Waste­land to water­world

Cap­tur­ing the road less trav­elled

The Bulletin - - 2013 Newspaper Of The Year Awards: Photography - Kate Ger­aghty By Alen Delic

IT was a rare, unadul­ter­ated glimpse into the minu­tiae of the life of the Afghan peo­ple caught up in 12 years of war in the Oruz­gan prov­ince of Afghanistan that caught the eye of judges in the 2013 News Pho­to­graph of the Year cat­e­gory.

The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald pho­tog­ra­pher Kate Ger­aghty spent three weeks in Afghanistan, and 10 days in the prov­ince with Paul McGeough, pro­vid­ing a can­did pic­ture of how the lo­cals lived in an ac­tive war zone.

When head­ing to a coun­try im­pacted by the trauma of more than a decade of war, Ms Ger­aghty says a pho­tog­ra­pher has to go in with an open mind.

“You can’t set out with an idea to cap­ture some­thing; you can’t have any pre­con­ceived ideas,” she says.

“You have to be re­ally flex­i­ble and try to pho­to­graph as much as pos­si­ble.”

When Ms Ger­aghty landed in Afghanistan she found a re­silient na­tion still deal­ing with an in­sur­gency, and liv­ing with an oc­cu­pa­tion by Aus­tralian and NATO per­son­nel.

Her brief was not to cap­ture the Aus­tralian ex­pe­ri­ence, nor the ex­pe­ri­ence of armed per­son­nel. It was to do what no Aus­tralian pho­tog­ra­pher had done be­fore and cap­ture the ex­pe­ri­ences of the Afghan peo­ple.

She lived with the Afghan Na­tional Po­lice, and was based out of their com­pound in Tarin Kowt.

They were her guides through­out the coun­try, show­ing her the land and in­tro­duc­ing her to the peo­ple the me­dia of­ten over­looked.

“The po­lice would take us to the far reaches of the Orugzan prov­ince,” Ms Ger­aghty said.

“From there, they asked the tribal el­ders of each area to see if they would meet with us and talk to us.

“We would have th­ese meet­ings with lo­cals and some­times it would be a group of 20; I think the largest group was of about 200, 300 peo­ple.”

Ms Ger­aghty said the ex­pe­ri­ence was a rare glimpse into how peo­ple lived.

The Afghan Na­tional Po­lice took Ms Ger­aghty and her crew to the far reaches of the coun­try, giv­ing her a chance to meet with peo­ple who would have very lit­tle ex­po­sure to me­dia.

“We met with peo­ple from all walks of life,” she said.

“From shep­herds to se­na­tors, from camel herders to no­mads, lo­cal po­lice to book­sellers.”

De­spite the hard­ships, she said the Afghan peo­ple were among the friendli­est and most wel­com­ing she had ever met.

“We did not have one in­ci­dent where we weren’t wel­comed,” Ms Ger­aghty said.

“The hos­pi­tal­ity was in­cred­i­ble.”

Still, the re­al­ity of her as­sign­ment soon set in.

One night af­ter Ms Ger­aghty and her crew had re­turned to the Afghan Na­tional Po­lice com­pound in Tarin Kowt, they had heard a bomb go off in a com­pound not far from them.

On another in­ci­dent, they had trav­elled to a town called Mirabad on the edge of the Oruz­gan prov­ince, bor­der­ing on the no­to­ri­ous Hel­mand prov­ince.

They had been meet­ing the el­ders in the vil­lage when they re­ceived word that sev­eral IEDs (im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices) had been found on the road they had been trav­el­ling on. “It’s a war zone,” she says. “You knew that. There were all th­ese blown up holes in the ground and burnt out, de­stroyed ve­hi­cles. “But we were very safe.” Ms Ger­aghty says her ex­pe­ri­ence in Afghanistan was eye-open­ing, and gave her a rare chance to see the coun­try from a per­spec­tive not many oth­ers have had.

From her short stay, she cap­tured thou­sands of photographs. One that still sticks out.

“My favourite photo is the one where the tribal el­ders are walk­ing past the barbed wire fence at dusk,” she says.

“I was just struck by their in­cred­i­ble dig­nity, and how proud they were as a peo­ple.”

Her time with Fair­fax has taken her from Pa­pua New Guinea, to Le­banon, to South Su­dan, and ev­ery­where in be­tween, but her Afghanistan as­sign­ment was a par­tic­u­lar high­light.

“Get­ting to know the Afghan peo­ple is an ex­pe­ri­ence I’ll never for­get,” she said.

“There needs to be more jour­nal­ism of this type, and I think read­ers and peo­ple re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate get­ting this per­spec­tive from the re­al­ity peo­ple are liv­ing in.”

ABOVE: A mother from Chenarto vil­lage in Oruz­gan Prov­ince holds her three- year- old son as she pours tea in her home in an In­ter­nally Dis­placed Peo­ple’s camp in North West Kabul. TOP RIGHT: A group of tribal el­ders walk past ra­zor- wire sur­round­ing a po­lice com­pound af­ter a gath­er­ing in Mirabad to dis­cuss the is­sues fac­ing the peo­ple in Oruz­gan Prov­ince. The im­age is a favourite of Ms Ger­aghty.

The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald pho­tog­ra­pher Kate Ger­aghty ( pic­tured) and im­ages from her Afghanistan trip.

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