Anyone for….No I can’t call it that !

So another Wimbledon Tennis Championship is over. O.K so it was over ages ago but I’ve only just recovered enough to look through my pictures again.

What an extraordinary championship it was. I’ve covered it for about 8 years and despite believing our one hope Andy Murray is a fantastic tennis player, I never truly believed he’d make the final. The night Murray won the semi-final I was walking to the car-park with Sports Photography legend David Ashdown. I asked him how many years he’d been covering Wimbledon “34 years ” came the reply. “Did you ever think you’d see a Brit in the Final ?” , “No” he said.

When Nadal went out early it started to look good for Murray but he still faced stiff competition. We all started to speculate on what an enormous story this event in a small part of South London could turn into firstly if he made The Final and secondly if he won it. History in the making.

From a Newspaper Photographer’s point of view there is a lot more to covering Wimbledon than what is jokingly referred to as “Bat and Ball”.

To begin with you have to follow the main man Murray whenever he trains and not just during matches. Training often gives a little insight into the ‘Dour’ Scot. Contrary to this persona he is often smiling and laughing during these sessions on the practice courts at ‘Aorangi Park’ where the public are denied entrance. One of the staff there even mentioned to Cavan Pawson from The Evening Standard that this relaxed side was even more evident when we were not around. There is much anecdotal evidence that he is in fact the opposite of ‘Dour’ and other players have mentioned how much of a comedian he is in private. There’s no denying he has a ‘Public’ face which very rarely slips. A friend of mine in Yorkshire offered me a crate of Beer for a picture of Murray smiling on Centre Court. If he’d have won I think I’d be awaiting delivery.

Andy Murray training where after which he laughed and cuddled his cousin Cora Erskine(9)
Murray training on one of The Championship Courts
Murray training on one of The Championship Courts
Murray warming up on one of The Championship Courts he looks like he might be regretting his Lamb Dhansak the night before.
Those sponsor’s sweatshirts can be a bit tricky.
Happy Smiley Scotsman.

One of the biggest distractions from the Tennis In our celebrity led industry are the guests who turn up in ‘The Royal Box’ frequently generating more interest than those on court. Following Catherine Middleton’s wedding to our future King last year the presence of her and members of her family has become a major event at the contest.

Pippa and Kate in The Royal Box.
The Duchess of Cambridge.
Pippa and Kate
…and again…
Even the In-laws turned up for a chat with Brucie ” Good game good game”

It should be straightforward enough really. Sit in one of the Photographer’s pits with a 600mm or a 600mm and a 2x converter (1200mm) and watch your celebrity/Royal subject react to every shot of the game. Err..NO.

Kim Sears watches boyfriend Andy.

Not quite The Royal Box but still Centre Court for Kate’s Mum
Rupert and Wendi

To begin with The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club does not approve of it’s VIP’s being spied on for every second of their visit. You simply can’t sit there watching them. There is also the fact that a 600mm is quite a large piece of kit and if you imagine a line of closely packed Sports specialist Photographers on a bench with everyone pointing their cameras right except for one News Photographer pointing the other way. It’s a sure fire way to lose friends and alienate people. So you compromise. You shoot the Tennis (it is after all why you are there) but when the players rest between games and sets then you turn your attention to the guests. It’s not ideal but it is necessary. The other difficulty is that despite having fellow Telegraph Photographer Heathcliff O’Malley accredited and in attendance the rules only allow one from each organisation on court at a time. This is to prevent the big agencies flooding the limited spaces with shooters from every corner of the world. So when you are on court you have to do both the sport and the news.

It wouldn’t be Wimbledon without the rain…
..or the fans

Oh and a bit of ‘Bat and Ball’

Maria Sharapova on Centre Court

Mr Murray in action

The other British hope Heather Watson.

Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka
The nemesis of Andy, Roger Federer.

Petra Kvitova

Akgul Amanmuradova with Centre Court reflected.

The unstoppable Serena Williams.

Another hitch is the fact that during the breaks in play when the players are seated is also the best time to shoot the expressions on their faces as they contemplate the shots they’ve just made and consider how they will try and win. They are often lost in their thoughts and their faces can sometimes speak volumes. Pictures which are a hundred times better than one of Cliff Richard clapping.

Heather Watson between shots

Andy Murray after losing to Federer in The Men’s Final.

