the the Robert Capa award for stupidity and luck. But I think the term is bravery and courage or something. And and it's. I got very lucky, and it's I felt very odd about being honored for for having, you know, gotten that lucky at the same time, a very, very honored to to receive something like that. I mean, yeah, I'm just a young photographer. Robert Capa's you know, this is how I learned to take pictures, was by looking at pictures, at his pictures and and others pictures. And, you know, this great name, Robert Capa. It's. To have your name associated with that in any way, it's almost like I couldn't imagine it and also for me, because at the time I was doing even less sort of war reporting type things, combat photographer stories.

Speaker And it was not an award that never entered my mind of of, you know, even kind of dreaming about as a as a young photographer. It's it had not entered my mind. So it was a very. Overwhelming surprise, but, yeah, a great honor.

Speaker Yeah, in many ways, wonderful I mean, it's very impressive award.

Speaker And so you said you said that he was one of your inspirations. Talk about that. What about his pictures? And if you want to offer any specific pictures, that's great. We can come to them. But what about his pictures?

Speaker After you made you want to do what you do, well, as pictures for me were more. The inspiration from his pictures didn't come from me visually as much as about this this time and this this thing, he was doing it. There's there's definitely a sort of immediacy to the pictures that's very you know, you really that the soul, the Spanish soldier, death of the Spanish soldier, pictures like that where you really feel like you were there and you're part of it. That's that's kind of what I always wanted to do in the sense of take pictures where you really feel like you're there. And so that to me, that that is very much an inspiration for me. You know, visually, maybe I was influenced by other people. But the idea of Robert Capa. Sure. I mean, he's a very romantic figure, you know, and this time I always think about this time and when. You know, all these great and creative people at this one point in time in history when so many new ideas were coming around are coming about and and the world was changing in so many ways, the Spanish Civil War, World War two, and and he's he's hanging out with people like, you know, Steinbeck and Hemingway and and, you know, photographing these great figures and these great events that were that were not just big news events. They were they were turning points in history. And that, to me, is kind of a romantic idea in many ways off of him as a figure and and as a photographer being a part of this. Like using this this at what at the time was this very immediate form of communication. There wasn't the BBC's in the CNN and it was it was Robert Capa's pictures.

Speaker And that's what put people.

Speaker And in those places and again, a parallel I'm sorry, that wasn't very eloquent, I know, but you say it it right.

Speaker You would like to say it again. You can.

Speaker Well, I'm just yes. Robert Capa's a great influence to me. Not so much visually as much as the fact that the pictures really have this immediate sense to them that you really were there. Because I really get the feeling that he was taking these pictures to to really try to make the viewer feel like they are right there and to understand what is actually not record this event here. This is what happened. But here this is what it feels like to be in what happened.

Speaker And yeah, that's definitely if I could ever make a picture that makes someone feel that way, then.

Speaker I felt that we're looking at your pictures. I thought they were fabulous, but again now. So based on your own reasons for taking from taking the risk that you take and taking the pictures that you do, what do you think Capra was after in terms of the impact that he wanted his pictures to have?

Speaker Hmm.

Speaker What Kapa was after in terms of how I look at that, I think that maybe he was a little bit like me, that the the idea of what he's after is a little bit kind of ambiguous in in your mind, it's not formed into a concrete thing as much as, you know, part of part of why we're there is this bizarre curiosity that we have and this curiosity to to.

Speaker In those events, to be as close to the flame as possible is it's it's a weird, weird draw that something like that is and people think, why would you want to go and why would you want to go and be there? Why would you want to do that? And, you know, they think they kind of simplify it down to to being an adrenaline junkie or something like that. And it's really yeah, there is that. But it's not really what it's about. That kind of misses the point. It's it's more about this. Being a part of it and understanding it in a way that's not not just looking at it and that's a powerful magnet. And I think for CAP, it must have been in many ways the same way. He wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to experience it. And it's a curiosity that's.

Speaker A curiosity that's that you can't control. But I'm sure also for him to to want to, you know, if you look at his, you know, looking coming from a background like that, where these things were very much shaping, shaping his world and shaping who he is, that to show how these events play out for him is was very much a personal expression that he definitely wanted to show people exactly how this feels to be here in this in this place at that point in time.

