Saturday, March 26, 2011

The photojournalists' Photojournalist-The Bang Bang Club

BangBang Club - a must see film

South Africa 1994. Elizabeth Ohene, the South African correspondent for the BBC World Service's Africa division is recounting a story to me in the BBC's bureau. She's just come back from covering Tokoza, a township in South Africa.

A BBC Producer had a gun pointed at his head and the assailant looked ready to pull the trigger. "What would she have told his mother?", she tells me of her friend and much loved journalist.
I presented a programme for BBC Radio in London called "Black Londoner" hence the play on the title from a harrowing but life-defining assignment in South Africa in 1993

Below, after 15 years, last year I returned to South Africa to train African Journalists at Rhodes University, working with Miami University and had a couple of hours to visit where I used to live and produced this videojournalism - meta report.

I knew of the aforementioned demo; it could make my next report and earn me some money, but I decided not to go instead. But I also remember that day for another reason. Ken Oosterbroek, one of the members of the famed Bang Bang Club was shot and killed.

I didn't know Ken personally, but I had friends who I would visit at the Star newspaper where he worked. My landlady, Lyndsey who also edited Living Magazines, would take phone calls late in the night for two hours at a time from one of her commissioned photojournalists.

His name was Kevin Carter. Kevin had just returned from a haunting assignment in Sudan. The picture is now legendary, but it was Lindsaye's retelling of Kevin's story and how he came to take the shot which kept both of us talking to the small hours of the night.

Some months later Kevin committed suicide. His picture had won him the greatest honour in photojournalism, but Lindsaye told me he found it difficult to square that with the plight of the young child in this picture.

When I became a videojournalist a couple of months later in 1994, this picture adorned my cubby hole. It was one of the few pictures that inspired me to apply to the UK to become a dedicated videojournalist.
Kevin Carter's award winning photo/Corbis Sygma.. The film Bang Bang Club retelling the true story of Kevin et al will soon be on general release

There are countless aphorisms about photojournalism. Soon The Bang Bang Club, long revered amongst photojournalism aficionados may well turn out to acquire wide common use.

The story of a band of brothers who attained rock star like status from covering  South Africa's trenchant apartheid-induced killings, is as inspiring as it is tragic.  Joao Silva, one of the four, incurred severe injuries in 2010  from a landmine in Kandahar.  Greg Marinovich blog can be found here  He co-authored with Greg the book, The Bang Bang Club

Alongside them another name a synonym for exceptional photojournalism can be found, James Natchway

In itself this film will bring much reflection and awe at a professional set who often dare to go, where those considered fearless would. Look at Danfung Dennis today, whom I had the pleasure of inviting to share his life for a PhD study and then there's Yannis Kontos who I have worked with on a number of projects.

Bang Bang needed to be told. For me as a freelance journalist reporting the townships the film will bring back  personal memories of reportage and my next phase into videojournalism.

More on

Three other incredible films that inspired me into journalism

The Year of Living Dangerously


Frankie's House

Click here for insight into major new findings on 

What is videojournalism on the web, in multimedia and offline - a major study and film - and why it matters