Jack Hill, Libya

For a certain Arab dictator, endgame could not come soon enough. 

Earlier this year, Jack Hill covered the attacks on Benghazi

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?



Libya, Jack Hill

As I have noted previously, I am on vacation; when I am on vacation, I do not blog, but I broke that rule yesterday and I am breaking it again. As I type this, sitting in my room in St. Moritz, sipping my apres ski Hot Toddy, and reading the Daily and the Times on iPad, I feel somewhat sad and disillusioned about the situation in Libya. I have many comments, but cannot bring myself to write them down from safe and cozy distance of my hotel room. I wonder whether many other commentators feel this way.

Anyway, onwards to photos. No matter what you may think of the Libyan Campaign, it cannot be denied that a lot of great photos are coming out of it; I don’t know why but Iraq and Afghanistan produced not that many memorable/iconic images, considering that there were so many photographers working there. On the cover of yesterday’s Times, there was a beautiful (if carnage can be described as such) photo of a tank explosion (above). Immediately, I told myself, wow, there was one iconic image. Many people felt this way, I guess, for today’s Times featured a piece by the photographer, Jack Hill:

About 30 km south of Benghazi, we came across the site of a huge airstrike. One tank was destroyed and another was burning. There were abandoned self-propelled guns and charred bodies covered with blankets.

Slightly farther down the road was more destruction: a munition truck was burning heavily and the ordnance was exploding out of it. It was a dramatic sight.

I moved carefully towards the burning truck. I was captivated by the smoke and the colours within it, and the exploding shells wee an impromptu fireworks display. How to photograph such a scene? It was hard to know where to look or start.

I added a 1.4 converter to my longest lens, a 70-200 mm and I filed the frame, aiming to illustrate the power and destruction of the strike. Edging as close as I felt comfortable, I compared a picture just as contents of the truck started exploding again. I started shooting, not even checking my exposures. I was shooting 1/6400th of a second at F5.6. That was accident rather than design, but the exposure was good. As I was shooting a young ran across the frame. At the time, I though “if that works out, it won’t be a bad picture”. It was hard to know what to shoot. There was so much to take in.

I chose this picture over the others because it gives a human scale to a scene that I couldn’t have imagined.”

Other great photos on Libya are courtesy of Goran Tomasevio, Suhaib Salem and Finbarr O’Reilley for Reuters, and Anja Niedringhaus for AP. (shameless ad: I recommend getting an iPad, if only for photos; its resolution is great for viewing photos, and photo sections of the Times, the Daily, Paris Match, and the New York Times really make iPad an aesthetic device).