Speaker Exactly, and I don't know how much you know about his background, but he was dogged by fascism all his life. He was chased out of Berlin and Paris couldn't get a passport.

Speaker He was cut up so that when he went to Spain or when he was photographing World War Two, he was photographing the battle against his nemesis, basically. And so you might say a little bit more about why he would want to convey why he would want the world to see these welches.

Speaker Well, I'm sure it's for him taking forever, taking pictures was his way of fighting, fighting the war against fascism.

Speaker I mean, I.

Speaker I got to think that part of him was, you know, instead of carrying a gun, he carried a camera and that was his, that was his. If he felt it as a duty in some way or maybe not a duty as much as, you know, this was his way to to fight a war against fascism and. You know, Jim, Jim not always says that he's not always says Jim Nottoway has said that he's a he's an anti-war photographer, not a war photographer.

Speaker And. I got to think this may be similar to what something Capote would say.

Speaker I think that's absolutely right. Do you want to take a drink of water, please? Yeah, I think you're absolutely right.

Speaker One of his favorite sayings was that the main thing that he wanted was to be an unemployed war photographer. In other words, that there would be no more wars. So I think you're absolutely right. But you might talk about how you know. After World War Two, it was hoped that there wouldn't be any more wars, but you could talk about what wars are still going on and how immediate and how important, or you don't have to say how important it is to get these images out, to go in and get these images in the same way that we can point to Spain that actually had immediate influence on money coming to the oil cause, et cetera. So let's talk a little bit about the motivation and impact. You did a little bit already.

Speaker Yeah, no, I think well, the motivation in that sense to go into these places still exists. People say, oh, now there's TV in the still picture doesn't play an important role for for these things. But but these these things are still going on. There's still war in the world. There's still hunger.

Speaker There's still whatever going on. And. I believe that people need to see this. And they need to see it in. In many different ways, whether it be television or in still pictures, and that's why I still believe in and the need for for a still picture from from this type of event and understanding.

Speaker So can you just tell what wars have been going on in the last 10 years?

Speaker Well, you know, there's been most recently, of course, the events in Afghanistan. There have been you know, Israel has been a continual war. Many other places where people are photographed and, you know, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the Gulf, things like this are still going on and they continue to go on and they're happening right now.

Speaker It's it's changed in some ways in our minds, because the wars we really know about and and see nowadays are are pretty.

Speaker Clinical wars and in the sense that they're fought with, um, you know, smart bombs and from the air and things like that, but it's a very different situation in these wars in a place like Afghanistan where it's stepping back in time. And and except for the American planes flying overhead, the rest of it's fought like it's been fought for a couple hundred years there.

Speaker Go ahead.

Speaker And I'm I'm sorry, I don't know right now you're doing absolutely fantastic. Yeah, no, it's it's really good. It's really, really good. So don't don't don't you. I'm just thinking trying to stay one step ahead. Um. What you can tell us, which was you have.

Speaker Well, recently, most recently, I photographed him in Israel, specifically in Gaza, in the West Bank, and and I just came from spending three months in Afghanistan.

Speaker And what is the most dangerous other than the Haitian story? Because you just told us that what is the most dangerous situation you found yourself in in a war?

Speaker So that's it's always hard to say, people ask me that a lot what's what's the most dangerous thing, what's the most hot situation you've been in? And oftentimes that the what I think are the most dangerous situations are the ones that you don't really know of at the time or the danger is not you know, you've been up front lines in Afghanistan and and, you know, bullets flying over or or in Gaza where literally there are bullets flying around you and. You don't really see those those are all very dangerous situations, but sometimes it's the it's the situation that you don't know about the driving through hostile territory where, you know, unfortunately, there was some journalists killed recently and in Afghanistan. And for them, that was they were they were very dangerous risks involved in driving from point A to point B there and going through certain stretches of road where you didn't know what was going to happen on the other side in in Kosovo.

