Index World Press Photo
September 2011 | Edition Fifteen     

In each issue of Enter, we put a set of near-identical questions to people who have taken part in a World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass.

  Ghaith Abdulahad

These five-day events, introduced in 1994 to encourage and train young photographers, are normally held every November so that a dozen young practitioners from all over the world can meet and learn from some of the world's top professionals and each other.

The subject for this issue is 36-year-old Ghaith Abdulahad, whose work appears in The Guardian newspaper and is available through Getty Images. Born in Baghdad and now based in Istanbul, Ghaith’s award successes include the British Press Awards in 2008 and the Amnesty international Press Awards, the James Cameron award and the Martha Gelhorn Award, all in 2007. 

Ghaith, how did you get started in photography and what was your biggest break?

As an architect, I was doing a lot of street photography in Baghdad of architecture and the city - streets and dilapidated buildings - when the war happened in 2003. I started shooting first with the aim of documenting changes that the city was going through during war, aerial bombardment and “shock and awe”. My focus was still on architecture but soon I found myself taking pictures of people and I moved from architectural photography into news and documentary.

What qualities does a top photojournalist need?

I wish I knew.

What is your most memorable assignment?

Shooting a mass grave of Iraqis killed by Shia militias during sectarian fighting in Baghdad in 2008.

What essential equipment do you travel with?

One camera, two lenses, and many notebooks.

What is your favorite camera and how do you use it most – do you prefer natural light, for instance, or artificial/mix?

I use the Leica M8 (I get many complaints about it regarding noise and resolution) but it has changed the way I take pictures since I switched to it from Canon. I use natural light - a huge hindrance when shooting at night or in low light, but nothing's perfect.

How, when under pressure, do you try and make sure the image is as good as possible?

Probably by isolating the shooting process in my mind from whatever source of pressure there is outside and trying to be as calm as possible (very easily said!).

Which of the pictures you selected is your personal favorite and why?

The picture of the mass grave, for the image is only telling a small part of the story. The smell of the graves, the haunting silence, the militiamen roaming the areas – they are only registered in my brain (and my text).

What ambitions do you have left?

Do you have left? That implies I have fulfilled some.

Copyright 2011, all rights reserved by the photographers