Greg Marinovich: Exclusive interview.
“Good pictures. Tragedy and violence certainly make powerful images. It is what we get paid for.But there is a price extracted with every such frame: some of the emotion, the vulnerability, the empathy that makes us human, is lost every time the shutter is released.” Greg Marinovich.
As photographers we record, and as photojournalists we witness. Once in a while some of us witness history in the making and the joys and horrors that come with it. One of those witnesses is Greg Marinovich, the Pulitzer Prize South African photographer.
Marinovich, together with João Silva, Kevin Carter, and Ken Oosterbroek, members of the famous Bang Bang Club, covered the Africa’s transition from Apartheid to Democracy. That coverage came at a cost, with Oosterbroek tragically shot and killed while covering clashes between members of the African National Congress and UN peacekeepers – during which Marinovich was also wounded – and the suicide of Kevin Carter.
Today Greg Marinovich teaches at the Harvard Extension School, and Photojournalism at Boston University. Speaking exclusively to LSP, he shares some thoughts, and advice to our photojournalism students.
LSP: How did you get into photography?
GM: Really through politics – I was trying to tell how apartheid affected lives in black areas like locations and the Bantustans, and I realized I need images. And then a terrible/great thing happened: my 35mm was stolen and it was insured, so a friend of a friend took me and my insurance money to a second-hand camera store and essentially forced me to buy a large format Linhof Technika, a Mamiya 67 and a replacement Nikon 35mm. In having to learn photography to actually shoot on the large format, I learned what photography was and fell in love…
LSP: What is in your camera bag?
GM: It depends. Digitally, I use one body with a 35mm prime lens, and if it is a serious shoot, a 24mm and a 135mm or something like that. Film wise I vary from large format to medium to 35mm, playing with all kinds of cameras to have fun. I like rangefinders and medium format folders.
LSP: What is one piece of gear you would never leave home without?
GM: Hmm. Duct tape? and no, I am not a serial killer.
LSP: What would you say are the challenges aspiring photojournalists are facing today?
GM: Finding their voice, and then finding an outlet for it that pays. The endless free photo platforms are Satan’s work.
LSP: What is your advice to them in order to break into this very competitive market?
GM: Do outstanding work, dig in deep and be able to present a polished final product with various mediums.
LSP: Apart from gear name a few essential qualities a photographer must have.
GM: Not all can be mentioned here… Patience, curiosity, tenacity, perseverance, a sense of indignation and outrage, humility, honesty, ethics, be willing to see you are wrong, technical confidence.
LSP: What do you sat to your students when they say they want to become war photographers?
GM: I say don’t. If they insist, I tell them to test how they handle conflict a little at a time, to get used to it before it destroys you or your naivety, (or before your) ignorance kills someone else who is trying to help you.
LSP: Talk a little bit about your book “Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of South Africa’s Marikana Massacre.”
GM: It is a long form interrogation of what happened when police gunned down miners on strike – the reason I kept going with the initial investigative journalism was that so many journalists were just parroting the police, or state, or ruling party and aligned union, or the company (Lonmin) line. Really, no-one was speaking for the miners of the community. It was a distressing and corrupted situation, with the victims being blamed for their misfortune. And like all stories, once you dive deep, they just get more and more interesting.
Murder at Small Koppie: The Real Story of South Africa’s Marikana Massacre is available on Amazon at £19.26