In this “Newspaper Club” event – a special episode of our Book Club series hosted by Ziyah Gafic – we look at two recent examples of photographer’s newspapers: Ali Arkady’s “Strappado” project on Iraq 2016 and Eric Bouvet’s Ukraine journal 2022.
In addition to the stories of Iraq and Ukraine presented in the newspapers, we discuss why Ali and Eric opted for newspapers to showcase their work and how they produced them.
Ziyah Gafic: Here we are. Thank you, everyone. That’s from our partners, PhotoWings. So, this time, we have particular, we usually talk about books here. But this time, we’re going to talk about different kinds of publications and newspapers, in particular by my two dear colleagues, Eric Bouvet and Ali Arkady. So, just before we move to that, I would like to say a few words about both Eric and Ali and about what are we going to talk about. So, both Eric and Ali are member of VII Photos. And their biographies are this big. So, I’m actually going to read just a tiny bit. So, Eric’s been—he just recently published his— another newspaper like this one, about 40 years of his career as a photographer, so you can only imagine the events he covered over the last 40 years. And a nice, good portion of what he did is unfortunately related to conflicts. And for that, for that matter, I’m particularly personally attached to his work from Chechnya, which I’ve seen when I was this big, and which, still to this day, every now and then I go back to it as a source of inspiration. So, for those who don’t know his work from the First Chechen War, you might want to have a look at it. And among countless accolades of his, that he received for his work, he received five World Press photo awards, two Visa d’Or awards, two Bayeux-Calvados Awards, Front Line Club Award, Paris-Match Award, and so on and so forth. So, for anyone who’s not familiar with Eric’s work, make sure to check it out. Obviously, Eric is French. On the other side, we have Ali Arkady, an Iraqi photographer, also, or should I say Iraqi-Kurdish photographer, also a member of VII Photo Agency and he also reached among various accolades he received for his work he also received a Bayeaux Prize for War Correspondents, partially for the work that we are going to talk about. As a kickoff, because both Ali and Eric have a multidisciplinary approach to their work, which includes both video and audio and podcasts and so on and so forth. So, I’m going to be free to play two bits of their work, just as a warmup. In the meantime, feel free at any moment to ask questions in the chat room and we will make sure to forward them to Ali or Eric so they can reply. So, let me just play something that’s gonna really bring closer Ali’s and an Eric’s work so just bear with me
An ABC News investigation in a place where cameras rarely go inside the fight against ISIS. This story involves a photojournalist embedded with Iraqi soldiers working with America to take down ISIS, but what this reporter witnessed on the front lines was far from heroic. He saw these US allies torturing and murdering civilians, behavior that’s being described as nothing short of sadistic. Here’s ABC’s chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross.
In the fight to destroy ISIS, these elite Iraqi soldiers have been praised by the US tape I’m eliminated as helping to lead the charge. These are the men of what’s called the Iraqi Emergency Response Division, the ERD. Their battlefield experts are captured in this combat video licensed by ABC News.
They are against ISIS and they are very strong.
The hours of video and still photos are the result of great battlefield courage by this Iraqi photojournalist, Ali Arkady, who was embedded last year with the Emergency Response Division, but tonight Arkadi is showing another kind of courage. Blowing the whistle on soldiers he followed and became friends with, revealing for the first time graphic scenes of torture and murder of civilians, some too horrific to be broadcast. It all raises the question of whether the US is turning a blind eye. Was this happening all the time? This was happening all the time. Arkady is an award-winning photojournalist who’s worked for the respected agency VII shows the human side of war.
Ziyah Gafic: I’m going to stop here. I’m going to stop here. And I will stop here, but I will also share a link here for everyone who wants to see this program. So, sorry, let me just share it for everyone. Here it is. And I will also quickly share something that is relatively new, I would say. And I’m sure Eric will speak about it, but let me just play a few minutes of that as an introduction. During his time in Ukraine. Eric produced a series of sonaramas or I guess we can say closest to it is podcast. So, I’m gonna again share a few minutes. It’s in French, but—
Ziyah Gafic: I’m gonna stop sharing it again. But I will share with everyone linked to this whole series of sonaramas that Eric did. So, for French speaking people feel free to have a look here. So welcome, Eric, and welcome, Ali. Good to have you here. Okay, so the way this will go is it’s going to be conversation between the three of us obviously. And so, we’re not going to be going linearly, so to speak. But we’re going to go back and forth. So, since Ukraine is obviously in the news still, I’m going to be free to start with asking a few questions to Eric. And actually, my screen is flipped, but it doesn’t matter. Let me just correct that. Here it is, now it’s not. Yes. So, Eric. So, what we have in here is large format. It’s probably about a little bit short of A3 format of your journal in Ukraine. You were among the first— sorry, I’m gonna show it like this. But then you’re going to show some pictures. You were among the first journalists, if I remember, to cover the recent events and unfolding events in Ukraine. So, can I just ask right there from the beginning, you’ve covered, I would say probably a dozen conflicts over the 40 years. So, what really changed with Ukraine? What’s different with Ukraine?
