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The challenges of being a war photographer – Adam Dean in The Guardian

Adam Dean was one of 17 well-known photographers interviewed in The Guardian’s 18 June 2011 feature on war photography.

Adam spoke about his experience working in the immediate aftermath of the December 2007 bomb that assassinated Benazir Bhutto:

I was very much a novice when I took this. I’d just finished a master’s in photojournalism and thought I’d go to Pakistan to cover the elections. An attempt had been made on Bhutto’s life two months earlier, so there was already a certain degree of risk.

I was about 15 metres away, photographing Bhutto, when there was a burst of gunfire followed by an explosion. I had a split-second decision to risk a secondary blast (as had happened in October) or start running with the crowd. I was panicking, trying to fight the urge to leave. I’d never seen a dead body before. It was almost like a test, to see if I had what I needed for this job.

As I approached the aftermath of the bomb, I struggled to compose myself. I was terrified and sickened, but kept telling myself just to concentrate and get it done so I could leave. I knew I had to frame the pictures so they weren’t too graphic. The epicentre of the explosion was a pile of maybe a dozen limbless, charred, mangled bodies in pools of blood. This was one of the times I was most in danger, but there have been times in Afghanistan where I have felt more scared. This was over in seconds, but a firefight can go on for hours. The real worry is IEDs, though – when you go on patrol, every step could be your last. I’m 33 and I’m not sure I’d want to put myself in such risky situations when I’m older and perhaps have other people to consider.

Adam’s work in Afghanistan continues to be recognised with prestigious international awards. In addition to others announced here, he has won 1st place (International News Picture Story) in the 2011 US National Press Photographers Association ‘Best of Photojournalism’ awards, a Px3 Gold award for his Medevac story, and a Px3 Silver and Bronze award for this “Longest War” project.

Photo: Adam Dean – A man weeps over the site where a bomb exploded, killing former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Time, 27 December 2007.

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