Tag Archives: Africa

After the Revolution: Libya Photographed by Yuri Kozyrev

The last time TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I were in Libya together, we were covering the fall of Tripoli to Libyan rebel forces, near the end of an eight-month civil war. We had covered the revolution since February 2011, moving along desert frontlines, into war-ravaged homes, and finally, up to the gates of Muammar Gaddafi’s abandoned villas in Tripoli. Our coverage last Fall took us from intelligence headquarters to the scenes of massacres and on to new front lines. It was chaos—full of discovery and excitement for the rebels and newly liberated civilians—but chaos, nonetheless. No one knew when Gaddafi would be found, or what the future would bring when they found him.

And it wasn’t until four months after Gaddafi was captured and killed—four months after the official end of the war—that we returned to Libya. This time, we didn’t sneak across any borders, nor did we duck from any bullets. We flew into a calm and functioning Benghazi airport, surrounded by flower bushes.

Libya is not as we left it. Driving across the country, we visited old friends and new acquaintances. We discovered that the Esbaks, a family of revolutionaries who I met last February in the Green Mountains of Libya’s east, had lost their youngest son since I last saw them—killed by a mortar shell on the eastern frontline. We discovered they had a new set of politics as well: after decades of dictatorship, they were already fed up with the transitional government and they wanted to see Libya divided into states.

In every town we stopped in, we met rebels we used to know—men who could now be called militia members. They had retained their weapons and their autonomy. The people who defeated the old system may be the biggest threat to stability in the new one. In Misrata, a militia leader named Mohamed Shami took us to the city’s largest prison. There, the men who used to be winners are now the captives. Their overlords are the rebels they once fought and repressed. One of the prisoners we met is Sayyed Muammar Gaddafi Dam, the late dictator’s cousin. We watched as Shami, the militia commander, posed for a picture with the frightened Gaddafi at his side.

There is no justice in the new Libya—but the former rebels are quick to note: there wasn’t much justice in the old Libya either. The prisoners are awaiting trials. Some have been waiting a year. But in the mean time, the conditions aren’t so bad, the militias say—at least torture isn’t as rampant as it was under Gaddafi.

At times our journey was certainly eerie. We stopped in all the places where we had been shot at covering the war. Human remains are still submerged in the sand at one of the first rebel camps that Gaddafi bombed from the air, outside the oil refinery at Ras Lanuf. We stood in the place where our journalist friends and colleagues had been killed in Misrata; and we interviewed former loyalists on the road in Sirte where a rocket-propelled grenade had missed my car and struck someone else. Our jaws dropped when we walked through Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziyah compound in Tripoli. It had been smashed and burned to oblivion, as if the entire country had vented 42 years of rage on a single spot. Perhaps noticing our shock, a 12-year-old boy leaned out of a car window and asked me: “Did you ever expect to see this?” His introduction led us to a conversation with his family, and Yuri photographed the boy and his brother, as they explored what was once the dictator’s, now theirs.

We got the feeling, as we moved from town to town, that the country was in the midst of a great, collective exhale: that Libyan journalists and politicians were just starting to find their footing on new and unfamiliar turf; that families were lifting their heads from beneath the rubble to take a look around; that, despite all the guns in the hands of lawless militias, people were at least shooting at each other less often.

We drove across the country humming along to Libyan revolutionary hip-hop, and stopping to talk with picnicking families, religious leaders, refugees, village sheikhs, and oil workers. Some people wanted revenge; others had already taken it. A lot of people were angry that the money wasn’t flowing fast enough and that they were compelled to rebuild their war-ravaged homes and businesses with money from their own pockets.

But we didn’t find the same despair that had filled the eyes of the young men we encountered in blood-spattered field hospitals just months before. Museums have been erected to commemorate the battles fought and the martyrs lost. Schools are back in session—even the shell-shocked ones. Hundreds of former rebels are training to join the new national army. Old friends are now talking about tourism and business. We heard women discussing women’s rights and lecturing men on politics—a newfound agency that they’ve capitalized on since the revolution. Where the weak transitional government is failing, ordinary citizens are helping one another rebuild. Young people are getting creative. And the most marvelous thing we found as we traveled was optimism; optimism of the wild, determined sort. Libya is set to hold its first democratic election in June. No one knows how many bumps lie in the road up ahead. But despite all those challenges, and the years of heartbreak behind them, the Libyans we met on our road trip seemed hopeful.