Eric Bouvet: So, first, I was not in the first one in Ukraine because as usual, since many years, I have trouble fortifying money for to go on this. For example, I miss Iraq, where Ali did unbelievable work. I miss Iraq, I miss Syria, because I never found money because of the price in France and commissioning price with the one I was working for during decades is not any more here for old men like me, I suppose. And, in fact, so now, as you know, when you move, when you travel, you need money, and country, conflict country, sometimes it costs a lot. For example, if you are alone, if you don’t speak the same language, you need a translator, a fixer, you need a car. So, a driver, and, of course, you manage to sleep in a hotel. And if you move in the country, you take two people with you, it means you must pay the expenses for all these people, it means it’s something like more than $500 per day. And it’s a cheap price. So, you can imagine that you’re not going on a country like that, in the country, just with your own little money. So, that’s why I was down before to leave and I was upset because I’m, last year, this year, I was 61. And I was upset not to be covering this conflict, because in fact, this conflict is in Europe, somewhere geographic to Europe, you know, and it was so, so big. So historical, because people must not forget, Ali, me, other photographers, Ziyah, of course, other photographers, we’re working on these sorts of stories, we’re looking for the history. I’m sorry, it’s, I always push on this button, but this is very important. People don’t realize that when living an event, for example, the COVID, okay. It was an unbelievable, crazy, worldwide moment, historic moment. And people don’t understand what it is, they don’t take care about that. Because living the story, that I know it, I live it since 40 years. And you are in a moment, you’re not always understand what is happening. You don’t have the level of is this important, like that? Or like that? Or is this a big event? It’s not always easy to understand. But so the story is something very important. And so, I didn’t find my way. So, I arrived something like, a little week later since the beginning. And in fact, I was trying to find a man I met in Maidan, the event of Ukraine in 2014. And I met there a guy and did a very famous pictures, who was viral there, was wearing a Russian-style helmet. And when I did the portrait, it was looking like the second world war. And his picture was turning all over the world. And so, I tried to meet him, and I met him again. And so, I know is somewhere in Ukraine working with special medical unit on the frontline, and the idea was to do a story with him. And so, unfortunately, he left very quickly in the night when I was in Lviv and meet him there. And he left very quick and miss him. I met him only one month, two months later, that so it was a little bit too late for this story. So, and I’m sorry, I’m not answering to the question, I think.
Ziyah Gafic: Well, I’m just curious how for you as a foreign reporter, Ukraine was different from other events you covered?
Eric Bouvet: Yeah, I’m sorry to say that, frankly, this is a shame to say, but people misunderstand. I say it very clearly and not with no judgment. It’s the first time in forty years of work we are covering a wall of white people, only white people. And Christian people, wearing the same clothes as us. And something was very strange to see that we’d never seen that before too. It’s when they left, when they go, in when it’s the exoddus, what does it take? Just a little bag with them? The kids and what? Their pets. Their dogs. Their cats, like we have in France, in England, in Occident, you know, and it was the first time we saw that it was very something near like home. So, it was very, very strange. I’m sorry to say that covering many wars in Africa or Middle East or Israel. And this time it was like at home. So, it was very strange. And so, of course, it’s twice Russia. So, Russia, we know that it was, because we think that China is much more—now, Russia was the second most important process in the world. And so we were ready to accept that Ukraine can be done very quickly, you know. So, it was a surprise for everybody that they resist. And I was very surprised about that, too. Because when I speak with people, when I spoke with people, when arrived quickly they were already configured, they were, some were smiling, and also to answer my question that you know, that Russians are coming and what you will you do? Ah. What we will do? We will fight and we will win. They were really optimistic. It was unbelievable. For the first day of the war, Russians arrive in your country, you can imagine what does it means. It’s not a little war. And so, they were completely optimistic. As I said, very confident. That, it was very strange.
Ziyah Gafic: I just want to change gears, so to speak the here. Ali, so unlike Eric, where he traveled to Ukraine to cover war there as a foreign journalist, you covered the war in your own country, which I have a little bit of experience of that, because I didn’t cover my country when it was in war, but I lived through it. So, I’m just curious if you could summarize how does it feel to cover war in your homeland, especially now that you also covered Ukraine, so on and so forth? So, how, if you could put it in like sort of two sentences, how does it feel to cover your own country at war?
