PHOTOGRAPHY – looking at Libya and why combat photographers risk it all

Joao Silva is recuperating at Walter Reed hospital after a land mine exploded under him in Afghanistan while he was taking photographs for The Times.

In light of the recent tragedies in Libya involving combat photographers Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller met with Times photojournalists Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva about their motivation for working under extremely dangerous conditions. Marinovich and Silva are co-authors of The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War, a book documenting their experiences of apartheid in South Africa. Keller and Marinovich met Silva in the hospital where he’s recovering from extensive bodily damage sustained during his most recent trip to Libya. He’s undergoing rehab after a series of invasive surgeries as well as physical therapy for prosthetic limbs. Still, after all the trauma he has suffered, including the loss of friends and fellow photographers, Silva insists he’d rather be back in Libya. “I wish I was in Libya right now,” he told Keller. “Yeah, without a doubt.”

The obvious response, of course, is why? Why risk your life for a photograph? Silva’s response is simple and prompt. “To be on the edge of history,” he says. “For those few moments of adrenaline, which are very short; Those few bursts of activity. I think it’s complex. It’s not just one single answer as to why we do this kind of stuff.”

For the rest of the story, read Keller’s interview in its entirety to find out more about the lives of combat photographers and the difficult decisions they make. (Above photo by Michael Kamber for The NY Times)