Sunday, January 27, 2013

A long history bearing witness to violence

Veteran news photographers Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva on the set of 'The Bang Bang Club', the Canadian-SA film adaptation of their book of the same name, in 2009 Image by: loanna hoffmann / GRAEME HOSKEN | 25 January, 2013 00:17 Veteran news photographers Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva on the set of 'The Bang Bang Club', the Canadian-SA film adaptation of their book of the same name, in 2009 Image by: loanna hoffmann / previousnext 12 Click, click, click. Within minutes of being hit in the face by a brick, internationally renowned conflict photographer Joao Silva is shooting again, cigarette clamped in his mouth, concentration etched on his face. "That was close," he says, gingerly touching the side of his face. It is Tuesday morning. We are in Sasolburg's Zamdela township where protesters have been rioting for three days in protest against a proposed merger with a neighbouring municipality. By the end of the day six people will be dead. Silva, whose legs were blown off in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan in 2010, is back on the frontline - exactly where he wants to be. Moving stiffly but rapidly on his state-of-the-art prosthetic legs, Silva is on assignment for The New York Times. The next day his pictures will be used prominently in the paper. Silva has fought a remarkable comeback since his admission to the US army's Walter Reed army hospital in Washington DC. US first lady Michelle Obama visited him last year during his 10-month rehabilitation. A member of the fabled Bang Bang Club - the hard men of South African news photographers who covered the violence leading up to the transition to democracy - Silva is working today with his friend and fellow internationally recognised photographer Greg Marinovich. Standing next to their Mercedes-Benz, badly damaged by rioters, they watch a handful of police face off thousands of armed protesters. The excitement is evident. They joke and inspect the shattered windows of our car, in which moments before French photographer Lydie Sarda has been hit on the head by a brick. With the adrenaline still pumping, the reality of our close call sets in. "You all right?" Silva asks me. "No, I'm scared." "You guys were really lucky," he says with a small smile, "and if you weren't afraid you should have been." Watching Silva and the speed with which he moves, lopsided, his camera trained on the action, leaves one in awe. With the sun blazing and acrid black smoke billowing into the air from barricades blocking routes into the township, Silva doesn't miss a moment as police shoot at the crowd moving towards them. Two days later, I call him to ask what it is like to be covering conflict again. "Tuesday was really strange," he says, "but I knew it would come. South Africa is facing some interesting times . in Sasolburg there are some very gatvol people . I want to document that." Next month, Silva will be on the operating table again, this time to undergo major abdominal surgery to repair the wall of his stomach damaged in the blast. He is philosophical: "It will set me back six months, but I will come back. I am good, strong and mobile. I will come back even stronger." If The New York Times were to ask him to go back to Afghanistan, he would go there - or anywhere else. "I have no psychological issues." Silva, 46, who lives in Johannesburg with his wife and two children, says it is great to be back. "It is like making hay while the sun shines." - - TIMES LIVE - - - COMMENTS BY SONNY - - Shooting violent scenes is like playing Russian Roulette - Eventually the bullet with your name on it comes up! SA has had a culture of violence ever since Mandela, in 1960, DECLARED WAR ON THE R.S.A.' History just gets to repeat itself from time to time! While the poor pray for 'RAIN' the rich eat CAKE!

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