Ali Arkady: Thanks. First, I realized that when I was doing really journalism, I did documentary. I loved documentary since 2003. I document a lot after the war. I went to Baghdad with the two cameras, not photo, video. Then when I start to do journalism, understand what’s mean journalism, after five, six years, then for me, it was important to just start to document because I realized there is a lot of story, which is not people they don’t know about in Iraq. And then was for me really important when I started to realize how journalism have a photo, video, writing. And then that is pushed me and gives me motivation to start to focus about human being project in Iraq. And since 2008-09, I started to travel everywhere in Iraq, and just focus about stories, telling something which is no one they care about. Just me or maybe some friend, we work together. Yeah, that was, the feeling was for me how history is important, and it was the one of the main feeling or main things about the work, what I want to do in Iraq is about history and transfer something for the new generation, which is we come up, we burn in the world, like we are children of the war in Iraq, and then we see a lot of things. We could then document. We didn’t have that knowledge. And it was not easy for anyone to document. Was problem, anyone they hold the camera and document somewhere in Iraq, then for me, it was really important. Now I have these tools. and knowledge, why not? Let’s bring back past and try to mention or explain something happening in the past with a new event.
Ziyah Gafic: I just started sharing some of the content from Strappado. Gonna share here as well. It also comes in a similar format as Eric’s. It’s exactly A3. And I was fortunate enough to work on this to help Ali edit, sequence, and produce this publication which was done in collaboration between VII Photo Agency, VII Academy, VII Foundation and Center for Global Reporting from Canada. So, can you, so, you were, if I’m not mistaken, you were embedded with this, as the ABC clip at the beginning said, you were embedded with this Emergency Response Division, right?
Ali Arkady: Yeah.
Ziyah Gafic: So, how was, so, by the way, how does—I mean, I am, for those who don’t know, embedded mean means that you were essentially attached to a unit that you would spend prolonged periods of time with them, basically share space with them and time. And that became common, that’s a common practice. It started all the way during the Vietnam War, actually, even in the Second World War. But with the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later on, again, in Iraq, it became pretty much the only way to cover the story, right? So, how did this relationship evolve? Because if I remember, when you joined them, these people these guys that can see— apologies, in these photos were seen as liberators. I’m just curious to see how this relationship evolved between you and them.
Ali Arkady: I will try to describe that with them very shortly because it’s quite complicated to explain that relationship with a short time, but I’ll try to explain.
Ziyah Gafic: No rush, no rush, no rush.
Ali Arkady: Okay, great. And as you know, me with you when I arrive Bosnia and VII Academy, me with you, I think we review like 40,000 images and videos on part of my archive to just try to find a way how we can do the, try to how we can do this newspaper and which kind of subjects we need to focus about. In the end, we ended up to focus about this project, which is that name you just find it when we see ABC News. And you say, you told me, what’s mean that? Obviously, I don’t know, and we come back and we go and we research and you find what mean Strappado. I’d love after that if you can explain about that word. Then, as you know, when you see my footage, I was close of the people all the time. I was working and following people in Iraq. If with film, as a long-term project photography, it’s a photo story medium most of the time or photo essay. And then I, when the war started in 2014, I was already in the mentor program, VII Photo Agency and then I had, I start. It was the first day, 2014, in July I think. Then I started to work in the same method when I had in my style following people in the war. Which is most of the time was personal project. Sometimes I get assignments, sometimes not but I didn’t have problem with that. I just continue following that. And then as Eric he said about you need to go someplace to cover some war. You need money, you need fixer, you need this and this and this. For me, in Iraq, I know the language I know everything’s, I can go stay with a friend, you know, it was, I can find people which is, was easier for me. If we compare myself with a foreigner, even in the war, even in frontline, because when you get trust and when they know you and you work with some agencies, foreigner, not local, they will give you an opportunity, you know. Then I started to do several projects in 2014-15, film and photos not published, still I have my archive, but in that time, my purely focus was about documents in a good way and then I will see what I can do with the petition, because I didn’t have time because the situation was very fast. Every day, every day work, ISIS. No one they know what you mean ISIS in 2014 and 15. It was kind of part of my research, investigation, answer a lot of question, myself, my family—Then I went to Kurdistan, Iraq, Baghdad, I get a lot of assignments. I work with magazines, newspapers, post some project and VII Photos Agency. Then October 2010, sorry, 2016, Fallujah operations stopped. And, as you know, Fallujah has seen a lot of war. It is like US, with the US, they have two- three fighting and war inside Fallujah and then after that with the current Iraqi governor, and then ISIS, you know, they go through a lot of war, and they had a lot of consequences. As an Iraqi journalist, I decide to go in Fallujah, to not come back until when they liberated. I need to be there. Because for me, it was really interesting place. I need to understand what happened there. What was the problem? Why the violence, very strong there.