Read more in this week’s issue of TIME: Hope Among the Ruins

Abigail Hauslohner is TIME’s Cairo correspondent.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

David Guttenfelder: A New Look at North Korea

Since the 1948 creation of separate governments for North and South Korea after World War II, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North has remained behind an iron curtain, an isolated and secluded state. Our image of the country has been pieced together from pictures taken across the border at the DMZ, photographs provided by government news agencies or unauthorized surreptitious photographs taken by western photographers inside the country—until now.

In January, the Associated Press opened a bureau in Pyongyang for full news coverage within North Korea. AP’s Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder—who first traveled to North Korea as a pool photographer in January 2000 to cover the visit of Madeline Albright—has made a dozen trips to the country over the past 18 months as part of the negotiating team and on reporting trips with Jean H. Lee, AP bureau chief for the Koreas, taking photos each time. Guttenfelder’s approach to showing North Korea to the world has been shaped by his long and prestigious career with the AP.

Guttenfelder has just received two honors from the Overseas Press Club, which announced their annual awards this morning. The Olivier Rebbot Award for best photographic reporting from abroad, in magazines or books, and the Feature Photography Award for best feature photography, published in any medium on an international theme, recognize his recent work from last year’s Tsunami aftermath in Japan and his work inside North Korea.

In 1994, Guttenfelder traveled to the former Zaire to cover the Rwandan refugee crisis as a freelance photographer. “I thought if I ever wanted to do something more serious, this was it,” he says. Guttenfelder stayed in Africa for five years, stringing for the AP, among other outlets, and eventually became an AP staff photographer. He hasn’t lived in the States since. In the ensuing years, he has worked all over the world, from Kosovo to Israel and Iraq to Afghanistan. In 1999 he became AP’s Chief Asia photographer and moved to Japan.

Guttenfelder says when he first worked in Asia he wondered if he had made the right decision. “In the beginning it was really hard, I’d only ever covered conflict and had not done anything else,” he says. One of his first assignments was covering family reunions between North and South Koreans in Seoul. “I wasn’t used to taking photographs in an organized event surrounded by other photographers in such a modern context,” he says. “Now I look back and it was really important work. I only really spoke one language at that point—fighting, refugees and hard news—so it was an important transition for me.”

Fittingly then, when Guttenfelder was in Iraq during the U.S. invasion, he focused on trying to cover the Iraqi side of the war rather than embedding with U.S. troops. “I always thought of myself as the guy on the other side of things,” he says. Then, a year later, when Baghdad fell, Guttenfelder found himself confined to the Palestine Hotel and his role and means of covering the conflict changed again.

“We needed local photographers to cover the streets, someone who could bring back regular pictures of normal people’s lives,” he says. He solicited photographers, but found that they needed extensive training. Although the people Guttenfelder worked with barely knew the fundamentals of photography and worked with primitive equipment—including a camera that used floppy disks—they produced important work. Several of the regional photographers that Guttenfelder and his AP colleagues trained, Khalid Mohammed, Samir Mizban and Karim Kadim, became Pulitzer-Prize winning photographers when AP received the award for breaking news photography in 2005.

Iraq was not the only place Guttenfelder worked training and developing regional photographers; he also did so in Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. His work in Afghanistan, which he considers the most important of his career, included the recruitment of Farzana Wahidy, the first Afghan woman to work as a news photographer after the fall of the Taliban. Between 2001 to 2010 Guttenfelder made at least 20 trips to Afghanistan, staying for as long as six months to a year at a time. Early on he covered the first election, and projects on the Afghan civilian side of things. But from 2007-2010 Guttenfelder focused on embeds and did multiple military trips including a stint in the Korengal Valley and was part of all of the major U.S. Marine operations into Helmand.

Guttenfelder eventually moved back to Japan in 2006, and he still lives there today. His first news photography in Japan came in March 2011, in the aftermath of the tsunami. Although his work there is highly regarded, he says he feels that his photographs could not capture the magnitude of what he saw.

Still, his experience with being dropped into a new place and quickly capturing the sense of its culture proved invaluable. “There is a known language to disaster pictures; you see the same things, people reaching through chaos, people reaching for food, a lot of emotion. Photographers were trying to find those pictures that existed in other places. It’s just not like that here. That’s just not how it is in Japan,” he says, noting that the emotionally moving picture embedded here, of a woman, on her knees, caressing and singing to her mother’s body, would seem subtle in another place but is a very “loud” picture for Japan.

