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Manipulation of information?

Interview with Balazs Gardi winner of the World Press Photo (II)

Here is the second part of the interview with the photographer Balazs Gardi winner in the news category of The World Press Photo 2008. He 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’ll continue to publish the interview in different posts.

The first part at: Interview with Balazs Gardi winner of the World Press Photo (I)

Here you have the second part and if you want to read the Spanish translation click here.

13) What are you going to do with the money that you have earned with the award? by currele

Basically, the way I work actually is that, just because of the style I’m photographing and the way I’m working, usually I don’t take assignments; so, ya know, none of those images that you see actually being photographed was commissioned. So I went back to Afghanistan like four or five times last year and spent like half of the year in Afghanistan, but none of those works were actually paid. So, the way I’m working is

that I try to make money [some other way]. I photograph corporate jobs, which have nothing to do with documentaries, like in my photography. With the money I earn with my job actually I invest my money on these trips, so I can photograph something that is socially more important than the images I made the money on. So basically, the money I made on the images, regarding the awards, actually is going back into my pocket and this is the money that is financing my next trip. For example, next week (the 1st week of June) I’m trying to go to China and photograph the impact of the earthquake, but since no one is paying for that trip, I really hope that the check that I received from World Press for the Afghan work can over the cost of two or three weeks of work in China.

BALAZS GARDI

14) The winning photo was taken in Afghanistan, How did you get there? On your own? Through the army? I suppose you have and educated opinion about the situation that the people are living there. What differences are there with respect to what we see on TV? by Alicia

Well, I was going toAfghanistan on my own and to get into these regions where the US Army is fighting, you have to have permission from the US Army and you have to be embedded with the Army. That means, basically, you stay with the soldiers, you go with the soldiers; they take you anywhere and let you photograph what you want to photograph. That’s the situation I was photographing in. And the other part of the question, yes, I think it’s very different what you see on TV and the reality is most often very different. It has various reasons and the most [important reason] is that the press is a tool in the hands of politicians; the press is a tool in the hands of terrorists; the press is a tool of governments and the armies. So, basically, information is a very valuable thing and all these people want to control information because then they can control the people. So, by saying that I mean images and also words can be used for propaganda purposes and in a war there are plenty of interests from both sides. What is important for me and the reason I’m going there is because I don’t trust what I get from TV or radio I want to experience what it is and I want to see firsthand.

I’d like to tell in my images what I saw and my part of the truth. As I said, the mass media has very limited access to military operations and they have very limited access to countries such as Afghanistan, it’s mostly because the security situation is really bad so you can’t visit most of the places in the country on your own or independently.

BALAZS GARDI

And as soon as you’re not going somewhere independently you are already on one side and you start to photograph or write about one side if you are not careful. Most journalists, unfortunately, are not so careful and they take for granted what they were told, for example in the Army and the spokesman for the Taliban or the spokesman of the Karzai government, they all have their own versions of truth to tell you and I think that journalists and photographers have a very big responsibility to translate that and make sure that it’s a balanced and honest report. Most of the time, unfortunately; journalist are not always doing their best to translate this information in a factually correct way. So, sometimes, unfortunately, the reports from Afghanistan aren’t true. The fact in Afghanistan now is that half of the country is in serious war. You know, the east and the south are controlled by the Taliban. What the message is from the TV and NATO and from the existing Karzai government is that they are in charge of the whole country and they are in control and they try to minimize the power of the Taliban. But, in fact, if you just see the figures, the Taliban are really powerful, they control haf of the country and because of the mismanagement of partly NATO and partly the international community things are not going good in Afghanistan; things are actually going really bad in Afghanistan. What I expect is the situation is going to be worse everyday. I don’t see [a clear] solution for the country, that’s mostly because whoever I talk to from the government or from the military or from the civilian side, none of them have the solution.

They are working on something without foreseeing the future. And if you don’t know what you’d like to get if, you don’t know how you reach that, it’s really hard to finally get what you want.

BALAZS GARDI

15) A job like that must be full of life and anecdotes. Would you like to share with us one that you remember? by Alicia

I don’t know, I mean, just regarding Afghanistan, it’s such a fantastic country and it’s full of fantastic people. So the reason I keep going back to Afghanistan is because I feel so alive over there just because of the kindness of the people and basically I have endless stories, I don’t think I could share just one particular story.

What I really appreciate in my job is that everyday when I photograph people I meet with them and I hear a fantastic story everyday. I meet people and start knowing their lives and listening to their stories. And stories and meeting those people can actually give me the opportunity to understand them much better than if I were to understand them from television news and so that makes me think that if I photograph them knowing their stories, it’s going to give me a special perspective so some people looking at my images will understand [my subject’s] culture a little bit more.

Are you suprised by Balazs’ opinion on the manipulation carried out by the media, US Army, Taliban, and Karzai’s government about the situation in Afghanistan?

F. Perea




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