The greatest Dilemma with a Brit in The Final was if he is winning who do you watch at Match-Point ? Andy Murray or Catherine Duchess of Cambridge. Whose reaction will make the front page ? 2 seconds after the Match-Point is not THE moment, 1 second after and the reaction has already changed. You decide.

Andy winning…before The Final

Federer at Match-Point

The ‘Potshots’

More photographers in the crowd than in the Pit

Thankfully (or regrettably ) Mr Federer made the choice irrelevant. So after 14 days of  following our favourite Scotsman around SW19 we watched as his emotions overflowed and he left Centre Court with the runner up prize. Better luck Next Year Andy.

The tears after losing.

As a little side project Heathcliff and myself shot some bits and bobs around the Championship on our i.Phones. I used the Instagram app and Heathcliff used Hipstamatic.

These are a few of my fav’s there are more at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/picture-galleries/9379006/Wimbledon-2012-Telegraph-photographers-Instagram-and-Hipstamatic-photos.html

Murray training.

Rainy Centre Court.

The Copyright Fight – David Bailey weighs in…

Today is the day when the UK Government could vote to include a seemingly innocuous clause in an otherwise largely uncontroversial piece of legislation that will not only harm our industry but also place this country at odds with a vital international treaty. It is upsetting, bizarre and unnecessary to the point of being farcical.

The BPPA has been trying very hard to get the Government to see sense and drop the copyright clause from the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Bill for a while now. In a world where the intervention of a celebrity can unclog jams and open doors we decided to ask UK Photography’s biggest celebrity, David Bailey, to write to cabinet members on behalf of all owners and creators of intellectual property. He decided to write to George Osborne MP, The Chancellor of the Exchequer personally and he has given us permission to circulate that letter as widely as we wish – and here it is…

Image

David Bailey’s letter to George Osborne MP

The text of the letter in full:

Dear George

I am writing because I am appalled at what the government is doing to our rights in the ERRB (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill). Why the ERRB by the way? Why can’t copyright be dealt with properly in a proper Copyright Bill? I’m told everyone will be able to get their hands on our so-called “orphans” so libraries and museums can publish old photographs whose authors have long been forgotten. But never mind what’s lying around on dusty old shelves, what about the millions of “orphans” that are being created now every day!

Why? Because social media, and everyone else for that matter routinely strip our names and contact details from our digital files. They simply should not be allowed to get away with this. They can because our government refuses to give us the right to our names by our pictures (Moral rights). So now commercial organisations will be allowed to make money from our “orphans”, but not us, the creators.

This legislation should never have been even considered without first giving us our moral rights, and is contrary to our rights under the Berne Convention. Why the rush? A scheme, the Copyright Hub – a scheme backed by the government – is being developed to ensure that those who wish to find our pictures can not only do so quickly online, but also find the contact details of the pictures’ owners. You are about to put the cart before the horse.

I’m told the real reason for speed is that “releasing” orphans will create growth. We all understand the need for growth. But where’s the evidence? The seemingly impressive financial figures presented originally in the Hargreaves Review have mysteriously had to be revised – down by 97%! Which now apparently amount to no more than 80p per taxpayer per year. Given the damage this legislation will now cause to taxpaying creators, damage no-one has so far taken into account, the effect of this legislation on economic growth will in fact be negative.

It’s not too late to think again!

Best,

David Bailey

Another open letter to Professor Greenslade

An Open letter written by Chris Eades – a member of The BPPA’s Board in response to Professor Roy Greenslade’s inaccurate blog on The Media Guardian website:

Dear Mr Greenslade

I am writing on behalf of your photographic colleagues in the British Press Photographers’ Association to express our disappointment and frustration at your recent series of articles about “paparazzi” seeking to photograph Vicky Pryce while in prison.

I regret to say that the suppositions upon which you have based your article are for the most part untrue, with the result that your subsequent analysis and opinions are based on an ignorance of the facts.

When photographers sought to correct your mistakes and question your motivations in slurring your colleagues you responded not by seeking the truth, but by turning off comments on your blog to disable further criticism.

As someone who lectures in journalism, and presumes to lecture his peers on ethics, it is distressing that you have made no effort to substantiate the facts – but have chosen instead to rely on rumour, supposition and lazy stereotypes with the unfortunate result that you have thereby reinforced those stereotypes.

