Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The commitment

Photojournalist John D McHugh grimaces in pain as a medic examines and dresses his gunshot wound at Kamu Outpost in Nuristan, in north-east Afghanistan, 14 May 2007. The photographer was shot through the stomach during a firefight between the US and Afghan National Army (ANA), who he was embedded with, and insurgents. 17 ANA died, one is still recorded as "missing in action", and 4 more were wounded. 7 US soldiers were also wounded in the fight. Photo: John D McHugh

I've talked a bit about war photography here before and when it comes to photojournalism it is seen as the ultimate assignment, mainly because you put your own life at risk simply to report on a story, so I always find it both alluring but also completely frightening - why work in a situation that can kill you at any moment? The money is more or less the same, the risks are extreme and you dont see your loved ones for long periods.

Irish photographer John D McHugh was on assignment in Afghanistan for AFP last year when he had his stomach blown out in a scary firefight with insurgents. I think that for most people, just surviving would have been enough to stay away from those kind of missions in the future.

Not so for our John. After surgery and rehabilitation he resigned from his agency and went back to Afghanistan as a freelancer - i.e. without any employer backing him - as soon as he could. Of the few war correspondents that I've met, they all seem to have this streak in them, to get back up in the saddle ASAP.

His commitment has finally brought him an employer willing to pay for his great desire to report from this extremely dangerous situation; check out his new regular page on The Guardian's website here, but most of all, read his extraordinary account of the day he got shot here. Makes you think twice before romanticizing war photography.

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