The photographer, Balazs Gardi , winner in the news category of The World Press Photo Photo 2008, answered the questions that our readers left for him in the post called “The Best Photo of World Press Photo”; in which our readers chose Mr. Gardi’s as the best of the lot.
During the month of July, we’re going to publish the interview in different posts.
Here you have the first part of the interview and if you want to read the Spanish translation click here.
1) Has your career ever put your life in danger? by Ana
Yes, my life was in danger and so [were the lives of the soldiers] in danger especially during the operation [in which] I photographed these images.
And, mostly it’s because the place, the Korengal Valley, [where] I photographed these images of, that’s one of the deadliest places, at least for US soldiers, in the world, including Iraq also. In this valley, which is like about 10 km long, probably the majority of the [gun] fighting in all of Afghanistan is happening. It’s a very notorious place. And so, the soldiers who are living in this valley, and the journalist who are going with these soldiers are basically constantly risking their life.
So, ya know, it comes in several ways. Basically this valley is full of insurgents. The Americans think they’re mostly foreign fighters, so it means Afghans but also other jihadis from various other countries; and they fight their own jihad against the Americans right now. They’ve fought their own war against the Russians before, so it’s not a new thing there. But basically they’re very valiant soldiers; it’s really, really hard to fight against them, especially because of the terrain and also because the local population is very protective towards them and hostile to Americans.
2) The lighting, the shadows, the positioning of the subjects…it almost seems a study. Gardi, do you have some tips to find the position and perfect framing? by Pepe Novoa
Not really, I mean the way I work is basically—I used to be a newspaper photographer. That basically means I was working for a newspaper and I was photographing different events for more than seven years and sometimes three or four events per day. They were not always great but I learned from those things; and I’m talking about politics, about sports, what I learned is how to frame an image really quickly, how to solve problems.
And all I can suggest is basically, you know, to practice and practice photography through taking images because then you can learn from your own mistakes.
But, when I’m photographing nowadays, ya know, these positions and compositions are coming instantly, so I don’t think about the compositions. I’m more, ya know, like thinking about why I’m photographing a certain situation and when I decide to photograph a moment I usually don’t think about composing it I just photograph it and the composition comes very naturally.
3) It’s interesting; the images show some complicity between photographer and subject, even going into their very houses, Is it complicated working in the conditions seen in the photos? How do you subjects react? by Juan
I think covering a conflict is always complicated, especially in this area where it’s really clear that the people of the area are supporting the enemy, and really dislike the soldiers I was with. So when you are with armed soldiers usually people have very little to say and they can’t really resist being visited by the soldiers or being photographed by the others. But I always try my best to have the best relationship with the people. The reason I’m there is not only because I want to show the soldiers; the main reason is because I want show how the people on the ground are actually dealing with the war. I’d like to show people what war really means for the people; so I always try to photograph them and it’s never easy, especially in really complicated situations, Like those images were taken after a U.S. rocket attack, people got killed in a village and wounded. It’s really, really hard to photograph there because the situation is so bad but I think that our duty is to report from these places and photograph and basically to show the viewers what’s happening.
4) Was the photo taken with a digital or traditional camera? Do you think digital photography, whether for good o for bad, affects the final result of photos?by Froggy
A traditional camera and I used film for that. I think that the medium of the picture is not really a case. I don’t think that it matters at all. Like, I mean, the world is going toward digital, that’s for sure, and it’s really hard to resist. The reason I’m still photographing with film is, basically, I still like film a little bit better. It doesn’t mean that the quality is better, actually sometimes the quality is less good, but I really like the magic that film has versus digital. But I think the main reason is not really that one; the reason is that with digital it’s really, really hard to keep the images safe, meaning that archiving with digital is very, very fragile. Images are non-existant unlike when you shoot traditionally you have the negative, you have the film; it’s something that physically exist. With digital it’s just data and those images only exits on DVDs and harddrives and they are really fragile. There isn’t a really secure way to archive these images and I think that the most of my images are important also historically so I’d like to keep them, and I’d like to be able to show these images any time in the future and negatives are actually proven already. If you keep them and treat them nicely you can have then. But, during these days, I started to photograph digitally in 1997, that was eleven years ago, and believe me I lost so much data so many images because of technical failures. Then, for me it just makes more sense to work in traditional ways still.
We’ll publish the second part of the interview next week.
Do you share the view with Balazs in the latter question about digital photography?