For your information we have laid out below the true events surrounding the taking of pictures of Pryce, and have sought to address the questions that you raise about the implication of these events.

In short – No laws were broken, the PCC code was adhered to and there is a strong case that a govt minister and his wife both being jailed for criminal offences is a valid news story, strengthened by the perception that Pryce is receiving preferential treatment by being transferred to open prison less than a week after being convicted.

You question the legitimacy of photographing convicted criminals in prison – but there is a long tradition of doing so. Myra Hindley, Jeffrey Archer, Sarah Tisdall, George Best, Rose West, Ernest Saunders, Maxine Carr, even Dr Crippen have all been photographed in prison.

If you think this is wrong then campaign to change the law, or the PCC code – but please don’t vilify your beleaguered photographic colleagues for legitimate news gathering.

We respectfully request a correction in full – with equal prominence to the original articles.

Yours

Chris Eades
On behalf of the BPPA Committee

THE TRUTH

The true events surrounding the pictures on Pryce at Sutton Park prison are as follows.

On sunday 17th The Sun ran a story that Pryce had been transferred to an open prison after less than a week in prison. This is unusually soon for a prisoner, even on a short sentence, to be moved – and raises the legitimate question is Pryce receiving preferential treatment?

Five newspapers dispatched staff / regular freelances to the prison to try to obtain pictures of Pryce in her new surroundings. All of the photographers were news photographers, not paps, on wages for the day and acting under instruction of their respective picture desks.

(For clarity I define news photographers as those who photograph individuals in the news, as opposed to paparazzi who concentrate on celebrities. These may overlap but it is a good general distinction).

There are several points where pictures could be taken at Sutton Park, without the need to trespass on private property. The easiest of these is from the grounds of the church which overlook the rear of the prison.

Security staff at the prison became aware of photographers presence fairly early on the sunday, and came over to ask who they were and what they were doing. They were asked to not enter the prison grounds and to be relatively open with their activity so as not to cause security concerns. No request was made for them to leave.

On the Monday they were joined by two more photographers from Fame/Flynet – who joined the existing crowd in the church yard and on a footpath that provides a view of the front drive.

Photographers also met a man wearing a dog collar, who they assume to be the vicar. He passed the time of day with them but again did not at any time express concerns at their presence or request that they leave.

The photographers were openly present in the church grounds, in full view, and with the knowledge of both prison and church authorities.

On Wednesday 20th photographers spotted Pryce being escorted to an outbuilding which they took to be a library or education centre, roughly a hundred yards from the church yard – and took pictures which subsequently appeared online and in the next days Sun, Mirror, Mail and Telegraph. All photographers present got images. Flynet were fortunate to get the best angle, and subsequently the majority of the publications.

These pictures were taken openly from from the churchyard, with the knowledge of church and prison authorities – neither newspaper or agency photographer used subterfuge or trespassed on prison property. Very long lenses were not used, the distance being relatively short.

After the first of these picture appeared online the PCC forwarded a letter from Pryces family asking that photographers withdraw. The photographers had infact already pulled back, having got their picture. To the best of my knowledge none has returned to the prison since.

I know this account to be true – as I was there. I understand that Jim Bennett has also explained much of this to you in person.

ADDRESSING THE CRITICISM

In your first article you publish a series of untruths and make a number of suppositions as well as posing a number of questions.

You state that prison officers “prison officers asked the paparazzi to go away and allow the woman to serve her eight-month sentence for perverting the course of justice in peace” – This is factually untrue, no such request was made at any stage, either by prison officers or by the prison officers press liaison officer who came over for a chat.

You state that – “There is, of course, no proof that any newspaper commissioned the photographers. It is highly likely that the snappers turned up on their own initiative.” This supposition is untrue, at the point when this article was written the ONLY photographers in attendance were in fact working directly for papers.

You also pose the questions:
Is it in the public interest to take pictures of a person in jail?
Is it against the editors’ code of practice?
Is there a law against it?

Photographers working for papers do not as a rule get asked for their views on ethics, these being generally reserved for greater minds in nice warm offices. We tend instead to deal with the practical application of the rules on the ground.

But in answer to your first question “Is it in the public interest to take pictures of a person in jail?” the consensus between those on the ground was that it was questionable whether Pryce was receiving preferential treatment – and as such was a valid news story. The majority of editors with access to the pictures agreed.