Speaker I was in Kosovo before actually before the Americans started bombing and before the refuge, the entire refugee crisis started.

Speaker And I spent some time with the with the KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army in the field.

Speaker And we got surrounded by we got surrounded by Serb positions.

Speaker And at night they were bombarding the village. And, you know, now I look back on it and think, well, it turned out pretty well. It wasn't that dangerous. But at the time, it was very, very dangerous. And that's kind of the that's kind of the difficulty in answering a question like that, is that, you know, something seems very, very dangerous and some things don't at all, but probably were really dangerous.

Speaker Well, I don't have the low carb diet, actually. Yeah, did not seem like a dangerous situation. But we don't need to get into that, but maybe you could just give a really physical description of of a situation where you really were in danger from shells, bullets, bombs, whatever. Just what's going on? What's going on outside you?

Speaker What's going on inside?

Speaker I'm not sure to to talk to tell a story like that is a little bit it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable because it's it's kind of, I don't know, sometimes in some weird way, like glorifying the fact that I was in danger or something like that.

Speaker But you do in those situations, you do have this this weird sense of, well, you're both completely terrified and calm at the same time.

Speaker It's this weird thing. Somehow you have this thing there that you have to do, which is take pictures. And that's kind of your your saving grace because you try to focus on this camera and you look through this hole and that hole becomes like it's becomes a movie that you're watching through there in some ways. And that helps you in some ways be able to focus on something and to kind of put your fear into another place.

Speaker At the same time, you you you are terrified and. I don't know. For me, it's. You know, I'm around some other photographers in the field who have, you know, years and years of experience of being and really ugly situations, and they seem pretty calm to me. And I haven't really asked them. But, you know, I'm. Maybe the maybe it gets better as time goes by.

Speaker I'm not sure, but how did you feel when you heard about the journalists that were killed?

Speaker Of course.

Speaker I.

Speaker You feel awful, you. I knew a couple of them.

Speaker That's a motorcycle. Sounds like something outside. OK, sounds like a motorcycle thing. Um.

Speaker This is really great for.

Speaker Yeah, well, I'm sorry about the like to talk to talk about. To talk about being.

Speaker What it's like to be in a really dangerous situation is, um, uh, you know, there are there are many other photographers who've been in a lot more situations than than that. And unfortunately, there are many who have not made it out of those situations. And for me to talk about it any way to that sounds like it's glorifying and it's just hard for me to do. Um.

Speaker Actually, you know, I mean, what you're saying right now is that it's because people had the same thing you never talked about.

Speaker You know, so great, we talk about it amongst ourselves, other photographers, you know, there's there's always again, we talk we talk about this sort of thing amongst ourselves.

Speaker If photographers share stories, this there's a different thing to it because it's not like you're you're not you're not performing then with it, with a story.

Speaker It's you're swapping stories that you both understand the story with us.

Speaker We're we're a good interviewer trying to tell me yet.

Speaker Um. Well.

Speaker And in Gaza, for instance, it's just incredibly dangerous there, actually, and I don't want to make this a political issue because this is not what this is about.

Speaker But there were photographers who believe that they were being targeted when photographing in Palestinian territories targeted by actually Israeli soldiers.

Speaker And when I first arrived, there was in September of 2000. Is it right? Yeah, when I first arrived, there was in September of 2000, we sent there by The New York Times Magazine to photograph a story about these these young people who were throwing stones.

Speaker And so I went straight to Gaza and tried to tried to meet some of these some of these young guys and spend time with them photographing. And basically what they do is every day they go up to the front lines and they throw rocks and they get shot at.

Speaker And it's kind of it's like playing war. They dance around in this in this tear gas everywhere. And there's there's bullets flying around. And every so often one of them goes down. Sometimes it's with the rubber bullets, sometimes with it's with real bullets. Sometimes it's a bruise on the leg. And sometimes it's it's a hole in the head and and the photograph. And in this situation, it's very chaotic. And it's like theater in many ways.

Speaker And the whole time you feel a little bit like like you're working for the propaganda machine, but you're not sure who is because you're both sides will use your pictures for their own propaganda in one way or another. And but being in those situations, it's like you just keep thinking in your head that there's these bullets flying by and you just hope one of them doesn't hit you.

