Photojournalist in Japan on covering disasters in your own backyard

parNicole Martinelli
1 avr 2011 dans Specialized Topics

Gianni Giosue, a Tokyo-based international freelance photographer who covers social issues, has worked with NGOs in several countries in Asia and the Middle East.

His photos have appeared in publications worldwide including The Daily Telegraph, Jica World Magazine, The Sankei Express, The Los Angeles Times and The Japan Times. Recently, his project “One year in Russia” earned a 'Coup de Coeur' nomination at the 2010 “VISA Pour L' Image” Photojournalism Festival. You can see more of his work on his website; he is represented by OnAsia.

He talked to IJNet about covering a major event on his home turf and offered some advice for journalists taking photographs.

IJNet: What's the most emblematic photo you shot of the Japan earthquake?

Gianni Giosue: There are probably are two photos I enjoyed taking the most. The first one is the picture of the torn flag and a man crossing a huge puddle on his bicycle. The Japanese flag is battered, the country is suffering a lot. There is a lot of information.

The second one is the photo of a man digging in the basement of what is left of his house, looking for any of his belongings. It was raining, cold and the house was completely gutted, smashed into smithereens. Also, the floor was covered with silt and mud. There was no logical reason to do that, but he was determined to find something dear to him. To me, it represents the Japanese spirit which is also expressed by a proverb: “Fall down seven times and stand up eight.”

IJNet: How was covering the Japan earthquake and tsunami different from other breaking events?

GG: Taking photographs in your own backyard feels strange because your eyes are already used to this reality. However, I have lived here for several years and I can communicate with the people; that allows me to better understand the problem and really get under the surface. I could not rent a car so I had to move around by bus and I also hitchhiked.

At first I thought I would have problems, but then I realized that I had been blessed because I could meet wonderful people. An old woman said to me, “I cried so much that my eyes are painful.” It worked as an excellent motivator to keep me going and do better.

IJNet: What are you shooting with?

GG: A Digital Nikon SLR. Mostly two lenses, 35mm and 50mm. Definitely extra batteries, memory cards and a portable hard drive to save my images.

IJNet: What advice do you have on taking photos for journalists or citizen journalists?

GG: Take your time and slow down, then slow down even more.