Thursday, 9 March 2017

South Sudan

Sudan was one of those nations I knew very little about except for the occasional news bulletin or striking image by a colleague covering the brutal conflict that raged between North and South , African and Arab ,  fuelled I assume by oil and generations of racial oppression . In the not too distant past even Hollywood celebrities began speaking out about the gross injustices suffered by non Arabs in Sudan including accusations of genocide in Darfur . Finally in 2011 South Sudan gained independence and personally, probably out of ignorance I assumed that all would now be well .

I've just come back from a visit to South Sudan for the Daily Telegraph with some tremendous help on the ground from UNICEF UK and other UN agencies . In fact without UNICEF the trip may never have happened, working as a journalist in this fledgling nation is incredibly difficult and often dangerous . Navigating the bureaucracy to gain all the correct accreditation and Visas alone needs a phd, a lot of patience and smiles when all you want to do is pull out your hair scream at someone .

I travelled with Tom Rowley a feature writer at the Daily Telegraph who was awarded " Young Journalist of the Year 2016 " by the British Press Awards,  and recently moved over to our Foreign Desk . Tom had a few good ideas for stories for the trip but as always working for a newspaper things always change on the ground .
Our original plan was to travel north of the capital Juba to the town of Bentiu but famine was declared shortly before departure and on arrival it appeared that aid flights were now far busier with guessed it aid, and journalists were understandably long down their list of priorities .

One of our original stories did still work out, we watched as 25 yr old mother Nyabura Nyon was reunited with her children after being torn apart by the conflict three years before . This took place in the POC Three camp inside the enormous UN compound on the outskirts of Juba where over 20,000 civilians currently reside, half of those children .

Friday, 22 April 2016

My First Royal Tour

I embarked on my first Royal Tour with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with great trepidation . Some of the other photographers at the my newspaper are old hands but for me this was a daunting prospect, the only other " tour" I'd done was with Prince William in Malta a couple of years previous which was a rather low key affair after the bulk of the media cancelled when the news broke that Kate wouldn't be joining him .
I've been to India a couple of times already, once to shoot a feature on the Ganges from it's start in the foothills of the Himalaya's to it's finish in the Bay of Bengal and also a street food feature in Mumbai and Delhi . What had me nervous wasn't the location but the scale of the event, the logistics and having to work with a Royal  press pack who are a tight knit team and work and with the Palace press office on a daily basis unlike me . Considering that this Royal Tour also took in the mountain kingdom of Bhutan this really was an assignment I could swerve, this was likely my once in a lifetime chance to visit the fiercely traditional Himalayan nation .

The tour saw multiple daily engagements crammed into seven days in five different cities in two different countries . We arrived a day early to get ourselves organised including picking up local 4g sim cards to facilitate sending images back to London which the local High Commission kindly organised with the help of Vodafone . On day one we took in the Slums of Mumbai followed by the glitz of a Bollywood style red carpet event, I then stayed on the following morning to cover an engagement as the Pool photographer whilst the others bundled themselves off to Delhi several hours ahead . 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A night in Vienna

Recently I was lucky enough to be sent to Austria by the Daily Telegraph on an assignment to shoot a feature on the Vienna Opera Ball , an annual Austrian society where tickets can cost from €270 to more than €20,000 euros .

After a ballet performance nearly 200 debutantes and their partners dance the opening waltz in front of the Viennese elite and a smattering of A list celebrities, after this the dance floor opens up to a predominantly middle aged crowd who dance into the early hours to renditions of everything from Mozart to Barry Manilow . 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black Eagle - shooting multimedia in Poland

As if often the case in the era of multimedia news gathering I was recently despatched to Poland on a whirlwind visit to shoot stills and video . A British armoured Battlegroup have been taking part in war games with the Polish military entitle “ Black Eagle” for several weeks and the press had been invited along to coincide with a visit by the CGS General Nick Carter .

We had to be at the army base in Poland bright and early on Friday morning so our only choice was to fly late Thursday night to Berlin and then drive for the border, luckily only a 2 ½ hr drive . Our hotel for the night was literally a truck stop Motel, with a bit of a Swiss chalet style thing going on, but being a 10 minute drive from our rendezvous point the following morning it was bearable .

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Games

Glasgow, I heard plenty over the years and Scots would often reply if I mentioned that I'd visited Edinburgh once in my twenties that Glasgow is a real Scottish city . With the backdrop of the Referendum for Scots independence I travelled up to Scotland's second city on a particularly noisy Virgin train (was on the way back too and I complained), it's tannoy refusing to keep quiet for more than 5 minutes at a time .

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Helmand - The End ?

In March I visited Camp Bastion on a media visit for the handover from British to NATO control signalling the beginning of the end for the British military deployment in Afghanistan . I've been visiting Afghanistan since late 2001 when I lived with the mujahideen fighting the Taliban in the West's proxy war post 911 . As the British are due to pull all combat troops out of the country by the end of 2014 any opportunity to witness the final days of the mission had to be taken regardless of the fact that such trips usually equate to poor picture taking opportunities, especially after my experience on a press junket to Basra for the handover in 2009 .

Friday, 21 March 2014

Crisis in Crimea

Earlier this month I travelled to Donestk in eastern Ukraine which was in the process of political upheaval after Putin's recent annexation of Crimea after the Kremlin friendly Ukrainian President was ousted after months of protests in Kiev . The situation was still relatively stable in Donetsk, a city which had seen the worst of the Reich's brutal excesses in WWII, with two thirds of it's population wiped out under German occupation . The elderly Russian speakers who remembered the days of security as members of the old USSR and the young unemployed found comradeship in Lenin Square unified in their aim to once again be joined with Russia under a President who seems hell bent on recreating the greatness of an eastern Empire that probably never really existed in the first place during Communist or Tsarist times by bullying former satellite states into rekindling old alliances .