Sunday 9 November 2008

Not making a difference.....?

Last week I delivered a lecture to the Cambridge University photographic society, where I charted my photographic career to date

At the start of my presentation I showed a series of images from an incident which was largely responsible for me leaving the photo journalism industry

On the afternoon of Saturday 25th June 1999 I was driving from Pristina in Kosovo to Skopje in Macedonia, heading for home

Journalist David Harrison and I were on assignment for the Sunday Telegraph covering the NATO KFOR ‘invasion’ of Kosovo 
It had been a long and difficult assignment , at times harrowing too, witnessing some of the results of ethnic cleansing and the suffering of the population

We came across one of the many military traffic jams which were a familiar sight.

Stopping, we got out of the car to see what the hold up was.
We found a small team of lightly armed British army medics engaged in a life or death struggle to revive a Kosovan civilian who had been shot

It was a very hot day, and the medics were giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to the victim by the dusty roadside.

I started to take pictures and initially faced a somewhat hostile response from some members of the team who did not want me to photograph this amazing struggle for the mans life
I politely pointed out that I worked for the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ and that I was just showing the British public what a brilliant and selfless job they were doing.

I agreed to keep my distance and they allowed me to continue my work

Seconds later we came under automatic fire.We all dived for cover under the Landrovers

When anybody raised their head to see where the gunfire was coming from it was rewarded with a volley of bullets

All the time the medics carried on working to save the man’s life.


I had one roll of film and 2 lenses with my Canon EOS 1, to try to retrieve more film from the hire car would have been sheer stupidity

So, I had to document the whole incident on 1 roll of film

A real challenge, to make every shot count

The rest of the convoy had been held back at a safe distance, behind the cover of a petrol station

Two soldiers ran from the relative safety of the held up convoy to join us

They were shot at as they ran.

I found my self willing them to make it as they ran for their lives

I managed to make one really great shot, where you can see the fear and tension of the soldier who is running for his life

Soon an ambulance arrived, the male and female medics risked their lives with weapons drawn to evacuate the man

Eventually the more soldiers arrived and located the source of the gunfire.

It was thought to be one man

With outstanding professionalism they did not shoot him, they arrested the suspect

The whole incident lasted for about an hour

A number of medals were awarded for bravery in this incident

Apparently the most in a single action of the whole campaign

David and I were the only journalists to witness the drama

It was ‘our’ exclusive

What is more we had plenty of time to file the copy and images

We raced back to Pristina, David wrote his dramatic account while I processed my film in a cupboard

We filed on time

And waited for a response from the desk

‘Good stuff ‘ they said

And then silence

Ominous silence

Surely the front page? If not, page 3 with a whole spread of images?

Sadly it was to be neither of these

The ‘Sunday Telegraph’ chose not to run a single image


Well, it turns out that the only page available was the front

And it could not run there as Rupert Murdoch was getting married, and they wanted to run that image instead

We had risked a great deal to document this remarkable incident

For nothing

At this point I asked myself why I was doing the job.

Low pay, high risk and then the photos do not see the light of day

Until now

Nearly 10 years later

Here they are in their entirety

The first frames show the team struggling to revive the victim

The first shots come in...but from where?

Finding 'Hard cover'

Calling the ambulance forward.....

Making a run for our position....under fire. A heart stopping moment

Loading the casualty into the ambulance....while people take cover under the Landrover on the left....

David Harrison alets the 'Sunday Telegraph' to the situation via satellite phone

As soldiers look through their 4x scope to watch the arrest team go in.....

One man is arrested.

I never did establish the fate of the wounded man

If anyone out there knows any of the soldiers who took part in this action I would be more than happy to let them have photos.....


Vincent said...

Hi Drew, I just entered your blog and I am amazed by your work. Beautiful shots in Denmark on the phaseone. I am just trying to get a foot into the journalistic world and your series of the kosovo arrest made a huge impact....maybe warzones is not something for me. Anyhow thanks for opening up your world and will happily follow your posts


Mitya Aleshkovsky said...

