This has been another crazy year in the world of press photography. The highlight for me was spending a week experiencing life inside one of the world’s most notorious prison camps; Guantanamo Bay. Closely followed by travelling to Iraq to photograph the Iraqi Prime Minister.
Here are my favourite pictures and experiences of 2013:
I came up with the idea to visit Guantanamo almost a year ago. After endless phone calls, emails and contract signings with the military, a date was finally set.
I arrived during the week of Ramadan while most of the prisoners were being force-fed. I didn’t witness it myself but the guards hinted at it happening.
The whole experience was carefully monitored. I was accompanied around the camp at all times by guards and only once managed to get a brief glimpse of prisoner’s back. After building up a relationship with some of the guards and after hours of negotiations I finally persuaded the military to let me photograph some of the detainees, through one tiny gap in the wall with minimal light. It was one of the most technically difficult assignments I’ve ever had.
As soon as the detainees heard the click of my shutter, they started shouting out “The American’s are torturing us and won’t let us pray together during Ramadan”. I was very quickly ushered out of the room.
I was there for five days in total and managed to take hundreds of photographs. Every night however, I would have to sit with the military while they deleted any picture that showed a detainee’s face. The ones below are the only photos that managed to survive.
Guantanamo Bay was a bizarre place, almost like an entertainment park. I stayed in a great hotel, enjoyed a few pints of Guinness at O’kelly’s Irish bar in the evenings and even played a few games at the bowling alley! I was almost tempted to buy a t-shirt in the souvenir shop!
SYRIA: Following the chemical attack in August I was sent to the Lebanese side of the Syrian border to photograph Syrian refugees to talk to them about their experiences. I stayed in a hotel that was only 10km away from Damascus and could clearly hear the sound of shelling over the border every day.
With the threat of more chemical weapons being used I stayed well clear of Syria and spent two weeks documenting the lives of the Syrian refugees. This child (below) was very excited about the thought of the Americans bombing Assad’s regime, and was shouting “The Americans are coming to bomb” whilst excitedly throwing his paper airplane into the sky.
BILL GATES: I was originally supposed to have “at least 10 minutes” to photograph Bill Gates whilst on his visit to London. Inevitably, I was given a generous 20 seconds and shot just five frames! Despite shouting orders at him, this is the only photo I manage to take with him actually looking in my direction. The man clearly can’t take direction!
NIGEL FARAGE: The UKIP party conference was an extremely interesting day. After seeing Nigel Farage deliver his speech in the morning it was followed by Godfrey Bloom calling a room of women sluts! It was comical to say the least!
IRAQ: I travelled to Baghdad with a reporter to interview the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq has been one country I’ve been desperate to visit for a while. I had two days to experience the real Iraq. Driving into Baghdad with an entourage of armored vehicles seemed a bit excessive, everything seemed peaceful. Baghdad was a great looking city. We were dropped off to our hotel inside a compound on the banks of the Tigris River and within hours I heard two loud blasts in the distance. I can’t verify it but we believe two suicide bombs went off around that same time killing 11 people.
The PM came to us at the compound to open the Standard Chartered bank – with him came a huge entourage of security and I managed to get this snap as the Iraqi special forces walked casually past the swimming pool.
Luckily, we managed to persuade a security guard to escort me to the local shopping mall before we left. I was keen on seeing normal Iraqi life. The mall was just like Westfield with all the latest shops and young people milling around enjoying their afternoon.
DOMINATRIX: I always get to meet very random people in my job and dungeon dominatrix, Jacky Donovan was know exception! I shot some pictures on Jacky in a swingers club on the Canary Islands. Yes, I got out alive!
ARCTIC TRAINING: I flew to the Arctic with Defence Minister Philip Hammond on one of the Queen’s private Jets. Then transferred to a Sea King helicopter to join the Royal Marines during Arctic training exercises near the Asegarden Camp in Harstad, Norway.
BRAZIL: With Brazil preparing for next year’s World Cup I joined some of the Brazilian police on patrol at a Favela’s in Rio De Janeiro. They were on a clean up job. Although we were kept well back from the action, one police officer proudly showed off horrific pictures of a young boy that his force allegedly killed a few weeks before. He had dozens of similar photos on his smart phone. This one was the only one that was printable.
UGANDA: I travelled to the north of Uganda with football charity, Coaches Across Continents to see how their work is helping former child soldiers. We drove right into the middle of Joseph Kony’s territory in Gulu, which was a very interesting experience. People still believe he is some kind mystical, all-seeing and all-knowing figure which completely terrifies them.
GANDYS: British brothers Rob & Paul Forkan founded Gandy’s Flip Flops to help orphans around the world after they lost both parents in the Boxing Day tsunami.
I first met Rob and Paul three years ago when I photographed them in their South London flat. Back then Gandy’s was a new idea. Now Gandy’s flip flops are in every major department store in the UK. I was delighted to join them on their first trip back to Sri Lanka since the tsunami. It was an emotionally difficult time for them but an extremely proud one too.
Despite flying from one corner of the globe to the next I also set up a small group travel company called The Flash Pack. I’ll be organising photography mentoring group trips to Istanbul http://www.theflashpack.co.uk/adventure-trips/istanbul
If you want to join me on the next one email me at email@example.com