The Islamic State (IS) terror militia are hunting down those of other faiths and opposing political views. More than one million people have fled: many ran to the relative security of the Kurdish regions, but maybe not for long. Kurdish State or Islamic State? And who is on which side?
Ayman Oghanna portrayed the situation in Iraq. In this interview he talks about his greatest challenge, empathy and the importance of documentation. You can see a comprehensive series of Ayman Oghanna’s images in issue No. 2 of the M Magazine, on sale now.
Q: What made you decide to work in Iraq?
A: My father is Iraqi and I wanted to better understand my father’s country. Also, as a journalist, Iraq is an important story that needs to be told and told accurately.
Q: What was the greatest challenge you faced?
A: It’s a hard and tiring place to be. It can sap your energy, your emotions and your optimism.
Q: When one thinks of the Iraq war, gruesome images of acts committed by IS come to mind. What pictures do we not get to see?
A: Oh, so much. What I’m most curious to see is what daily life looks like in IS-held territory. What does it look like? What can it tell us?
Q: We are flooded with images of war and crisis areas. What does a picture need to contain to remain in our memories?
A: It’s totally subjective. I think photojournalists are primarily connected to empathy when they take pictures. It’s not their perceived audience’s empathy they are working with, however, but their own. This is often related directly to how a photojournalist works. When working, the photographer looks around the scene seeking out something that they feel needs to be focused on. Eventually, they are drawn to something and compelled to shoot it. So most photographs are actually the direct result of the photographer’s empathetic and emotional response to the subject, not a preconceived idea.
This works the same with the audience when looking through a photographer’s pictures. They can be desensitised, numbed to all the images, then see something that strikes them. Normally it is not the most war/crisis-like image, but something more human and quiet.
Q: Can pictures make changes for the better?
A: Awareness is hard to quantify. It’s hard to calculate photography’s value in terms of social change. I don’t know if pictures can change anything. But, whatever happens, it’s important that witnesses are out there documenting our world. Perhaps future generations can learn from us.
Q: How did you come to photography?
A: I fell into it whilst studying to be a print reporter. It was just something I really enjoyed doing.
Q: Can you imagine working in black-and-white as well?
A: No. The world is in colour.
Thank you for your time, Ayman!
– Leica Internet Team
To see more of Ayman’s work, visit his website.