Hi Drew!

i do not understand why do you so offensive to the words and actions of Sanday Telegraph editor, that banned your work? Why do you decide to leave the photojournalism after that?

When i'm going somewhere to the hot-point, i always ready to risk my life, this is a part of my job.
And it was a part of your job too, i think :-)

But the main -- look to the pictures, that you've made - there's no story in them, just try to show them to someone who do not know anything about them. Those pics are not telling the story :(

Adam Matheson said...

Drew, I don't blame you for chucking it in. The images, like all your work, is great.

Mitya, 2 things - 1. If you want to risk your life thats your call. 2. Google Rupert Murdoch and you might understand Drew's frustration. said...

It must have been really difficult to see this amazing incident not to be able to share it with the world because of company politics. Rupert Murdoch doesn't give media a very good name.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your comments, positive AND negative.

Just wanted share my experiences, where i had come from and why it was no longer for me, a very personal choice



Pete Tiley / Bike rider. said...

An incredible read and some great imagery. Thanks for sharing it.

Alex said...

Amazing work. I think you can be confident time will reveal their value despite them being initially passed over by your Eds.

Ron said...

I'm with you brother. That sort of thing would be enough for me to quit too. It's like you were there for nothing...

I try not to swear in public so just know that I'm as disgusted with your paper as you are.

Unknown said...

I hope you will write a book about your experiences. If this single story is any indication, it would be a fantastic read.

Alvaro MAM said...

Hi Drew,

This is one of those moments why photography matters, thanks for sharing.

Pity how many of this heroic moments get lost in time because there is nobody to document it.

JLorenzo said...

I would say the images says it all and the shame on the Sunday Telegraph for thinking the public cares more about another rich-has-it-all persons marriage. If anything his wedding should have made the middle and let the real issues occupy the front. Sorry it left such a bad taste in your mouth, but it does happens... politics.

Anonymous said...

Great sequence. Seeing something for yourself almost always leaves one frustrated with the lack of understanding of the scope and intensity by those viewing images.

You must really try and get a hand on the book "The Bang Bang Club" about 3 photojourno's in South Africa during the State of Emergency in the 80's (I'm South African). Kevin Carter being one of them.

Great work.

Unknown said...

Thanks Guys

Interesting you should mention ' The Bang Bang Club'
Which to my eternal shame I have not yet read!

I also covered the township 'wars' in the run up to the yes/no vote in the early 90's.

I had the privilege of working alongside Joao Silva.

Great guy, great photographer.



Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
somac said...

Hi Drew,

great story and images, thanks for sharing.


Unknown said...

To all of you who have followed this posting, I may have some exciting news regarding getting in touch with the participants of this incident!

You will be the first to know!



furryjen said...

Hi Drew,

Not sure how I fell onto this page but just for your info although i'm sure you already know.

The 'guys' in the photos will be medics from 16 Close Support Medical Regiment 16 CSMR, based at Merville Barracks, Colchester.

Although many may have been posted on now.

Depending on which Squadron were supporting the Battle Group will depend on who you wish to contact and communications isn't always that good when it comes to speaking to the heirarchy and the message being sent down the chain of command.

23 or 19 Air Assault Squadron are the likely places to find the medics or why not try facebook and check out the page for the Royal Army Medical Corps and ask there.

I know the 'lads' would love those photos, people often forget how much the medics do on Operations and myself being an ex member of the RAMC and 16 CSMR know that to treat and fight is now second nature when deployed on Operations.

Hope this helps

Unknown said...


Thank you very much for the message.

I contacted the Press office at Melville Barracks who said they would pass my message on but it has gone a bit quiet

Facebook could be an answer but if you could help out in any other way with your contacts I would be happy to pass the images onto those concerned

please contact me through my email for immediate attention





Unknown said...

hi drew was part of the unti on that op, and recognise some of the personnel , they would be grateful to recieve any pictures ,the unit addess is 16 close support medicalformally 23pfa] regiment, merville bks, colchester essex, the co i think is gez hair, just contact them and they would love them,please give them my regards , cpl sean statham , theyll know who i am , hope i can help out