Then through a friend, I start to know this forces, Emergency Response Division, the Iraqi army. I went in the media center, I know them I still have two- three days and then through another friend, I know this troop. And he told me okay, let’s go to see them. They are very strong. They are doing this, and he showed me some videos, they are published in Facebook, where they do. So, okay, let’s go to see them and I spent with them, then I reached the place, I think first week when I arrived, next five days, then I met them, we stay three days, four days in the base—in Fallujah. It was calm, there was no fighting, but I start document daily life every day and they just told me, why you do this? Why you need this footage? It was like really different with any media they work with them, or they saw during five or six years, when they are brought into the Iraqi army. Anyway, this room that was part of the Intelligent Office and in ERD branch. It was intelligence branch, part of ERD forces. And also, they have branch 1,2,3. This was the special forces of this branch. And also, they have another two-task reconnaissance and snipers. And then in Fallujah, I spent two, three days, four days with them and I get permission to follow them more, to do film and photography project and photo stories, long-term project. Anyway, and they don’t let you to continue work with them a lot. They come back to the base. I call them. I saw them the frontline two, three times. I publish something on social media. I created kind of a platform. It’s called Happy Baghdad. We post something about their story. And then I, that time I contact my mentor. I sent him the proposal. I told him, look, I have a project. I need to follow two soldiers, one of them from Sunni sect, another one Shi’a. And then they are officer and another one is the assistant. And then if we come back to see the history of this war, or why this war happened, you can see this two sect, Shi’a, and Sunni. They kind of fighting each other all the time after 2003 with a civil war, US Army and now with ISIS. And now I saw these two soldiers together side by side, they go to frontline, and they fight to liberate these villages, cities, towns and also confront the enemy. And then, there was the main very good and positive subject I want to follow.
Ziyah Gafic: So, when did you— sorry to interrupt. So, when did you?
Ali Arkady: No. It’s fine.
Ali Arkady: We don’t hear you. Sorry. We don’t hear you. No, there’s no sound. Sorry.
Ziyah Gafic: Yeah, okay. So, can you hear me now? When did you think? When did you realize that things are not as they seem to be?
Ali Arkady: Okay. In October, until May, June I think, Fallujah get liberate, liberated by Iraqi army. And then I just went to Europe for 40 days, I had a tour. And I also assignment in Germany following Iraqi journalist work from the first time I did assignment in Europe at that time of photography, and then in October I back and I get the assignment for Der Spiegel and then only good contact I have was with ARD Media Center. And then I just contact them and say, okay, I need to spend with you 10 days, I have assignment, I’d like to cover the war in Mosul, or the operation. It was really the first week when the operation starts in Mosul. It was in October. Then I went, I met some people. And then they told me, Ali, please stay with us, and I continue our project. I will, because we see the photo was very nice, published somewhere. And also, we saw you when you speak about our stories on TEDx stage. TED stage, I think it was called like that in Baghdad, in front of Prime Ministers. And then they kind of, I get trust, you know, I guess they know me, I’m there and they’re kind of, they thinking I support them, anyway. You know, and then they let me go. I told them, please, I can’t because I’m really tired. I need to focus about my book project. And something else, bla, bla, bla, and also I promised my father and my wife, I will not go to frontline this day. He said no. And I decided, continue. I went back home, back November 15. I think it’s November 2010. When I back, they change the place, they go, they liberate some village and they go and they stay in the government base and then Al-Adhamiyah, the city area, and then that time I start so, what they do, why? Because we didn’t go. We start that. Why? Because all the operation to go forward to Mosul stop. There was the decision by Iraqi Army and Coalition Army. And then we stopped from one month, and I didn’t have anything to do, then just document the daily life. Every day I wake up, sometimes we go to the frontlines, sometimes they have some kind of fighting. And I come back with them, and I follow them in this way, like daily life. And I had really great footage, videos and photos in that time. Since Fallujah until November, that kind of six, seven months, then I start see what’s happening there. First time they don’t let me to document. Sometimes they told me stop here. Document the introduction, but don’t record the beating or the torture. It was not what strong. After a few days, I was there they just, I was every day, every time there with my camera I am shooting, and they start to accept me in that place. And kind of the not—And when you mentioned that I was there, like part of the place, you know, and they don’t feel very strange if I shoot or not.
