You should have a good knowledge of history, of geopolitics, of sociology and anthropology to understand the society that we’re part of and to understand yourself and where you’re from in order to make choices. A lack of this knowledge will be much more limiting than any technical ability.
Remi Ochlik, 28, who has been killed in Homs alongside the veteran war reporter Marie Colvin, was an award-winning French photojournalist, considered one of the biggest talents of a new generation of photographer-reporters.
Last month he won a World Press Photo award for Battle for Libya, his series from the Libyan uprising.
Born in Lorraine in the east of France, Ochlik had always wanted to be a war photographer. He made his name aged 20, while still at photography college in Paris, when he went to Haiti in 2004 to document the riots and bloody conflict surrounding the fall of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He won a prestigious award for young reporters and later co-founded his own photography agency, IP3 Press, which covered both foreign news and French politics. In 2008, he covered war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and returned to Haiti in 2010 to document the cholera epidemic.
In 2011, he covered the Arab spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, publishing work in Paris Match, Le Monde, Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Last December his work from the Arab spring won a major award in Lille.
Jean-François Leroy, head of Visa pour l’Image, a major French international photojournalism festival, had shown Ochlik’s early work from Haiti, saying of him at the time: “Someone showed me this work on the events in Haiti. It was very beautiful, very strong. I didn’t know the guy who’d done it. I asked him to come in. He’s called Remi Ochlik, he’s 20. He worked all alone, like a big guy. There you go. Photojournalism is not dead.”
Ochlik had said of his war photography: “I expected to see horrible things. Yes, I was afraid.”
Alfred de Montesquiou, a journalist for Paris Match, who returned from Syria a few days ago, said Ochlik had emailed him recently saying: “I’ve just arrived in Homs, it’s night. The situation seems to be extremely tense and desperate. The Syrian army is sending back-up at the moment and the situation will get worse, according to what the rebels tell us. I’ll keep you posted.”
De Montesquiou said Ochlik was “anything but hot-headed” and that he carefully considered each decision. “He was someone extremely calm, almost cold even, very thoughtful.”
The Socialist French presidential candidate, François Hollande, issued a statement deploring the journalists’ deaths and the violence in Syria, adding: “This death touches me even more because Remi Ochlik was accredited to [cover] my campaign and was among us a few days ago.”
The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else’s tragedy. This idea haunts me. It’s something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allowed genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition, I will have sold my soul. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person’s predicament. The extent to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other; and to that extent, I can accept myself.