In answer to your second question “Is it against the editors’ code of practice?”
You yourself admit that you are unclear as to which part of the code this would breach. The PCC advisory draws newspapers attention to section 4 harassment which states “ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist.”
As I have explained nobody at any stage asked photographers to desist or leave – until the advisory was issued by the PCC, by which time the photographers had already got their pictures and departed.
SO in answer to your question – In our opinion the PCC code was studiously observed.

As to your third question “Is there a law against it?”
No there isn’t

So to sum up the pictures are arguably in the public interest, do not breach the PCC and are not against the law. You have every right to debate this view – but you should make clear that these decisions are made by our bosses, rather that choosing to stereotype and vilify your news gathering colleagues.

When your original article was published a number of photographers commented on your blog that you had the facts wrong which you chose to ignore – choosing instead to repeat your allegations a day or so later, but this time disabling comments to prevent anyone challenging your inaccurate and biassed account.

Furthermore, while we are debating journalism ethics, may I take the opportunity to deplore your decision to publish an unattributed and cowardly attack from an “anonymous” press photographer. An attack full of inaccuracies, from someone who wasn’t even there.
(we all know an anonymous source usually means “my mate in the office” or “I made up these quotes”).

How can you justify publishing a cowardly attack without verification while censoring responses from photographers who were there?

The Copyright Fight

As the song goes ‘There may be trouble ahead’…except this time there is no ‘maybe’ about it. For those that recall the less-than-wonderful “Clause 43” of Labour’s “Digital Economy Bill” which proposed to legalise the use of Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing – well, despite its defeat it’s back and this time it’s personal.

Hidden away in a completely unrelated Bill – namely the ERRB (the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill) – are pretty much the same clauses that got thrown out before. The IPO (Intellectual Property Office) – a bunch of Patent-based Civil Servants in the fashion of Sir Humphrey from “Yes Minister” – were so miffed at their attempt to undermine photographer’s copyright being defeated that they’ve snuck their insidious plans back into Parliament hidden in a bill that has absolutely nothing to do with copyright.

There are many reasons why every photographer should be up in arms about this and we’ll list them below summarized by people who know far more about this than myself. The really, really important thing is that we still have the opportunity to send Sir Humphrey back to his Gentleman’s club in Pall Mall with a flea in his ear. They think it’s all over but it bloody well isn’t.

We still have time to effect change to the bill and even get the clauses thrown out (they shouldn’t be there anyway) but we have to act fast. We have to lobby the Lords and then we need to start a firestorm on our MP’s.

Interestingly we have some strange bedfellows as allies on this one including The Associated Press, Getty Images, Reuters, British Pathe, The Press Association, and the Federation of Commercial and Audiovisual Libraries, who have formed the International Media & Archive Consortium. They are threatening a judicial review should the bill become law, but it would be in everyone’s interest if it didn’t get that far.

This affects everyone who works in this country with a camera in their hands.

You all have to take the time to read what it means for you. Even if you just read the summary we’ve provided you’ll garner enough information to include in a letter to your MP or one of the Lords listed.

But it really is in our/your hands to do something for the good of all photographers working in the United Kingdom whether they know it or not.

Eddie Mulholland.

The proposals hidden in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill would do very serious damage to the livelihoods of UK photographers if adopted. We believe that the clauses should be removed rather than amended because:

  1. They should be subject to full parliamentary debate, not buried in someone else’s bill and secondary legislation.
  2. They rob photographers of their rights.
  3. They would not create economic growth, they would damage it.
  4. They break international law.
  5. They would be subject to judicial review even as they are passing through the Commons.
  6. They allow no room for the new “Copyright Hub” concept which, given time to get working, would deal with most of the problems.
  7. They are no substitute for a dedicated and properly considered Copyright Bill – this is nothing more than a rights-damaging fudge proposed by the Intellectual Property Office.

At some point the IPO should learn to realize that the intellectual property that they are supposed to look after is not only that of big business, inventors but that of hundreds of thousands of small businesses and sole traders whose combined worth to the UK’s economy is substantial.

See a fuller explanation on The BPPA’s website

Follow Stop 43 the campaigning group who did most to stop the orphan works clauses in the Digital Economy Act

An Open Letter to Sir George Young MP

Dear Sir George

One of the easiest ways for a backbench Member of Parliament to get noticed and to acquire a platform is to jump onto passing populist bandwagons. Over the years we have seen it many times but Nadine Dorries MP has just joined a very select club; those whose chasing of popularity and notoriety has become something more than a means to an end.