And then I start to shoot everything. Sometimes they realize I have that in the video, and they say, stop. Don’t show this. But already I shoot some and then this is start happening one week, one time, two times, like what you see. And they told me okay, Ali, we cannot tell you every day, every time cut everything. You know what you do? They are ISIS, they are not civilian. And we do that. And that part, which is mentioned as a bad soldier, cut it in the montage. And I realize now they kind of dealing with me with the same journalist, local journalists when they come from local TVs, which is related by any party or related by them, which is they do that. And they thought I am like them. And then they don’t know how I think. And then I realize obviously the heroes when I followed in Fallujah, they start change. They’re not heroes anymore, for me, and then I start to see what they do. And sometimes they let me on again, sometimes not. But that time I decided with my, with myself be more quiet, not speak a lot, not involve too much. If they told me, I will not. I will not do any things. And then I start to have a really hard psychologically situation. It was not the effect my brain because all like in the front line you have kind of this dopamine is going up, going down, you cannot control it. But something it change was the heaviness on my shoulder. Day by day this camera, this stuff started to be heavy without I know what’s mean that. Maybe it was good because I just continue to investigate and started to work. Obviously, what’s happening, it was 15 November, 23, obviously, the strong things, November until 22, 23 September. That period of the time, it was like the last month of nine month shooting or nine-month project was just last month. And in the end of that, we’ll, we can after that, if you have any questions we can go with some details. But then this is the story I think it’s important people to know how this embedded or how I was there and with which reason I was there. It was just about positive and good project. Follow something to show people the future this Sunni and Shi’ite guy, they are fighting together to stop war in Iran. And this is what my perspective as an Iraqi human and also, as a journalist, I tried to show that side and the side and mix together and to show my people, look, don’t worry, there is there is no problem. Also, I am thinking in a very romantic way to maybe this project could stop the war. Or, just maybe doing something positive. But obviously it was not like that, because I discovered a lot of things which is not working in the same way how I face in that time. And now, if you ask me about the war in Iraq, and all the things, my experience, my perspective, it’s really different.
Ziyah Gafic: We’ll get we’ll get back to that. Let me just, before we switch back to Ukraine, I just want to, because I was involved in this and there’s actually a question, a few questions. But just to clarify, when we were editing, I forgot how many 10s of 1000s of images, this image, obviously, and it’s not the only one like that, because it repeats itself. Also, at the very end. I was like, I was curious. Well, we were curious, like, what kind of torture this is, what is this? Because it’s, if you look at it, it doesn’t really look like, inverted commas, horrible torture, you know. We can imagine much worse kind of torture. So, we start researching it and we found out it’s actually medieval method of torture, Strappado, which basically, is designed to, not to kill you, but to cause extreme discomfort and eventually dislocate the victim’s shoulder, shoulders. So, that’s how we got to the title. Ali, just hold on for a second there. Eric, thank you for your patience. So, this is actually also a question from the audience. Let me just say exactly from whom. Adrian is actually asking. And this is a question for both of you. But perhaps you can, we can answer it, Eric. So why the newspaper format? Now obviously, your work has been shown and our work is shown in books, papers, and so on and so on. But why did you, Eric, opt for newspaper format? And while you answer that, sorry, can you show us some of the pictures from Ukraine from this particular publication? Initially, some of the stuff.
Eric Bouvet: First, before to answer to this question, I’m very impressed by the work of Ali and we have no idea what it means for a photographer to cover a war in his own country. We have no idea. I have no idea. And as I met some friends in Ukraine, photographers in Ukraine, the coverings of war in their country. So, we have no idea. About special forces, as you said, I work with Russia and special forces in Chechnya and I don’t know why I’m the only one in the world to have working with, to have worked with the Intelligence Service Special Forces Russian in the world. So, and it was a very bad experience. I can say that because the same as Ali, I saw torture, I saw killing, they kill people in front of me like that. And it’s a very strange situation because you know, that’s what you see, you should not see it. And I was not local, you know, and I was sleeping very badly at first. It was a war every night. And so, we were, they were looking for Chechens for to ask them questions. And problem was, in fact, was asking me if I could see the day coming, you know. I was pretty sure each night they could kill me because they could understand that it’s unbelievable they show me what they do. And in fact, at least it was very strange too because they saved my life. So, as you know, that when another human saves your life, that you have a different way of thinking about him. Even if he’s doing something very more than badly, killed people, you know. So, nothing is black or white. It’s very difficult on the, on to work your way out and I can imagine for Ali, it’s worse because this is his country.
