Interview with Veronique de Viguerie
Was there a particular story or incident that sparked your interest in photojournalism?
Yes. A newspaper in England sent me on assignment to Afghanistan, and it was a shock, since it was the first time I‘d travelled in that part of the world. And I decided: this is the kind of country and the kind of people I would like to see in my pictures: people with stories who have been through conflicts; people who decide to fight for something.
In the film, you mention being drawn to people who come to that point in their lives where they say: I’m going to fight.
Yes. Those are the people who fascinate me: people who say, I don’t want to be a victim anymore. Like this guy (featured in the film) in South Sudan. They decide to take the future in their hands, to protect themselves. So instead of just taking on the bad, they decide: I will care for myself now.
For example, I went to do a story on the pirates in Somalia. Everybody said these are horrible, dangerous people. And then you meet with them and learn about their lives and the struggles they face, and suddenly the picture of them changes; it’s more complex than just black and white.
"You always think about picture, picture, picture. So you don’t have time to think about danger, because you’re thinking about how to reveal the things you’re feeling inside.
The outside viewer might look at you and say: why would an attractive woman – who also happens to be pregnant - travel into these incredibly dangerous situations?
When you go to these countries, you have to put away your preconceived ideas. You arrive as if you are a newborn and try to put yourself in their shoes, into their situation, with your eyes. That’s what I’m trying to do. And I don’t judge. I just try to understand why they’re doing, and what pushed them to do it.
The first time I went to South Sudan, it was for a UNICEF assignment which had nothing to do with the arrow boys (featured in the film). I was speaking with a translator there, and suddenly on the road we met a guy on a bike who tells me about these arrow boys who are fighting against the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) who are very present in South Sudan. I thought, wow, that sounds like a good story. These people have no shoes, and they’ve got bows and arrows and sticks to fight people who are armed with guns. So I ask him if I could meet these arrows boys. We spoke and they were very happy, because they feel forgotten, like the state is not really taking care of them; because among the tribes in Sudan, they feel nobody really cares. But they are happy that suddenly somebody enlights their fight and their problems and their lives and their issues.
You question in the film whether a photo can actually affect change.
It’s true that photojournalists are a kind of messenger. It’s not us who are going to change the world. But maybe one picture will be seen by somebody who will have the ability to help these people. That’s what we always hope.
You also said you don’t have time to get scared.
That’s true. When you’re on the spot you’re just thinking about how to get the best picture. Like most photojournalists, what we would like to reveal is the feeling we have inside and try to translate it in a picture. You want to do justice to the people, and you always think about picture, picture, picture. So you don’t have time to think about danger, because you’re thinking about how to reveal the things you’re feeling inside. Lots of time when I go on assignment, the only thing I’m scared of is coming back without this picture.
(Reportage by Getty Images Photojournalist Véronique de Viguerie)