Nobody can possibly think that the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha was anything other than an absolute tragedy. Nobody apart, it seems, from Nadine Dorries. Not content with expressing normal human emotions and offering her sincere condolences to Ms Saldanha’s family and friends the MP for Mid Bedfordshire has done her best to try to blame members of the media in the United Kingdom for the tragedy. Writing on Twitter the former “I’m a Celebrity” contestant suggested that “paps” had driven the nurse to take her own life. This would seem like an attempt to attach the death to one of her own hobby-horses and put some pressure onto her Parliamentary colleagues to force greater restrictions on the press during the Leveson process.

Whether or not the Conservative Whip is returned to Mrs Dorries on a permanent basis, her actions on Twitter go way beyond Parliamentary Privilege and cross the line into ignorant defamation dressed up as human reaction.

The Board of The British Press Photographers’ Association would ask you to take Nadine Dorries MP’s activities on Twitter into account when you review her status as a Conservative MP and to remind her that her tweets could have consequences every bit as damaging as those of the two Australian disc jockeys whose unthinking actions led to Ms Saldanha’s death.

Yours Sincerely

The Board of The British Press Photographers’ Association

More British than the British.

Posted on March 30, 2012 by

In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. My father had worked there in the 1950′s, so we were one of the few families in the United Kingdom that knew that somewhere north of Scotland had not been annexed by Spanish speaking invaders.

I went to Argentina and then to the Falkland Islands in 2007 as part of the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. I met conscripts from desert areas of Argentina who had never even seen the sea. They had been told that the population of the Falkland Islands was Spanish and would greet them as liberators.

I met Falkland Islanders who risked their lives and would do again to stay British. My general opinion was that despite the potential oil riches and the already obvious riches from fishing which have sustained the economy, it wasn’t really about cash. The Falklands’ are a dreadfully harsh place. The people are hardy. No, the people are hard, they are tough. Imagine the roughest, toughest Yorkshireman bred with the hardest Hebridean, crossed with an Eastend hardman. You could describe them as many things, but the one term you would come back to is ‘British’. More British than the British.

Here are some of the photographs I took during my visit.

A permanent military guard at the War Memorial to all those from Argentina who died during the Falklands War, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Commandante Hector Bonzo, Captain of the Argentinian naval cruiser ‘General Belgrano’
which was destroyed during the Falklands War. Commandante Bonzo was photographed at the ‘Association Of Friends Of The Belgrano’ in Buenos Aires where a board listing all those who died is kept.

Former General Mario Benjamin Menendez at his home in Buenos Aires. He lead the Argentinian forces on the Falkland Islands during the invasion.

Maria Fernanda Araujo whose brother Elbio, a conscript, died during the Falklands War.

Maria Fernanda Araujo visiting the Memorial To The Falklands War in Pilar, Argentina. The memorial consists of a replica of the Argentinian war cemetery on the Falkland Islands.

Maria Fernanda Araujo at the Memorial To The Falklands War in Pilar visiting a Replica of St Mary’s Church Port Stanley.

Crosses at the Memorial To The Falklands War, Pilar, Argentina.

Whilst on the Falkland Islands, Argentinian war veterans paid homage to their fallen comrades.

The Argentinian War Cemetery, Darwin, Falkland Islands, on the 25th anniversary of the invasion and the start of the Conflict , visited by five Argentinian war veterans. One of the veterans, Ramon Robles wore a jacket which said “We fought with honour and we will return….”

These crosses are not the only markers for the fallen. Every major battle that cost the lives of British soldiers is marked with a memorial.

A steel cross marks Wireless Ridge were the final battle took place in the Falklands War. Following the victory of 2 Para on the ridge which overlooks Port Stanley, the Argentinan Army surrendered.

Wireless Ridge. The memorial remembers Colour Sergeant Gordon Findlay and Private Francis Slough and Private David Parr who died there during the battle.

Near to Goose Green, a cross and a headstone mark the grave of Lieutenant Nicholas Taylor, 800 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Hermes, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy, the first member of the British Armed Forces to die in combat during the conflict on May 4th 1982.
He was buried by the Argentinan Army with full military honours , a ceremony which was broadcast on Argentinan television.