Ali Arkady: Before we go, I would like to reply also here. I think the feeling is same feeling. You know, even when I went to the border of Ukraine, it’s when I am covering refugees in Iraq. For me, it’s the same feeling of the refugee. And then what, when you describe now also, about that situation. Yeah, every day, in the end of the times, every day was for me, maybe they will kill me. Because was really scary, there’s a lot of things is happening, and I write it down on the before to publish the stories. And you can read it. It’s really a lot of information about all the process I went. It’s obviously, yes, it’s a feeling, it’s really disastrous. And when you be there, they just try to, they think you’re like them, you know, because they see the life and they see the, they see everything in them perspective. And they thought you are same, you know, and then I agree with you on that point.
Ziyah Gafic: Yeah, so yes. So, Eric, again, so just to remind, so why — we’re living in all digital world, right? So why even bother to print anything, let alone something that you put together? Well, first you photographed it, you raised funds to get it published. You worked on the design and so on and so on. And then you put it in the newspaper format. So why?
Eric Bouvet: Because it’s smelling ink and paper.
Ziyah Gafic: Works for me, works for me.
Eric Bouvet: You will never have that with your screen of your computer. And no more seriously, but that’s right. It’s very good because I put them in a plastic baggie. And so when you open it, you smell it, the ink. So, I’m an old man, so I know what means print. And in fact, is last year my daughter, Cherie, she told me that this is your 40 years of work. So, let’s do a newspaper. Oh, okay. And I said, yeah, yeah, we’ll do it and in fact my wife and everybody work on it. And we did this 40 years of work with the newspaper. And so, the war in Ukraine arrived. And it was a complicated to find money to leave, as I said before, and for the second trip, we did the crowdfunding. And we have, it was a big success, like the 40 years’ work. It was a very big success. And so, I have enough money for to cover my expenses and to produce the newspaper. And it was in some ways easy to do, you know. It’s not so complicated. And so, it’s, I love, I love all sorts of photography, okay, but and I’m a man of the press, work for the press, for Time Magazine, for Newsweek, for Life, for Stern, for Sunday Times Magazine for Paris Match, for all of the great newspapers, for the Occident, work for them doing decades. So, for me, it’s logical to do a newspaper. It’s— and you know, when you have a paper, you have a very big format. You don’t see any more big double pages like that. It’s when you—
Ziyah Gafic: Would you mind? Yeah, it’s a solid piece of paper. Yeah. It’s like—
Eric Bouvet: Fifty-six pages. And so—
Ziyah Gafic: Would you mind sharing some of the work, some of the pictures, some of the highlights?
Eric Bouvet: Ah yes. Let’s try Yeah. It’s easier to turn the pages.
Ziyah Gafic: I mean, black and white. It’s a pity.
Eric Bouvet: Should be that I think.
Ziyah Gafic: You have to go full screen. Can you just go full screen?
Eric Bouvet: Yeah, looking for that. Sorry. Yeah.
Ziyah Gafic: There’s still, yep. It’s good. Yep.
Eric Bouvet: Okay, anyway, there is the first page, second page, few texts. And as you can see, there is a QR code, and you can scan them, and you have the sonarama with— this is a French QR code. I think that’s the same, English, sorry. And so, after it’s a big double page like that, so few of them I’m very, some were very strong to me, as for example, this one was unbelievable. It’s like a cinematographic scenic you know. It’s, and to give some advice for people who— to answer your question, for example. We arrive very early in the morning to the Irpin Bridge. As you see, this is Irpin Bridge. And there are thousands of people crossing in the morning in the exodus. And was working in after midday in Irpin, there was bombing. Okay, and it’s a little bit dangerous. And I came back, and I saw that the press left, because there was, I don’t remember how many hundreds of photographers, cameraman and journalists at this point. It was easy to go from Kyiv, you know. And I was there, I don’t know why, I was there, and nobody came out. And suddenly this priest, Orthodox priest, arrived. And he was waiting for a few people crossing the bridge to give them, so it was a good a action. And he was— look at, oh, you see him. It’s unbelievable. He is standing by the Honda car with his phone. It’s—
Somehow, it’s, for me, it was very, very strange. And were only two photographers—about to do that, you know. And so, there’s a few like that, like this one. It’s very, quite scenic, you know. People are very quiet, they go, and they left everything you know, and you can see there is a, the same place from the left to the right side. So, our eyes is turning to the faces always first. And of course, the blue on the left and the pink. And what it’s doing, is blue objects in the water or the yellow bicycle. It’s a line. So, a line of people. I really appreciate to do these pictures. It’s really a, it’s not a news picture, you know. It’s a picture where you ask your question, you know, it’s a sort of picture have to do with war. And there is few like this one, for example. It’s strong, you know—this woman. Everything, this