Speaker And and you have this weird thought in your head that, well, if I you know, if I move quickly or if I, you know, jump when I hear the sound or something, I'll be OK now.

Speaker But you know that that's really not true. And they're literally there were there were. Day after day, young people shot right next to me, right in front of me. Some some, like I said, were with a plastic bullet, which is actually a plastic bullet. Sounds like nothing, but it's just it's a steel slug that's covered with a thin layer of plastic. Basically, if it hits you in the head, you'll die. And when I first arrived there, there were. Several other photographers photographing in Gaza during the days would run into a couple of them, there are a couple of them were staying in my hotel. In fact, in the hotel I was in when I first arrived, there were five journalists within two weeks, three of them had been shot. Going to the same places I was going to every day, one of them was shot standing right next to me and it was a series of two shots.

Speaker The first one bounced in front of us. And when we both turned like this as a natural reaction, the second shot and came and hit him in the shoulder and he was wearing he was wearing a bulletproof vest and a helmet.

Speaker But the one vulnerable spot he had, he's OK now wasn't wasn't serious woman. But, you know, it was a reminder that while this stuff is pretty serious, many photographers were shot photographing, um, photographing the entire foot, this second intifada, some very, very dangerous and very unpredictable.

Speaker And you have this this weird sensation of it being like a game, because there are all these children around, and for them it is in some ways like a game and it's just kind of this mayhem and and there's tear gas and you can barely see. And you're trying to hold your breath long and as long as you can for this to your grass. And sometimes it swarms around you and you can't see and you can't breathe. And there's this sense of panic and you can hear sometimes bullets flying by your head in this unmistakable sound of a of a bullet whizzing through the air is it's a.

Speaker I don't know if I can really describe that.

Speaker That was pretty darn quick description. That was fantastic. It was great. Yeah, the only time Cappa was wounded was in Israel by friendly fire.

Speaker Yeah. When you decided to quit war photography after that. Yeah. Well, when one time in.

Speaker Well, especially photographing there in Israel, one time I was crossing a street and there was the Israeli positions were here and and the boys would come and run around this corner and throw rocks. And and so there was kind of this shooting back and forth here. And one day I ran across the middle of the road and there's a there's a thick palm tree in the middle in this median in the middle of the road. And I kind of ran to that palm tree. So then I could run again to the other side and photograph from the other side.

Speaker And I remember just as I ran to that palm tree and stood behind it, and it was just big enough to fit behind. Just as I got behind it, I heard whizzing sound on either side of the palm tree about head level. And it's just you think, wow, OK. And you push it every day there. It's this weird thing where you show up every day and there is these, these clashes every day and you're photographing them. And when you leave, you think, wow, you know, it's a good thing you made it through another day kind of thing.

Speaker And part of you sometimes, just as I would be leaving, I think there's there's the picture I wanted. There was the picture that I was waiting for all day. And you have to fight with yourself to to not go back because I have this weird thought that, you know, maybe that's the one that'll that'll get me is if I go back for that one right now.

Speaker Yeah, I have had this uncanny ability to know one, to stand up and be in danger when he was a real poker playing gambler. Or maybe you got lucky, a lot of lucky a you know. Yeah, there's a way to wrap up, but I'm not I've got a couple of things I really wanted to talk to you about. Oh, they're not published all that much. But I did photograph children a lot. A lot of refugee children, a lot of children of all kinds. And I've noticed that you did, too. And I'm just wondering, what is it that makes you photograph children in these dangerous situations?

Speaker Um, I photograph children in these dangerous situations often because they're always there. I mean, they're there. That's the surprising thing, is there are kids in the middle of these things where kids should not be there. And it's, you know, it's, uh, they're all the things to be said. They're they're they're photogenic. They're they're cute. Is this you know, this one beautiful thing you see in the middle of this stuff and and. Yes, it's natural and it's easy and it becomes like a game to, you know, kids run up and they want to hold you take their picture and they run away kind of thing. But, yeah, it's it's awesome because that's the surprising thing. They're always kids in the middle of. Of these hills.