The memorial to 3 Para, Mount Longdon where twenty-three British soldiers lost their lives on June 11th and 12th 1982.

One of many scattered Memorials relating to members of 3 Para, Mount Longdon.

Shrapnel and casings on Mount Longdon.

The memorial to 2 Para, positioned between Darwin and Goose Green on Darwin Hill.

The memories are kept fresh with a memorial in Port Stanley too.

2007-Current and veteran Falkland Island Defence Force members marching in Stanley today 25 years after they were called out to defend against The Invading the Argentine Army.

A service held at the War Memorial in Port Stanley.

Many of the Falkland Islanders who lived through the invasion and liberation are still happily living there.

Trudi McPhee at Brookfield Farm, where she lived with her family during the Argentinan Occupation in 1982. Trudi received a commendation from the British Army for her work moving troops around during the conflict.

Falkland Islander Tony Smith, who conducts battlefield tours, with the remains of an Argentinan Puma Helicopter between Mount Kent and Two Sisters Mountain.

Patrick Watts, who was broadcasting from the radio station in Port Stanley as the Argentinan troops invaded and who is now involved in the tourism industry, conducting battlefield tours, pictured here on Wireless Ridge with a 105 mm Gun from the war.

Mike Butcher with the skull of a Killer Whale at his house in Stanley, where he was during the Argentinan occupation in 1982. He wandered around during the occupation dropping tacks and nails to puncture tyres on Argentinian vehicles.

Tourism is one of the industries on the rise in the Falkland Islands. Port Stanley itself, alongside the penguins that live nearby, draw in crowds from visiting cruise liners.

Gentoo Penguin Colony , Bluff Cove Lagoon.

Upland Geese in flight, a characteristic of the Falkland Islands landscape.

The famous Totem Pole , at Government Megabid, Airport Road , Port Stanley.

The Lady Elizabeth, a ship which was holed in the late 1800’s and now lies beached on a sandbank in Port Stanley.

The mountains in the background were the scenes of famous battles during the Falklands War and running from left to right are : Sappers Hill, Mount William, Mount Harriet, Mount Tumbledown, Two Sisters Mountain, Mount Kent and Mount Longdon rising behind Wireless Ridge.

Stone runs, a characteristic part of the landscape.

A rainbow near Fitzroy River in ‘The Camp’ which is the Falkland Islanders name for the countryside between settlements.

Typical ‘Wriggly Tin’ roof in Stanley.

Ross Road, Port Stanley.

The Globe Tavern near the Jetty Visitors centre, Port Stanley.

View of Port Stanley from between Wireless Ridge and Mount Longdon.

Thatcher Drive, Port Stanley.

And right at the other end of the Island there is a little settlement called Goose Green.

School playground Goose Green Settlement, recaptured by 2 Para after a battle lasting more than 12 hours on May 28 1982.

A legacy of the 1982 conflict , many areas of The Falkland Islands are designated Out of Bounds due to Argentinian Mine-fields.

I think my most enduring memory of my visit was the memorials at the battlegrounds. Looking at the ages of some of the soldiers that died, Argentinian and British and meeting the Islanders and wondering if it was worth it .

Look closely at the ages on this memorial to 3 Para, Mount Longdon where twenty-three British soldiers lost their lives on June 11th/12th 1982.

Rest In Peace.

Michael Graae : Reporting from Libya

You may think that because the war is over, it is much safer and easier to report from Libya, but that is not necessarily the case. This post is written after my third trip to the country, the first being in February 2011 at the start of the war and the second in November 2011, one month after the death of Colonel Gaddafi.

After waiting almost a month to get my visa, I finally had it in hand. I spent the next few days getting ready and packing. First order of business was to buy insurance that covers war zones through Reporters Without Borders. Secondly, I got my two medical kits together. One contained basic medication such as paracetamol, immodium, plasters, etc. The other was a much more intense emergency kit containing syringes, a blood transfusion kit, extra needles, gloves, bandages, and a tourniquet, among others.

Some of the kit I took with me....Yes I know it's laid out on a duvet - go ahead and make fun!

