Today is Human Rights Day, so it seems only appropriate to recognize some of the unsung heroes of photography, the combat photographers who risk their lives to capture what’s happening on the ground, at eye level, in many of the world’s conflict zones.
They are not stars. Many of them are local stringers, hired by North Anmerican and European editors at the big news agencies — editors as often as not cocooned in the comfort and safety of well appointed, air-conditioned offices in skyscrapers in the major media centres of London, New York and Washington, D.C.
Mohammed Badra is one of those unsung heroes. You probably do not know his name, and you may well forget it the moment you stop reading this. For one brief moment, though, Badra has had a flash of flame — this past week he was named Time’s Wire Photographer of the Year.
News, critical and trivial, has become jumbled into one giant digital heap. Competition for attention spans has had the (perhaps intended) side effect of making coverage more emotional.
Wire photographers, often the first journalist on the scene and often the last to depart, are not just witness to the scene but are often subject to the same forces as they happen.
Any empathy they feel is uncalculated, but rather visceral and real. There is no time for reflection, let alone gravitas, until afterwards, when the photographer — and viewer — looks back at what just happened. In the moment, in that frenzied moment when things are actually happening, the wire photographer has no such luxury. For him — and, increasingly, for her — the big picture is the small picture.
Mohammed Badra, Syria.
Time Wire Photographer of the Year for 2016.
European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) official bio:
Mohammed Badra was born in Douma, Syria. He studied architecture at Damascus University but had to abandon his studies in his third year due to the war. After working for other news agencies he joined epa in October, 2015 as staff photographer. Mohammed has also worked with the Syrian Red Crescent as a first-aider, psychological supporter and photographer. His strong desire is that his photography contribute to a better awareness of the ongoing crisis in Syria.