Canon and DMJX present Ivor Prickett

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Sponsored by Canon’s Student Development Programme 2020, the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX) hosted an online webinar, with freelance The New York Times photographer, Canon ambassador, and Pulitzer Prize nominee Ivor Prickett as their guest.

Hosted by Soren Pagter, head of the university’s photojournalism department, the webinar took place on May 6th.

As mentioned by Pagter, Prickett’s work has been described as showing “unique empathy and a strong eye for the human condition”.

Currently based in Pakistan, Ivor Prickett is best known for his classic war photography, with a particular interest in capturing its aftermath and consequences.

Prickett began his presentation talking about some of his earlier work. Focused on stories of displaced people throughout the Balkans and Caucasus, he began capturing the topic in his third year of study at the University of Wales Newport, where he pursued a degree in documentary photography.

I was in my late teens when I first picked up a camera, Prickett mentioned. Like some of my friends at the time, I didn’t know what to major in. The camera saved me from an aimless path, he adds.

In 2009 Ivor relocated to the Middle East, photographing conflict and the aftermath of war.

Looking back on that earlier work, he stated: I did them from the purest point of view. Not because of assignments, but because of a personal project.

After recapping the work he has done up to now, Prickett went on to answer questions related to his work process and experiences.

Iraqi soldiers rescue a young boy from the killing zone of Mosul's Old City, on July 12, 2017. The boy had been used as a human shield by a suspected Islamic State fighter, soldiers said. Photo: Ivor Prickett. Text: Pulitzer

On the subject of how people react to getting photographed, he stated: I never photograph someone who doesn’t want to be photographed. To add, he mentioned how people constantly come up to him when doing work, ready and happy to tell him their stories, and willfully appearing on his camera.

Talking about his photographic language, Prickett described how he focuses on emotion the most: It’s more than thinking about light, composition, and time of day for me. These elements are essential and have to be there when capturing a scene, but for me, now that I have the skills required to do that, I focus on the story and emotion more.

When it comes to his agency work, he mentioned how, before his story pitch lead to him getting hired by The New York Times, was a mixed bag: Of course, I did some assignments I didn’t want to do but needed the money to make a living.

For Prickett, working at The New York Times has elevated the quality of his work: I can do things my own way. My editor pretty much gives me free reign.

Of course, the added security when being on the scene of war is a welcome bonus: The fact that there is an organization backing me in these situations is somehow a sigh of relief. There are security advisors and drivers always helping me.

Iraqi soldiers gather in the aftermath of a suicide car bombing during their campaign to reclaim Mosul from the Islamic State on Jan. 16, 2017. Photo: Ivor Prickett. Text: Pulitzer

As for what he enjoys photographing the most, he recalls how surprisingly serene moments of patience are when capturing conflict: People think it is always active and dynamic, but there is a lot of waiting involved. And to capture those moments where it all stops for a few seconds is something unique.

But when such moments come to an end, capturing moments of war can be a dangerous game: You need to have instinct and to listen to your gut. I walked away from many situations. It is better to do so than listen to voices inside your head trying to convince you that your stories are not complete or such. It’s okay to walk away, and it’s important.

And to Prickett, feelings of unease are definitely not unfamiliar when doing risky work: You’re never going to not be nervous, but there’s a balance you can maintain. When the emotions tip in the wrong direction, you just have to step back.

On the question on what his favorite photo he has ever taken is, he pondered for a few seconds, then went on to describe one of his most treasured works: It’s a photo of a woman, Nadhira Aziz, sitting completely still, in the middle of dust, waiting for Iraqi Civil Defense workers to find two of her loved ones’ bodies.

Photo: Ivor Prickett

And even though The New York Times is largely what Prickett works for, his photographs have appeared in major publications, such as Telegraph Magazine, Stern, National Geographic, and countless others. To add, his pictures have been displayed at numerous distinguished institutions such as London’s Getty Gallery National Portrait Gallery, the Foam Gallery in Amsterdam, The Annenberg Space for Photography, and many more.

Written by: Nagy Béla-Zsolt