woman is wearing the world, you know. She doesn’t want to leave because she lost—she’s on the frontlines. This building is on frontline, by the poor people. And it’s always the same thing. When you were inside the center, downtown Kyiv, the capital, okay, it was totally empty. Everybody’s gone. Everybody. Okay. And when you arrive to the shell bombs, and on the place where there is a war, some people stay. Who are these people? They are poor people, because nowhere to go. They have no money, and they don’t, they don’t know where to go. And this is a sad story. I can do it after with this little girl. This is the daughter of this woman on the right here. And this woman was married, she has two kids. She didn’t want to leave. And after I left them on this place, a bomb arrived and killed the woman. And so, the father and the two kids left. And this woman didn’t want to leave because her mother was here, with the cat now. Her mother was very old and that’s why the woman doesn’t want to leave. And she died. And so now, so further on, those bombs, I’m sorry, and is restricted, left. And the mother of this woman who was killed, stay alone in this apartment. And she can’t move, she can’t walk, she is very old. And she’s crying. Because, in fact, the neighbors say, you have killed your daughter. This is a sort of story you can make on the wars on any— it’s a very powerful, it’s very awful. It’s very strong. And so, I’m sorry, picture is like that, because I have some pictures you can use to turn the newspaper for to have a big double page on the vertical. So, I don’t want to show you all pictures. But I just stare at the last one like that. This one. This one is like a picture of the priest. It’s cinematographic picture.
Ziyah Gafic: Can you please, can you please explain a little bit in detail this particular photo? I know what it is, but can you just explain what’s going on here?
Eric Bouvet: It’s same, same thing. It’s just very near Irpin Bridge. It’s another day when I get out from Irpin and after the bridge was leaving to back to Kyiv. And I found these three men, were thief. In fact, they stole in the houses of people, because people left, and the army took them and attached them to—you can see them. Yeah, they pull them off, torsos, pants and it’s, they put them a potato in the mouth. And I was surprised because there is something like 30 photographer and 20 cameramen, so our international press did see, during one hour they stay like that. And I wait for that, no people on the back for to be strong. I think that’s the choice, is enough like that. And I was, when I push on the button was that I understood that it’s not the sort of thing you can see usually, you know, it’s a very special picture. And I was pretty sure that after we could see that everywhere, you know, and in fact, it was the opposite. No way. I was the only one to put them on the, on the web. There is no pictures in the newspaper. There is no TV, nobody use it, you know, because our media makes some sure, they did their own censor for not to show that in fact, Ukrainian could do also some things while not only clean you know? So, is it, I’m sorry. I have nothing of course. I have many Ukranian friends and totally support poor people as we can, like this old woman and I’m waiting here from the human and as you know, we know that Russia attack Ukraine, okay. But so, I did this picture because I did a mistake when all my life—I’m sorry, I’m a little bit long about that. But I did a mistake on my life. It’s a censor on myself. Always. I did, I miss much more pictures than I did a quick picture. Because mostly of the time I saw so awful things you have no idea. And while I wasn’t supposed to see those horrible things. And I tell myself, okay, I did the choice to be here and that people who are, France and America and everywhere— they don’t have to see that. I did my whole judge. And I did a mistake. Because, as you know, that something is interesting is society is moving. Okay. And the vision of people is moving too with time. Okay. And I should shoot these pictures. Not to show them at a moment, but to keep them and perhaps to show them two years after, five years after, 10 years after, depends, you know, and it will be good for to keep them for this story. Because the only good example is, of course, everybody knows that when the photographer and camera man did the pictures of the camp in the Second World War in Poland, in Germany. In 44-45, it was certainly one of the awful things in the war we can show. And if they didn’t push on the button and say, Oh, it’s awful. We can do that. Certainly today, there are a lot of people for to say. But yes, we have no evidence, it doesn’t exist. You know? I hope that my French is clear. I’m sorry.
My English, my French accent. My poor English, I’m sorry. And so, it’s this is important. In fact, you must do picture and keep it, keep them and you will decide not to when you can propose them. And I think Ali did well to show what he shows. We must show that. You know, for to finish, I’m sorry, Ali, I let you to speak after. It’s, to finish about that, there is no clean war. Okay. Man could be a beast. They could be a beast very quickly. It’s very easy that every one of us could become a beast. Okay, so that’s definitely, I’m pretty sure I saw too many hours in 40 years. And there is no clean war. So, I’m sorry.
Ziyah Gafic: Absolutely.