I also packed a set of body armour. I own a soft armour vest, which protects against any handgun round, shotgun pellets, and most knives. The soft armour is made of Kevlar, which gram for gram is five times stronger than steel. However, you are totally out of luck if anyone shoots you with an AK-47 or any kind of rifle. In order to protect against rifle rounds, you need hard armour plates. As these are £200 plus per plate, I borrowed them from a friend. They weigh 1.8 kg each and you need two of them. Each plate can stop six rounds from an AK-47. I’m sure it could probably stop seven or eight rounds, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to test it! As a whole the vest weighs a bit over 10 kg, and that is using ultra lightweight plates. I also brought a NIJ IIIa ballistic helmet for good measure, also borrowed from the same generous, safety concious friend. Whilst I never wore it, I was very happy to have it!

Importantly, for communication within Libya, I packed an iPhone which was to used for tweeting, shooting video and recording audio, a Blackberry (unlocked to use a local SIM card…), a small Nokia mobile phone as a backup and a satellite phone. I did not pack a BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) which is what the BBC and other networks use to report live from anywhere in the world. Photographers also use them to file, but it is incredibly expensive if you the one footing the bill. It costs £1000 to buy, then £4 plus per megabyte sent or received. Very quickly I could easily rack up a few hundred pounds  BGAN bill in a day or two, so it is best to stick to the mobile/broadband basics.

Once packed it was time to head to the airport. I usually carry on my body armour, but was forced by the airline to check it, fortunately they let me keep my 15 kg camera bag…

Tripoli Airport is semi functional. The gates didn’t work and you needed to use air stairs to get on and off of the plane. It looks like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. And don’t use the bathrooms….by far the worst airport bathroom I have ever experienced! I was quickly through immigration but was unfortunately stopped for a bag search which is incredibly time consuming. One of the passengers who I got talking to on the plane, was returning to Libya for the first time in 30 years and I was kicking myself for not being there for the moment he returned. However, he was very generous and invited me over for dinner and offered me a ride to my hotel.

Once checked into my hotel, it was time to find working broadband, as my hotel didn’t have it. Even if I was lucky enough to have it, the broadband in my last hotel was practically useless to file on. My goal was to find broadband relatively close to Martyr’s Square in Tripoli. It was extremely challenging to file without a BGAN, and almost comically, I reached Plan H before I got success………!

Plan A: Use broadband at the cafe around the corner from my hotel and the square.
Result: Impossibly slow.
Plan B: Find an open wifi network.                                                                                    Result: Found one, but told off by an old man.
Plan C: Use an internet cafe.                                                                                              Result: Can only use their computers and they didn’t have FTP (File Transfer Protocol).
Plan D: Use WiMax (like long range wifi…..)
Result: USB dongle not Apple Macbook compatible
Plan E: Use a 3G USB dongle.                                                                                          Result: Network not working……
Plan F: Pay a business to use their internet.                                                                      Result: 1LYD per hour, but not open on 17/02/2012 (the big day)
Plan G: Use Al-Arabyia’s internet in Martyr’s Square.
Result: Success! Until they packed up and left….while I was in the middle of uploading files…
Plan H: Use the internet at my fixer’s house.                                                                     Result: Working! Though slow and a 10min drive from the square.

On the big day, Friday, I spent much of the day in and around Martyr’s Square alternating between down in the square and up on one of the former intelligence buildings, where I was using Al-Arabyia’s internet connection. It was an amazing experience to be in the square with the 15,000 or so people celebrating. A number of women asked to have their photos taken during the celebrations, which I of course did. It is quite rare to have the opportunity to photograph women in the Arab world, so I took every opportunity I had.

A soldier patrols the rooftop where I edited and most TV networks were setup.

My laptop on top of a building in Martyr's Square. The BGAN you see on the right is the BBC's.

My laptop, card reader, and sat phone near Al-Arabyia's rooftop wifi.

Even with broadband on the roof it was difficult to file…and not because of the connection. Lets just say electrical wiring in Libya isn’t up to any sort of standard. Because my laptop battery was low, I needed to stay plugged in while editing to let it charge. Unfortunately, my laptop is metal and there was only one available outlet, which shocked me every time I touched the computer. It wasn’t bad, but was enough to cause my fingers to convulse and give a nice prickly feeling. I had to work through it though as I had no other choice and was very happy when I was done editing! In addition to being electrocuted whilst editing, I had to keep one eye on my surroundings. There was no gunfire in the air as it has been banned, but people were launching fireworks in all directions and some were exploding just metres from the building! I did my final upload around midnight, which was interrupted when Al-Arabyia packed up and went home, pulling the broadband in the middle of an upload!

