Freelance Photojournalist Updates From Cairo
Posted by David Ozanich — 30 Jan 2011
Freelance photojournalist Scott Nelson lives in Cairo and has been documenting the unrest in Egypt that has transfixed the world. In an interview from Cairo on Saturday night, he tells the Lens Blog about the challenges documenting the recent protests:
Q: What have been the challenges in covering the demonstrations?
A: First, there are technical constraints. It's like being in the Stone Age, before we were digital. There's no Internet or mobile Internet. You can only use BGAN [Broadband Global Area Network] satellite phones to transmit photos, and I didn't have one. Also, without cellphones, you can't coordinate with reporters or photographers.
Then there are the challenges of staying physically safe. There's always one guy in the crowd who is opposed and agitating against you, as a journalist and an American, and those moments can build. You try to tamp it down and then move on. You never win that argument.
You can only see what's near you. Cairo is a very big and spread-out city with 16 million people. There are roadblocks everywhere. And protests. You can't just jump into a taxi to get around.
He also speaks about he got into the business of photojournalism in one of the world's political hotbeds:
I attended the University of Missouri-Columbia and the New England School of Photography in Boston, then jumped into freelancing. In 2000, I decided to base myself in the Middle East, beginning in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. I spent seven months in Afghanistan working for Getty Images, then jumped straight into covering the Iraq war from 2003 to 2005 as a freelancer and then as a staff photographer and Middle East bureau chief for Getty. In 2005, I returned to freelancing and began my relationship with The New York Times, working in Iraq, Haiti, Gaza and occasionally Egypt.
I moved to Cairo primarily to have a base for covering conflicts in Israel, Gaza, Afghanistan and Africa. It seemed like an ideal base. It's geographically central, work visas could be obtained easily and the cost of living was low.