Ziyah Gafic: Can I, we have time for one more question. And I think you should both answer it. From Jonathan. And it’s for both, a question for both of you, which not necessarily is related to this particular body of work, Ukraine or Iraq, but it’s a very cool, it’s a commonly asked question, but I think it’s always important to address it. So, if you could say, single out biggest personal, single biggest personal challenge that you find, both of you working in this kind of environment, war environment? Ali? I mean, you had to leave your country. So that’s anyway, maybe you should, I don’t know what’s your biggest personal challenge when finding yourself in such environment or in particular area?
Ali Arkady: You can repeat. Sorry, because I was like, identifying the water—
Ziyah Gafic: Yes. So, what would be the single biggest personal challenge for you, when you were making this body of work, Strappado or Iraq? But also, in general, what is the biggest single challenge when working in conflict environment for you?
Ali Arkady: Well, it’s really difficult to answer that because it’s depending with your personal feeling in the environment where you grow up. As I mentioned, I born inside the war, in Iraq war. We are seven kilometers far away in the border. Obviously, there is not any things. You know, we feel, we smile, we look, all the every day we have until now, there was war. If you go to the history, 1982 until now—now just for me five years ago, I just left my country. The big challenge or the big you know, for me, I was looking for any tools, element to try to describe the situation. But then the journalism was the big, powerful, strong news, because I’m already artist, but just I left when I realized this is the element, which has led me to explain myself to help my country. That is the really personal and then maybe I can help another place if I need to do something. My way of work was human being, journalism, and artistic. And then I mix all, everything together. Because that I feel responsibility. When I— that is the problem sometime when you think, when you realize something. You feel responsibility because you are human, and you’re honest with yourself. And even I really respect Eric, when he speaks about the last moment, about what he said, I’m sorry, not doing that. It’s really honest. Because when you be honest, if past that moment, but people they catch it anyway. And when you say that war is not clean, I know what you mean. Exactly. That’s really important. Even when the war is coming up. It’s important for us, for me. I’d love to go through, I love to stay as long as possible in Iraq, to gather more story, to transfer a lot of stories, thinking, be part in that place, to give something to people, because we go through a lot with so long. I was 10 years old, with my mother, I see bodies of Kurdish fighters close in my town. The dog is eating the body. But we couldn’t speak, we couldn’t help, because the Saddam regime at that time. And then that since, which has grown in me, if I have a good time, if I have some power to do something, why not? And while the decision was not easy for me to have any decision to leave your country. It was something impossible for me because I had planned a different way. But sometime when you are one person and your family, one family say I see 1000s and 1000s of families in Iraq, they get, they have a same situation. In the frontline, in Mosul, in the western region, Sunnis. And for me, I have evidence, I have this knowledge. And even I didn’t stop one way to think, to not thinking, to not publish or speak about, because that directly I went out, directly we work about, directly with the VII Photos. We try to put it, and that all consequences is coming up because one decision. It was just feeling to survivor and other people to try to keep them safe more and stop, try to stop these armies. If I am, I will have the consequences. Because at the end of the day, when I saw that, I did didn’t feel I’m exist anymore. I didn’t feel I’m human if I’m not talking about. I knew the consequences will be very hard. Thirteen, my names, they destroyed my names in Iraq since three, four five years. And they threaten my family and everything’s directly with my face. I went to the media, without to stop thinking about myself as a human. As a soul. I can lose it anytime. Those was the things I don’t know. I answer your question. Well, I maybe speak a lot about other stories to just explain more the feeling, but I don’t know it was good or not?
Ziyah Gafic: Sure, it was. And for you, Eric. What would be the—
Eric Bouvet: So, first of all, of course, I’m sorry, it’s very primary, but it’s just to stay alive. First, because we have so many friends who disappeared, who are killed or who are wounded. And so, first thing is always, as we know, it’s to take care of ourselves. And at the same level is something very important. You remember that we spoke about history at the beginning? And in fact, when you shoot people as a photographer, we shoot people, we should— no, it’s not, we should, we must, okay, we must keep to take care of them. We must keep them their dignity. Why? Because of course, it’s how human make us in difficult situation, awful situation. We must keep their dignity because in fact these pictures we do. Okay. It says these people will stay in the story. This is this people will stay in the books of history. And for infinity, you know, we make pictures for the story. So, these people we should, we must take care of them because they’re for the infinity.
Ziyah Gafic: Brilliant. Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you for joining in, Eric, Ali, thank you very much. Again, everyone, I posted a few links here if you would like to get your own copy of Strappado or Ukraine. And thank you for joining us again, everyone. Stay safe. And see you soon. Thanks, Eric. Bye, Ali. Take care.
Ali Arkady: Thank you. Thank you very much.