While on the rooftop I met a commander in the Army who insisted on showing my photos of special forces training. I asked if I could come along on Sunday and photograph them. He said that was OK with him. However, he neglected to tell me they were on holiday until Thursday and I was to be in Benghazi by then.

Saturday evening, one of my fixers, Mego, took me to a street party in Tripoli. It was yet again a huge party atmosphere complete with western music, lights, homemade flamethrowers with lots and lots of horn honking. I was even offered alcohol, which is illegal in Libya. I didn’t take up the offer as much of it is homebrewed and will likely kill you because it contains methanol! All in all it was a lot of fun and quite the experience to party with them and something that never would have been allowed during Gaddafi’s regime.

My fixer, Mego, having fun at the street party!

Sunday morning, I booked a ticket to Benghazi and then walked around Ba Al-Azizia, Gaddafi’s former compound, with my other fixer, Mo. The destruction was immense. Almost all of it was destroyed by NATO bombing. Surprisingly, the few buildings still standing had been occupied by families and were being converted into homes. After a few hours taking photos, it was time for dinner and to head to the airport on what was the last flight of the day. To say security is lax would be an understatement. Bag isn’t weighed, your boarding pass is blank and it really isnt a problem if you are travelling with loads of liquids and set off the metal detector!

Tweeting via my satellite phone in Bab Al-Azizia, Tripoli

That blank boarding pass issued for the flight to Benghazi, Libya

My trip to Benghazi was mainly to see people who helped me during the war against Gaddafi, who I hadn’t seen in almost a year. But I was also trying to photograph some of the military training I wasn’t able to in Tripoli. After two days of getting the runaround between both militias and the NTC Army, I was allowed to photograph at a NTC base in Benghazi where recruits were being trained and also signing up to join the fledgling force, albeit very reluctantly. They agreed to let me photograph as long as I didn’t disclose the exact location, write any names and show them the photos before I left the base, to which I agreed. The base commander took me and my translator around the base and I got some standard photos of people being trained. However, upon leaving we were stopped by a man other than the base commander and I was forced to delete the photographs in front of him because I didn’t have the correct paperwork. Of course no one could tell me exactly the kind of paperwork I needed, or where it could be obtained…!? I was also threatened by one of the men, who somehow knew who I was, which was a bit disconcerting, saying if I didn’t return with the correct paperwork I would disappear along with the papers. He also claimed to have some of my camera gear, which was taken at gunpoint by pro-Gaddafi forces in late February of last year!? It just got weirder and weirder! It wasn’t covered under my insurance, so of course I wanted to get it back, but after being threatened by him, I decided it wasn’t worth pursuing……

Annoyed, but not really frightened, we left. The photographs have been recovered from the memory card, but won’t be published. I spent the evening at the war museum in Benghazi, letting off some stress and playing around with the fully functional, but not loaded, rocket launchers and other home-built weaponry at the museum.

Need to make a call? Just stick your satellite phone out the window....

Michael Graae attempting to operate an air to ground rocket launcher, meant to be on a Soviet Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter at the war museum in Benghazi.

Michael Graae inside an old but working Soviet SA-8 mobile SAM launcher at the war museum in Benghazi. These crude but very effective SAM launchers caused NATO planes havoc during the Balkans Wars.

My translator told me the same man who threatened me came looking for me to talk to me and I was a bit unsure whether or not I would be stopped at the airport or found when I left my hotel, but thankfully I made it through security and on to the plane. Finally, as the engines roared and the wheels left the ground, I could breathe a sigh of relief…but not for too long as my translator wasn’t leaving the country for another few days. Thankfully, he made it out and his family still in Benghazi are also safe.

You may also be wondering, what does a trip like this actually cost!? Well I’ve totalled up the costs for you below:

Flights from London to Tripoli via Cairo, Benghazi via Cairo, to London : £426.00

Flight from Tripoli to Benghazi : £30.00Flight from Tripoli to Benghazi : £30.00

Hotels : £450.00

Food : £100.00

Satellite phone minutes : £75.00
Visa : £100.00
Total : £1181.00

Note : This doesn’t include costs for fixers, drivers, translators etc, as mine were friends and didn’t cost me anything, besides feeding and housing them when travelling. However, they generally cost around $100 per day.