Through Jeanne Cridling
News: Manoocher Deghati, you are president of the Bayeux Prize jury, why did you accept this title?
Manoocher Deghati: It’s a huge honor to be president of such an important festival, especially with this war correspondent theme, that speaks to me. I was in this field for 45 years. It is also an opportunity to see my colleagues. It is also a great pleasure to meet these people who come to see my photos, with whom I talk about photography.
Is it important for you to share your work with the new generation?
MD: Always. From the start, I trained young photographers and journalists all over the world, up to 50 countries, from Afghanistan to the Philippines. It was really in my vocation to pass my experiences to the younger generation.
Manoocher Deghati in 7 dates
1978. After four years spent in Rome studying cinema, Manoocher returned to Iran, when the Iranian people rose up against the Shah and his policy of repression. He photographs the demonstrators and the soldiers. He started working for the Sipa Press agency and AFP.
1984. He won first prize from the World Press, an organization recognized worldwide for its annual press photography competition. Manoocher’s photos of the Iran-Iral war are unanimous.
1990. Manoocher takes over the management of the AFP office in Cairo from where he covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Yasser Arafat’s return from exile, Jerusalem, Somalia, the Gulf war, the siege of Sarajevo.
1996. In Ramallah, a bullet fired by an Israeli sniper breaks his leg. A team of Israeli surgeons saves his life. He was repatriated to France where for eighteen months he underwent rehabilitation at the Invalides military hospital in Paris.
2002. With his brother Reza, they founded the Aina association in Kabul, an NGO which allows Afghans, women and men, to be trained in the media in order to be able to document the history of their country.
2013. Manoocher Deghati heads the Pulitzer Prize winning AP team for coverage of the civil war in Syria.
2014. After having covered more than forty wars or revolutions and traveling in more than one hundred countries, he leaves Egypt with his family, to settle in Italy, in the region of Puglia, where he buys a farm and cultivates vines. . He pursues his career as a photographer far from conflict zones.
What advice would you give to young people who want to follow in your footsteps?
MD: I do not encourage people to go to the war ground. It’s up to them to choose, it also depends on people’s personal interests. Above all, you have to be passionate about telling the story of people who are suffering, of societies that are in difficulty. To highlight the stories that we do not talk about, that the authorities do not want us to reveal.
In all of your career, what has marked you the most?
MD: From the start of my career in Iran, I started photographing the Iranian revolution. It marked me a lot, it was my country, I had a personal interest in this war. My friends, my cousins were dying, being executed by the fundamentalist Iranian Muslim authorities. But one story that really touched me was the war in Sarajevo. When I flew from Paris to the Balkans, it was a 2 hour trip and I arrived where there was war, in Europe! To me, that sounded crazy to me. The atrocity there was in this war was horrible. I was there during the siege of Sarajevo, there were the Serbian snipers shooting at everything, children, women.
Was there one mission that was more difficult than the others?
MD: In all conflict zones, it is complicated. With each of our steps, we are confronted with the danger of war or the danger of the authorities too. When I was in Iran the danger of war was there, but the worst thing for me was the authorities who didn’t want me to be there. They arrested me, they beat me, they jailed me for my job because they didn’t want me to be there. In Daesh, they cut off the heads of journalists, the Taliban in Afghanistan who prevent women, journalists and artists from living.
In your job, is fear inevitable?
MD: I have always been afraid. It’s a human feeling. If we’re not afraid, we’re dead right away. I believe fear saves our lives. When I was injured, it was just a time when I was not afraid. I was covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I found myself in the middle of an armed conflict, as usual. I wanted to photograph an injured Palestinian on the ground. I was targeted by an Israeli sniper. I received an explosive bullet in the leg which landed me 18 months in hospital.
What is your vision of the journalism of tomorrow, especially with the rise of social networks?
MD: I believe that the Internet and social media revolution is very positive. Before, it was us, the photojournalists who went to conflict zones. And now, anytime, anywhere, if something happens, we have the picture. Of course, there are fake photos. We still need time to deal with this. But for me, social media is really something positive. Photography is a document that no one can deny. For example the photo of George Floyd, in the United States, it is a simple young woman who changed the world thanks to her photo. After that, millions of people took to the streets to fight racism. Since then, there have been fewer black people being killed by the police. That’s not bad.
What do you expect from the Prix de Bayeux?
MD: For me, this is an opportunity to appreciate the work of photojournalists, especially that of the younger generations. We have incredible reports from very young journalists who have gone to Sudan, to difficult places and who have released very important stories. For me, it is also encouraging young people to continue their work. Transmission is very important to me. I continue to teach, and will do so all my life.
Interview by Jeanne Cridling
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Bayeux price. Deghati: “I do not encourage people to go to the war zone”