For a certain Arab dictator, endgame could not come soon enough.
Yesterday’s fall of the crucial city of Zawiya to the Libyan rebels is a symbolic blow against the regime; one of the first towns to rise up, Zawiya was the scene of bitter fighting and brutal crackdown by the government during the early months of the Libya uprising. Control of the town will be huge boost to the rebels, many residents of the town who fled when it fell. It is also a signal that after the murder of the rebels’ army chief two weeks ago and fractional struggles and Islamic bedlam among the rebels in the East, the future of Libya will finally be decided in the west of the country.
Jack Hill, The Times‘ photographer, followed the rebels into Zawiya. Here he recounts an unusual predicament he often encounters in photographing the Libyan rebels:
We persuaded our guides to get up early and make the journey from the Nafusa mountains into Zawiya.
The rebels had made a breakthrough and we’d seen dramatic footage. Passing checkpoints on the road, I was encouraged by assertions that it was safe all the way to the bridge, an overpass on the Tripoli-Tunisia road that was a lifeline for the regime. We stopped and I began taking pictures. You have to be quick to get a photo of a fighter before you get the V for victory sign.
We got to the bridge, but we were advised against going further. A mournful prayer came from a mosque up the road, an an ambulance shot past. As I got closer I could see there were two dead fighters. We pulled back for several hours. Then an RPG exploded. The crowd seemed momentarily tense, but I raised my camera and up came the ubiquitous V-signs again.
If you google “Jack Hill, Libya”, there are only several hits — one of which is this blog’s earlier coverage of his work. All of his work is behind the solid paywall of The Times, and I think this put Hill at a disadvantage — although his photos from Libya are as good as, if not better than, others.
As paywalls thicken over the next few years, it is something photographers will need to ponder — paywall exclusivity or widespread publicity?