David Guttenfelder—AP

March 19, 2011. Tayo Kitamura, 40, kneels in the street to caress and talk to the wrapped body of her mother Kuniko Kitamura, 69, after Japanese firemen discovered the dead woman inside the ruins of her home in Onagawa, Japan.

Although he continues to be based in Japan, Guttenfelder has spent much of the past year in North Korea in preparation for the new AP bureau, which opened in January. Guttenfelder has been part of the negotiating team at meetings that have taken place in Pyongyang and New York over the last eighteen months. “At the first meeting, we left with an agreement that we would hold a photo exhibition and workshop and work towards an AP office in the country,” he says. The joint exhibition, Window on North Korea, on view earlier this month at the 8th Floor Gallery in New York, featured images from both AP and the KCNA archives and a workshop held in North Korea offered an opportunity for KCNA photographers get technical training, for the AP to recruit staff and for the two parties get to know one another.

“We are starting from zero in a system that is so different from anything we’ve done before,” he says. The photo exhibition and workshop were an overture to build trust and collaborate on something, and Guttenfelder has already begun working with a regional photographer, Kim Kwang Hyon. But the most interesting result of the collaboration is the opportunity it has afforded for Guttenfelder to photograph inside North Korea.

Although he is accompanied by a guide wherever he goes and has to request in advance where he wants to go, the daily life photographs that he has taken—often one-off shots made on the way to or from an event—provide a stark contrast to the highly orchestrated government news-agency photos that are more commonly seen out of North Korea.

Despite the normalcy portrayed in these photographs, Guttenfelder says they are actually the most important images because they paint a picture of a place that has been hitherto a mystery. And that can open the window for understanding in both directions. “At the beginning I would take a picture in the street of people standing waiting for the bus. I could tell they didn’t really understand and thought it looked bad, looked poor,” he says. “I would spend a lot of time explaining that people wait for the bus and commute to work everywhere in the world and that someone beyond North Korea could make a connection—that picture breaks down barriers.”

Recently, a select group of photojournalists from western agencies have been allowed into North Korea to cover the celebrations of the birth of the country’s Eternal President Kim II-sung and a missile launch. How long they will be able to stay is in question, but Guttenfelder and AP are committed for the long term. “It’s a really good time to have an office here and to see how things evolve,” he says. “I feel a huge responsibility because this is the first time the country has allowed this much access to one of us.”

David Guttenfelder is AP’s Chief Asia Photographer he is currently based in Japan to see more of his work click here.

To see more of AP’s coverage of North Korea click here.

Tracing the Consequences of War In Divided Sudan

In just over a week, the volatile components behind Sudan’s division into two nations — oil, religion, ethnic rivalry, guerrilla militias, disputed borders — have burst into war. TIME photographer Dominic Nahr has been on assignment in South Sudan’s ironically named Unity State, whose northern edge includes disputed boundaries with its enemy Sudan — one of which is marked only by a white cargo container. In the last nine days, South Sudan forces have pushed north into Sudanese territory, taking the disputed town of Heglig, only to pull back under fire and see enemy soldiers press south instead. Nahr filed this dispatch on Sunday.

Unity State is one of the most frustrating places I have worked. Nothing comes easy. You have to struggle, then struggle some more to get things moving. It took me days to find a truck to hire in the state capital Bentiu in order to get to the conflict areas only to have to it taken away by a local official who allegedly wanted it to tow a bus back from the front lines. A couple of days later a dreadlocked rebel soldier from Darfur–which lies far across the border in Sudan–became angry that I and a companion had taken his photo and chased us down in his Mad Max car, jumping out and cocking his gun with such fury I thought it was going to fly right out of his hands. He then sped off with two cameras.

No one seems to know what’s going on and when I try to reach the front lines I mostly get stalled or put-off by soldiers, commanders and officials. In the end I hitched a ride with southern soldiers to Heglig, a disputed town that South Sudan occupied for a few days. They were less concerned with the fighting than they were with filling the pick-up truck with looted beds, mattresses, laptops and printers from the town. On another drive the hood of our truck, which was held on with rope, flipped up and smashed the windscreen as we flew down a rutted dirt road.

