Journalism, Photography

IWD2016: Françoise Demulder ‘Fifi’, war photographer

Today, the 8th of March, is International Women’s Day. This day serves as an occasion to celebrate the achievements of women, but also to campaign for gender parity. Many people wrongly believe gender parity only benefits women, but in fact it benefits society as a whole, propelling economic, social and cultural progress.

One of those women who had an effect on social and cultural progress was photojournalist Françoise Demulder.

Source: Copyright: Georges Beutter

Copyright: Georges Beutter

She once said that she hated war, “but felt compelled to document how it is always the innocent who suffer, while the powerful get richer and richer”.

She was the first woman to ever win a World Press Photo award, in 1977, for a photo of a Palestinian woman pleading to a Phalange militiaman in Karantina, East Beirut.

Source: World Press Photo Copyright: Françoise Demulder

Source: World Press Photo
Copyright: Françoise Demulder

She was known by her nickname, ‘Fifi’, apparently coined by Yasser Arafat, whom she met during the war in Lebanon.

She started her career in Vietnam, documenting the onset of the war in 1975 and she went on to photograph most of the major conflicts of the end of the 20th century. She was one of the few women who managed to forge a strong professional reputation in the predominantly male world of photojournalism.

She passed away in Paris in 2008, aged 61. You can read her obituary and more information about her life and work in this obituary published by The Guardian. This website has a collection of pictures of her through the years. Some of her work is available here.

To know more about International Women’s Day, go to

Photographer Daniel Morel (top-left) poses for a photograph with neighbors of downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, featured in his photographs and visiting the opening of his exhibition 'Sonje' on January 12, 2015 (mobile photo).
Journalism, Photography

After the earthquake

I had the honor of attending the opening of a very moving exhibition in Port-au-Prince on January 12 — exactly five years after the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. 

When the earthquake struck, photographer Daniel Morel was in downtown Port-au-Prince, in the same location he chose to host the exhibition. Continue reading

Journalism, Photography

Indonesian presidential elections

Photographs of today’s Indonesian presidential elections are available for editorial use. You can buy and download them directly on the links below. Or you can contact Rodrigo if you need more details. Continue reading

About this blog, Journalism, Photography

First issue

These days, it’s unusual for new printed media to be born. But when they do, they follow a long-standing tradition, going back to the age of the very first newspapers, when they were barely one-page lampoons handed out at the market.

Back in the day, the first issue of a newspaper would outline the publisher’s editorial philosophy. The first editorial would describe a newspaper’s approach and values. Readers could therefore get a summary of a daily’s working methodology and ethical guidelines, its geographical reach, and its position on issues of interest to their community. It was, in short, a statement of principles; a road map to guide both editors and readers.

A newspaper vendor in Bath, UK

A newspaper vendor in Bath, UK

I deemed it pertinent to do something similar upon launching this blog. After all, it’s only fair to establish certain ground rules of sorts, so I can narrow the topics I’ll write about and readers know what to expect.

So here it goes.

Why is this blog called ‘Amphibians’?

I’m very attracted to the concept of ‘cultural amphibians,’ originally coined by writer Stefan Zweig to refer to people who lived across borders (read, in exile) during both World Wars and couldn’t fully identify with the identity of any one country. Rather than feeling disenfranchised and torn between loyalties, they lived ‘amphibiously,’ graciously moving between nationalities, languages and identities.

These ‘amphibians’ were able to breathe in and out of the ‘water.’ They were able to use their legs and tell those living in land: “You know, the people who live in the seas are quite nice, actually.” But they could also dive in, breath underwater and tell fellow swimmers: “You should give land people a chance; they are just like you.”

In other words, the first ‘cultural amphibians’ could relate to two or more cultures and foster mutual understanding. They were naturally gifted to use cross-cultural communication and make people understand a different culture or social group.

These ‘hybrid’ people with multiple homelands were in many cases those forging the peace movement. Their experience had taught them that nations that were supposed to be ‘enemies’ weren’t all that different.

The concept of ‘cultural amphibians’ has also been applied to sociology, referring to people who can seamlessly flow and bridge the gap between different social groups.

I feel we should all be ‘amphibians:’ able to adapt to a changing environment and to empathize with different types of people.

Similarly, international journalism should bear in mind its responsibility to make people at home understand the nuances of distant cultures and places. Yet it’s impossible that correspondents do so unless they become full-fledged ‘amphibians;’ they must comprehend both cultures in depth and be able to decode their values and norms.

I also think it’s possible to apply a similar approach to better understand our world. We need to use a combination of different disciplines to shed lights on issues that affect us.

Sometimes I find it strange that people who share a strong interest in the humanities rarely talk to each other. Journalists, humanitarians, scientists, academics, activists… are often interested in the same social issues, yet they rarely come together to find a solution that incorporates their different concerns and expertises.

So what will this blog be about?

This blog will talk primarily about photography and photojournalism. Yes. These days, however, the lines between the ‘classic’ photographic genres (documentary, commercial, editorial, art, news, etc.) are withering away and I’ll be paying special attention to the work of photographers who are not afraid to be innovative and incorporate techniques once exclusive to other categories.

The ‘amphibious’ approach will also be used when I talk about other topics, trying to find the spot where two or more fields overlap. Because of my background working across sectors and continents, I’m interested in the commonalities of aid, business, communication, human rights, information management, journalism, photography, political science and sociology.

I would like this blog to become an open space for dialog, not only for like-minded people but also for those in disagreement. Apart from the comments (often the most important part of a blog), I’ll be interviewing and featuring guest posts from leading professionals in these fields.

I hope you enjoy it and come back regularly (and don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed).