The life of a photojournalist can be filled with many things. There’s adventure, fun, exploration, introductions to new people, their cultures, beliefs and ways of life. And there’s danger.
Danger became a living nightmare for Australian photographer Nigel Brennan (b. 18th May 1972).
Nigel is your all-round ‘Australian’ bloke, he’s done a bit of this and that and then he discovered photography. His award winning images, such as the photograph titled “Saint Catherine” - portrait of Catherine Hamlin at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, which is one of the first inductees into the national Portraits Gallery in Canberra and has been purchased by the Gallery and hangs there today - hold him in good stead to become one of Australia’s most recognised photojournalists. But, and I stress here, there’ a big But!
In 2008 Nigel travelled to Somalia with Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, whom he met whilst travelling and working in Ethiopia taking photos of the Danakil Depression and the thousands of displaced Somali people now living in refugee camps throughout the country.
They were not there alone. Fellow photographers and journalists from National Geographic were also there, writing stories on the war in Somalia.
On their last day, returning from a camp outside Afgooye, their car was stopped and surrounded by men with machine guns demanding they get out of the car.
Nigel and Amanda were kidnapped, in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, where kidnapping is as common as getting married. The asking price - $2.5 million US dollars each.
This has been a long haul for the families involved. After 15months in captivity, thankfully on Thursday that nightmare ended, in part, as Nigel and Amanda were released.
Why are we highlighting this? Kidnapping is not a new ‘event’.
Because social documentary is what a photojournalist does. They go and record events. Many of these events may not be pleasant or nice but they tell a story and often this is an important story that needs to be told.
It is true, freelance photographers and journalists the world over run these risks everyday: some die on the job, some get kidnapped and some escape unharmed, as the national geographic journo and photographer did travelling in a car behind Nigel and Amanda. They had to go to great lengths to out run, and outsmart and their story is published in this month’s issue of National geographic magazine.
We wish Amanda and Nigel the very best in their recovery from the ordeal and look forward to hearing the news they are home in their respective countries safe and sound very soon.
(c) by Nigel Brennan