It is no secret that being a photojournalist in a war zone is about as dangerous an occupation as there is. These photographers risk life and limb and often receive little to no recognition for the risks they take to get a story. Whether the battle zone are the cities in Syria, the streets of Baghdad, the caves of Afghanistan or the jungles of the Congo, these people literally put their lives on the line.
The first and most important rule that any would be boxer learns is to “protect yourself at all times”. That basic rule of self preservation was also immortalized in the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981-1987) by Sgt. Phil Esterhaus who in each episode would instruct the police officers under his command, “Hey, let’s be careful out there!”. Combat photographers need and know Esterhaus’ rule all too well.
While we think of these global hot spots, we often tend to ignore the risks photographers run while working in the relative safety of the United States or in many safe non-war zone countries. Photographers are frequently threatened with or suffer bodily harm from various types of people who “don’t want their picture taken”. While instances about abusive bodyguards or out of control celebrities are fodder for the tabloids, photojournalists working on crime stories or just in bad neighborhoods are incredibly exposed to physical attack and the theft of their equipment. Cameras, broadcast quality video cameras, iPhones, tablets and the like are easily re-sold for real money. New York City just added a police task force to deal with an alarming spike in iPhone robberies. Digital cameras and video cameras are a lot pricier than iPhones. And thieves are noticing the digital revolution and the value of its tools. The issue of photographers as victims of crime in America was recently (and thankfully) highlighted by a NY Times article. Gaining notice, PetaPixel.com and the Huffington Post have also both picked up on the Times article. The Times article is about incidents in Oakland, CA. But we know they are happening in many communities, here and abroad.
The apparent epidemic of camera robberies, more than a few at gun point, must serve as yet another reminder to all of you who use a camera to be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself at all times. Jack once found himself being followed by two men in Lisbon while he had two expensive Canon cameras on him. He stopped, they stopped. He walked, they walked. He stayed on the main, busy street, not wandering to the side streets (where there were better photos most likely). He finally stopped, turned to them 20 feet away and took their photos. They didn’t look happy. But that seemed to stop the charade and the threat. But ya never know. Please stay safe and “be careful out there!”
Ed & Jack