Friday, 20 February 2009

Eight hours of shooting in Basra.

A year ago you might assume that headline referred to another round of sectarian violence in the southern provinces. But it is actually the amount of time that leading British photojournalist, Abbie Trayler-Smith was allotted to make a photo-story for Time Magazine about the resurgence of Iraq's second city.

Now it would be easy to bleat on about how this is a "sign of the declining importance given to photography" but actually...... no, not on this occasion.

When time is tight and you are at the whim of deadlines and large organisations, you simply have to do your best and work hard. Which is exactly what she did. 

Although her assignment was organised by Time Magazine, she and writer Catherine Mayer were going there with representatives of the UK Government who were visiting as part of the planned withdrawal of British forces. As guests, they were not free to make their own schedule so between meetings and travel they had the equivalent of a working day to piece together as many aspects as they could while keeping it all relevant.

It is a testament to their skills that both the photos and the article give an impression of having spent much longer. We all like to do thorough and considered work but the ability to produce pictures in a narrow time-frame that bring a subject to life is a rare skill.

At this point I should point out that Abbie and I have been close friends since we worked together for the Telegraph in Baghdad following the fall of Saddam. She is one of a group of photographers in the UK who have constantly inspired me so if I sound a little partisan please excuse me and judge for yourself at the above link.

Abbie Trayler-Smith has a major new exhibition opening in London next month and her new web-site goes live at around the same time. So there will be more about her work in the coming weeks.

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