December 22, 2017

Video: Finbarr O’Reilly on journalism in combat zones

Watch this #Story17 keynote in which award-winning photojournalist Finbarr O’Reilly spoke about his experience in conflict zones and the impact war photography had on his life and mental health.

Here are some of the takeaways from Finbarr’s speech:

  • As a form of storytelling, I realized that images would have an impact in a way that my news dispatches couldn’t.
  • The challenge for me was not to fall in the clichés that we often see about Africa. My challenge was to capture and show the strength of character and the resilience of people living in these circumstances. I wanted to capture that spirit that left me feeling pretty humble and share a more nuanced and balanced view, to show that in the shadow of these conflicts, life goes on.
  • Eventually I began to question the work that I was doing. I started to feel my photographs weren’t benefiting the ones who were in my images.
  • The Gaza War was the most violent war I had ever seen. Photographing the victims, the morgue, the despair, I felt I became part of the media circus surrounding the war. This was a tipping point for me, I felt I couldn’t do this anymore.
  • I warn against comparing experiences, because it’s not helpful. Everyone’s experience is valid to themselves.
  • Shooting Ghosts, the book I wrote together with Sgt Thomas J. Brennan, is about friendship, how we leaned on each other and helped each other through these difficult and challenging times. It was all about re-engaging first with each other, and then with the world around us. Because trauma turns us inward.