In Heglig, days before it was retaken by the northern army, I wandered over to the nearby oil installations hoping to capture photos of the destruction. There were bodies of dead northern soldiers all over the place. As I got closer to the pipeline I saw a corpse lying in a thick slick of oil, glistening in the sun. The soldier’s head was resting on his arms and I couldn’t see any injuries: it looked like he was sleeping. It really hit me, this moment of calm amidst the chaos, and I knew this was the photograph that captured both the causes and the consequences of the fighting over Heglig.

But it hasn’t all been difficulty and horror.

My current desktop picture is a group photo, including TIME Africa bureau chief Alex Perry and some of my other colleagues, over the border in the Nuba Mountains, where rebel forces are being assaulted by Sudan government based in the north’s capital, Khartoum. We are dirty but happy, leaning on the 4×4 that took us around for a week. It’s still smeared with some of the mud that they use to camouflage vehicles against bombing raids by northern Antonovs.

The reason I was so happy is because the Nubans are as inviting as their mountains that spring from the ground giving refuge and protection. The feeling of a struggle shared by Nuban civilians and rebels alike is innocent and pure. With almost no outside support they have learned to rely on themselves.

The struggle is both genuine and urgent and this is part of the reason I will return and will continue working there. People are starving because the fear of aerial bombardment means they have not planted any food in months. They have already missed two harvests and the bombing is still going on.

I can’t say how this will end. The rainy season will be upon us within weeks washing away the mud roads and blocking off all land access, in and out. A 15-minute downpour a few days ago was enough to turn the dirt roads slick leaving snakelike tracks where cars had slid around.

The only thing I am sure about is that this is not over; it hasn’t been for decades.

Dominic Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, is represented by Magnum.

The New Islamists: Photographs by Yuri Kozyrev

Last month TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I went to Rabat and Casablanca to report on a story about the rise of Political Islam in the countries of the Arab Spring. As with Tunisia and Egypt, free elections in Morocco have brought to power an Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (PJD). But these, as we discovered, are not your father’s Islamists. They defy the Western stereotype of bushy-bearded, wild-eyed religious fanatics: Morocco’s Islamists are not seeking to take their country back to some ancient golden age, they are trying to figure how to bring it to the 21st century without losing its religious moorings. In this, they are similar to Islamists now heading governments in Tunis and Cairo. The pursuit and attainment of political power have forced these parties to abandon radical ideas and distance themselves from their lunatic fringes. Instead, they are moving to the political center.

Morocco has drawn tourists for centuries, and to most visitors cities like Rabat and Casablanca are a pleasant combination of the modern and the ancient. In this set of images, Yuri captures both aspects of the country.

Read more: The Converted: Has Power Tamed Islamists in the Arab Spring States?

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was just named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

Photographer #445: Michael von Graffenried

Michael von Graffenried, 1957, Switzerland, started his career as a photojournalist in 1978. Today he lives in Paris and works on long term projects often dealing with themes of ethnology. He uses a panoramic analog camera using 35mm film yet creating impressive large-scale photographs. For Michael content comes before technology and his choice for the panoramic format came somewhat by accident. He was in Algeria during the 1990’s when tension was high documenting the daily life during and after the civil war. The panoramic camera proved usefull as one can keep it on the chest while taking images. People can see the camera yet do not know that an image has been taken. Once Michael saw the results he realised the aesthetic part of this format and decided to use it. His socially engaged stories and narrative images are strong, daring and sometimes provocative. He has been in numerous exhibitions and released an enormous amount of monographs between 1980 and today. The following images come from the series Eye on Africa, Cocainelove and War without Images.

Website: www.mvgphoto.com

On the Ground: Safe from #Kony?

In the years we’ve worked in Africa, TIME contract photographer Dominic Nahr and I have been to some pretty out-of-the-way places: Sudan, Somalia, the Ethiopian mountains, Congo. But I doubt we’ll ever again go somewhere as off the map as Obo in southeastern Central African Republic. To reach Obo, you fly to CAR’s capital Bangui, then for four more hours east over unbroken jungle, with almost no sign of life below. Once in Obo you find a town with no power, one road, one church, one hospital with one doctor, several thousand refugees, who have fled from as far away as the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)—and one U.S. Special Operations base built out of palm thatch and grass.