Speaker And is there something special that you want to convey to the viewer by photographing kids?

Speaker Oh, yeah, I mean, it's it's always different with every picture you take, but yeah, you you want to show you you want to show that there are kids in the middle of in the middle of this stuff as well. Um. When these kids should wow, we wish they could be at school or somewhere else, but not here, but their brother, their.

Speaker They are especially vulnerable to.

Speaker The power with Capa's pictures like that, you you're in a Situation Room situation Cappa was in or was photographing and wounded being taken off a plane, and the pilot said, you get what you want. Photographer and he said after that that he felt like a hyena. Yeah, that happens all the time, so we can talk about that and how that feels and if that's ever made you question.

Speaker You you question it all the time. I mean, that that feeling of feeling like a Cephus hyena or a vulture.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker If you feel that all the time, it's a constant part of that, that that dilema that internal debate, that internal struggle you have going on about is it is this important?

Speaker Why am I doing this? Am I despicable for for photographing this or wanting to photograph this at the same time? It's this balance of the stuff it needs to be seen. If you're there, you're there to be the eyes of the world. You are in those situations so that these pictures can be shown. And if you don't take those pictures. The people on the side of the world don't see what's happening. You are their eyes. You're the ones looking. But there's always that weird feeling of of being a scavenger and an. Being there to to take something, and it's a horrible feeling, but it really is you, it's something it always kind of eats at you. And there have been many instances when when people have know yell at you and and say, you know, say things like, you know, you're a vulture photographer. What do you do? You get what you wanted. Are you happy now? Kind of thing and. Stanley Green told me a story the other day about being in and in Chechnya, and there was a woman who who had lost her legs to an explosion and he was photographing this woman.

Speaker And they put it put a blanket over her and in his mind, he's thinking, I've got to show the people need to see this picture, I've got to show this picture to show them what is happening in Grozny was coming from very, very good intentions. But in this situation, it's, you know, here is this, this poor woman who's lost her legs and he's thinking, I've got to pull. I've got to pull this blanket off so we can see her legs. And I think he said he even said it out loud. And another photographer came to him and said, you know, he said, I need these legs to show the picture.

Speaker And the other photographer said, sort of she. And it just hit him then that, you know, well, you know, what am I what am I doing? And so, yeah, there's this constant this constant struggle of of feeling feeling hideous for doing that and also feeling. I'm feeling a duty to do that.

Speaker Felt both those things and just to round out that statement, what you think is the value of Kappa's legacy.

Speaker He did photograph in spite of sometimes feeling like, yeah, well, his legacy.

Speaker Well, I mean, you start with the historical record of of of the Spanish Civil War and World War Two. I mean, the pictures of of D-Day. We wouldn't really have footage if it weren't for him, we wouldn't know what that looked like, the Spanish Civil War. It's a historical record. People know what happened during that war because of his pictures. You know, with these these pictures that come about from photojournalists become the the the collective memory of of an entire people. When we think about an event, what comes to mind is a picture from that event that often was taken by a photographer. I mean, I think of of the guy still standing in front of the line of tanks in Tiananmen Square, I think of Kappus, Spanish soldier. I think it was his blurry pictures from the invasion at D-Day. I think of, you know, the the little girl running naked in Vietnam, you know, these are all pictures that are that become our memory of something and become a record that's kept his legacy was being sort of in many ways the the the. I hope I don't offend by seeing the grandfather of that, but, uh. The pretty powerful legacy and also the commitment to. To take the risks that he took in order to to be that witness to in order to to be the eyes for the world.

Speaker And you can just say something briefly, if you have you seen this is New York, the exhibit of of all the photographs taken at the. A little bit about that, the same thing.

Speaker Yeah, well, you know, the whole events, the September 11th events were kind of this weird thing that kind of put photography back into the into the consciousness of the world because it was such a visual event. And this this exhibit in New York, of all all these photographers, some of them are the great masters of photography and some of them were just are amateur photographers. All of this all these images put together. And it's like this this record of this event that will be in our minds, it will be our collective memory of what happens.

