More than 2,000 people have died since 1992, revealing the dangerous nature of the industry
The opening day of Xposure, an international photography festival on Thursday (February 9) brought together top photojournalist Giles Clarke, Jody Cobb, Mohammad Mohissen, Tommy Trenchard and former Ray Wells, picture editor for The Sunday Times, explains the risks involved in documenting news visually in the most dangerous situations and addresses questions about the genre’s relevance in an age dominated by social media, artificial intelligence and other technologies .
In a panel titled “Credible Witness,” moderated by Aidan Sullivan, photographers outline how they stay safe in high-risk environments and handle working in war zones and beyond an emotionally traumatic environment surrounded by death and despair.
Credibility of first-hand witnesses
Speakers highlighted the importance of photojournalism in visually documenting important global events to accurately reflect the world we live in. They also spoke of pursuing their careers in the field with their own countries and communities due to a strong desire to experience world cultures and share them.
“Growing up overseas, I started to realize how little I knew about the world. I was driven by my own curiosity; I wanted to see for myself and share what I saw”, adds Jodi Cobb, who at the time understood With the power of photography, he can share with the world exactly what he sees.
Tommy Trenchard, also keen to see “more of the world”, took up a camera more than 10 years ago to “document what I see with audiences in the UK and elsewhere”.
From the lack of financial support for photojournalism projects to the disappearance of traditional media channels replaced by social media, artificial intelligence and other technologies, to the reluctance of companies to provide life insurance support due to the high-risk nature of the industry, the speakers list the many challenges they face.
“I find it more convenient or effective to take risks on my own, and then, I pray that my coverage will be widely disseminated to pay my bills while also fulfilling my goal of sharing my story with an audience. That’s what this line of work is all about”, Trenchard added.
The speakers highlighted that protections for visual journalists have decreased significantly in recent years – the past decade being a clear example, with more and more photographers having to work in extremely harsh conditions. They note that since 1992, more than 2,000 photojournalists have lost their lives.
Clarke explained: “Going into the country now, I have to carry a small camera to keep a low profile. I often find myself working in environments where I don’t need a photographer – they just don’t want you around. Carrying a camera always isolates the photographer, making them easy targets. These risks remind us why we need credible witnesses on the scene.”
Speakers also elaborated on the personal impact of photojournalism, which can mean a lot to photographers and their families. Photojournalists often find themselves dealing with burnout, stress and mental health issues. Muheisen noted that photojournalists began to feel the consequences after leaving the red zone and returning to their countries. They stay resilient by dropping work when they get home when possible and seeking professional help when needed.