Access to the Special Forces: nil, as expected. Access to the Ugandan army, who the Special Ops are assisting in their hunt for the LRA: nil, which was disappointing. But with close to 100 of its people abducted by the LRA and forced to become fighters, only to escape and return home years later, Obo turned out to be a treasure trove of information on one of the most mysterious and notorious rebel groups in the world.

It was also a revelation on another count. Hundreds of miles from anywhere, with nothing to eat but what they grew or caught, Obo was one of the most welcoming, most charming and—now that they had U.S. base on the edge of town to discourage attackers—the most peaceful places we’ve ever visited, proof, if ever it was needed, that a rich life can be measured in many more ways than mere money. In the evenings, Dominic would complain that he’d come to shoot a war and had ended up shooting a bucolic paradise. I think his beautiful pictures capture the place perfectly.

Read More: “The Warlord Vs. The Hipsters”

Alex Perry is TIME’s Africa bureau chief. 

Dominic Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, photographed the Arab Spring in Egypt. Nahr is represented by Magnum.

The African Spring: Senegal by Dominic Nahr

They’re using a new type of tear gas in Senegal. It chokes you, blinds you, but it also burns and stings, like it’s been mixed with pepper spray. It’s a sensation with which more and more Senegalese are becoming familiar as presidential elections were held this past weekend. Among them is Africa’s most famous living musician, Youssou N’Dour, who tried to run for the presidency, was barred from doing so by the regime of President Abdoulaye Wade and is now helping lead a protest movement aimed at unseating Wade and restoring democracy in Senegal. The stakes are high, for two reasons. Senegal has a long and proud democratic tradition and is something of a weathervane for West Africa. And the opposition movement is hoping to unite the spark of reform and political

Dominic Nahr—Magnum for TIME

consciousness not just in Senegal, but across Africa, to finally bring to close the unhappy era of the continent’s Big Men.

Will they succeed? Almost everyone thinks Wade will win the election, not least, Western diplomats and opposition campaigners say, because the fix is in: they claimed to have evidence of hundreds of thousands of voting cards that have not been distributed to opposition supporters and the names of hundreds of thousands of fictitious voters appearing on the electoral role. But N’Dour and other opposition leaders claim they are in the fight for the long haul. “This is about patriotic civil duty,” N’Dour tells TIME. “More than that, what we are doing here is a model for a new Africa, one where power is returned to the people. I respect music, I do, I love it. But for the time being, my music is on hold. Senegal and its future are far more important. They’re my priority.”

Read more: “Youssou N’Dour’s Protest Song”

Alex Perry is TIME’s Africa bureau chief. 

Dominic Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, photographed the Arab Spring in Egypt. Nahr is represented by Magnum.

The African Spring: Senegal by Dominic Nahr

They’re using a new type of tear gas in Senegal. It chokes you, blinds you, but it also burns and stings, like it’s been mixed with pepper spray. It’s a sensation with which more and more Senegalese are becoming familiar as presidential elections were held this past weekend. Among them is Africa’s most famous living musician, Youssou N’Dour, who tried to run for the presidency, was barred from doing so by the regime of President Abdoulaye Wade and is now helping lead a protest movement aimed at unseating Wade and restoring democracy in Senegal. The stakes are high, for two reasons. Senegal has a long and proud democratic tradition and is something of a weathervane for West Africa. And the opposition movement is hoping to unite the spark of reform and political

Dominic Nahr—Magnum for TIME

consciousness not just in Senegal, but across Africa, to finally bring to close the unhappy era of the continent’s Big Men.

Will they succeed? Almost everyone thinks Wade will win the election, not least, Western diplomats and opposition campaigners say, because the fix is in: they claimed to have evidence of hundreds of thousands of voting cards that have not been distributed to opposition supporters and the names of hundreds of thousands of fictitious voters appearing on the electoral role. But N’Dour and other opposition leaders claim they are in the fight for the long haul. “This is about patriotic civil duty,” N’Dour tells TIME. “More than that, what we are doing here is a model for a new Africa, one where power is returned to the people. I respect music, I do, I love it. But for the time being, my music is on hold. Senegal and its future are far more important. They’re my priority.”

Read more: “Youssou N’Dour’s Protest Song”

Alex Perry is TIME’s Africa bureau chief. 

Dominic Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, photographed the Arab Spring in Egypt. Nahr is represented by Magnum.