Speaker That's that's part of his legacy. To be. This these visual things that become what we remember and our history and. And that since. How we see the past and how we see the present.

Speaker Great. And one last question. Do you have anything to say about a dog story?

Speaker Do you want to say anything about, you know, that situation or last gamble or. You know anything about his death?

Speaker Yeah, well, also also only 40. Yeah. Well, I mean, what do you say about I don't know.

Speaker You know, in Afghanistan, the landmines everywhere and. I'm sure that I'm sure Robert Cappa ran through the minds of more than one photographer there, because some things you do seem so innocuous at the time, but, um. Yeah, that one last gamble, I don't know if he was making maybe was it one last gamble? I don't know. It's hard to say. Uh. There are some photographers that I just I can't I can't see how they continue to live through the things that they've been the situation they've been in, and you keep thinking, why take one more game, one more game? But, you know, for them, it's it's more important than that. A gamble. I don't know what.

Speaker It's OK. That's OK. What do you say about a lot of people talking about death? So that's what I actually.

Speaker Sorry. I would like you to just very briefly tell us about the windshield picture, because I'd love to cut to that.

Speaker OK, give me one second. Cut you to your. OK, so what are we seeing in that picture?

Speaker Well, in this picture, this was from the.

Speaker This was during the siege of Kunduz in Afghanistan, which was one of the last major holdouts of the Taliban, and the city was surrounded on three sides by different Northern Alliance commanders and their forces and overhead by by American planes.

Speaker And and every day there were these Taliban surrendering out of the city. You know, sometimes a couple hundred at a time and they would surrender in these these jeeps, these four wheel drive, Toyota Hilux pickup trucks with that are smeared with mud so that they're less visible from the sky, I guess, from American bombers, and they would surrender with all of their weapons. I mean, we're talking bandoleros of bullets and AK forty seven rocket launchers, grenades strapped everywhere. And that's how they would surrender like this. And you're thinking the whole time in your head like, you know what if one of these guys decides to, you know, whatever he decides to do, what if one of these guys is? What if this is his last suicide mission? What if what if a fight breaks out? And that did happen a couple of times when when actually fight broke out between the surrendering Taliban and the Northern Alliance soldiers over who got to keep the truck. And, you know, it's this weird feeling. And looking at these guys eyes, some of them looking at you with this looks like. And here was a guy, a Taliban, who had just surrendered one day, this is actually two days before before the final fall of Kunduz, and he had shown up in this in this jeep and was surrounded. And there's Northern Alliance soldiers all around us. And he's sitting in this jeep waiting, sort of awaiting his fate, waiting what would happen. And and it was a picture where there were actually other photographers around during the scene. And it was it was just seems so difficult to make a picture. And I this is pretty much the only frame I made.

Speaker But somehow just through this windshield, seeing this guy through the truck and through the windshield, and there's this reflection and and it kind of it kind of somehow gives sort of an intimacy about this person.

Speaker And he almost almost doesn't look like a soldier in this picture.

Speaker Yeah, it looks. Like clergy or something? Yeah, so the meaning is it's kind of his last he's giving up.

Speaker Meaning in the picture? Yeah, I don't know if I can talk about meaning in that picture, there's not a whole lot of meaning. It's just it's more about to me. There's I don't try to I don't search for symbolic meanings. And pictures are always, you know, certainly hopefully they'll have some in there.

Speaker But oftentimes it's more about trying to convey some sort of emotional or ambiguous information that's that goes beyond literal information or information that the words can't provide.

Speaker And that's that has more to do with, I don't know, feeling and emotion rather than. But rather than meaning and symbolism and. The literal definition.

Chris Anderson
Interview Date:
2002-02-07
Runtime:
1:02:01
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-2804x54z81
MLA CITATIONS:
"Chris Anderson, Robert Capa: In Love and War." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 07 Feb. 2002, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1119
APA CITATIONS:
(2002, February 07). Chris Anderson, Robert Capa: In Love and War. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1119
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Chris Anderson, Robert Capa: In Love and War." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 07, 2002. Accessed July 02, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1119

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