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Nachtwey-style exploitation to the next level

Approximately nine months ago there was a fair amount of outrage in the photographic community when James Nachtwey, who has made millions of dollars from his photography, put out an ad asking for a studio assistant who would be willing to work for him for free. A friend recently sent me this ad seeking someone who would be willing to work for free on photo shoots for over 50 days…. in AFGHANISTAN. It really blew my mind but my friend assured me it definitely is real. Not a joke. I understand some people see the need to expand their profit margin by any means necessary but this is taking it to the extreme. Any opinions on getting people to work for free in warzones?

Intern / Assistant needed for 50 + day commercial shoot in Afghanistan
Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 7:25am

I urgently needs to find an intern/assistant for a 50 + day commercial shoot in Afghanistan. This would ideally suit a photography student or someone looking to gain experience of both the industry and working in Afghanistan. There is no salary as such but all expenses including airfare, internal travel,food, accommodation and security will be covered. Responsibilities would involve data management, liaising with local fixers, arranging travel and accommodation and assisting on the shoots. This should be viewed as a learning opportunity rather than a money making opportunity. We will be traveling to 5 provinces throughout the country between now and the end of the year. Anyone interested would need to be here in Afghanistan within a week. There will be days off between the shoots and therefore time for you to shoot images for yourself which I will be happy to critique and try and pass on some of the knowledge I have picked up over the last decade as a working photographer. If you are interested or knows anyone who is or have any questions and need more information please get in contact asap. If you have a CV and links to your work please email me….

by David Campbell at 2010-10-23 06:14:05 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

I should add that in the Nachtwey case I didn’t see what the big deal was but others felt differently. This one seems a bit odd for free labor.

by David Campbell | 23 Oct 2010 06:10 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
‘Any opinions on getting people to work for free in warzones?’

First off who posted the ad?

Actually the Nachtwey comparison is a poor one. Here the photographer is at least offering to pay expenses. The assistant also actually gets to spend time with the photographer and see them work … totally different to what Nachtwey offered, which was open-ended. Still the photographer here would do better to share the profit.

It’s a shame you can’t see the big deal of getting someone to do a skilled job for free when there are so many struggling to find paid work. It means those that can afford to work for nothing have the best chances of succeeding.

by duckrabbit | 23 Oct 2010 09:10 | UK, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Actually, that sounds like something I’d consider.
Any chance you could PM me the details?

by [former member] | 23 Oct 2010 13:10 | Pajama Factory, 17701, United States | | Report spam→
Awesome opportunity for someone.

by Ian Taylor | 23 Oct 2010 13:10 (ed. Oct 23 2010) | shanxi, China | | Report spam→
I would be thrilled for an opportunity like this at this point in my career… in fact I am actively searching for something like this.

Who put the ad up?

by Jessica McGlothlin | 23 Oct 2010 15:10 | Austin, Texas, United States | | Report spam→
I think this is a grate oportunity! If I was a student I wuold surely applay for it!
I agree that working in an office or doing post-production for free for a master that you will probably never even met cause he’s always on field is quite usless for a young photographer… but going to Afghanistan with Nachtwey, with expenses and organization covered and also with some free days to do your own work that he will critique is a grate deal. You will need months or even years of workshops and practique to get what you could learn during an experience like this one…

by Albertina D'Urso | 23 Oct 2010 17:10 (ed. Oct 23 2010) | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Who was the photographer who sent out the original ad?
Work is slow for a lot of us at the moment and the chance to learn something while not being out of pocket seems like a good trade to me.
Pass along the details to me if you want! =)

by Jay Gannon | 23 Oct 2010 17:10 | Glengad, Mayo, Ireland | | Report spam→
I went trough the post quikly and I didn’t understand the photographer this time is not Nachtwey… so… it depends on who is the photographer who made the offer if this is a good deal or not.
If he’s someone from who you have a lot to learn surely it is ;-)

by Albertina D'Urso | 23 Oct 2010 17:10 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Yeah i’d do it in a heartbeat. Sometimes telling the story and bringing attention to peoples suffering is the greatest of payments.

by Abdul Aziz | 23 Oct 2010 17:10 | New Orleans, United States | | Report spam→

The terms are upfront. You know what you’re getting into. It beats the heck out of some of these (at best) dubious “workshops” that have been offered in the past. At least the person doesn’t have to PAY for this.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 23 Oct 2010 17:10 | Dallas, Texas, United States | | Report spam→
the bar is low, i guess…

by Mark Ovaska | 23 Oct 2010 18:10 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
So…what does a “commercial” assignment in Afghanistan actually mean? I’m surprised that no one questioned the wisdom of recruiting a novice wannabe assistant, untrained in conflict photography and probably unequipped, to work in a war zone. Maybe they should also get a scarf or a personalized body bag. Mr. Jim’s issue ,as mentioned above, has nothing to do with this. Am I missing something here? Just an incredulous thought.

by Gregory Sharko | 23 Oct 2010 22:10 (ed. Oct 23 2010) | Brooklyn, New York, United States | | Report spam→
Photographer was Jason Howe from conflictpics.com, and he ended up getting someone who has been to Afghanistan before.

by Camus Wyatt | 23 Oct 2010 22:10 | Wellington, New Zealand | | Report spam→
That cat, J. Howe from conflictpics.com, reminds me of Zoriah…

by J-F Vergel | 24 Oct 2010 11:10 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→
What an awesome opportunity!
ALL EXPENSES PAID, IT COSTS NOTHING TO LEARN! That’s more than can be said for most universities/collages/courses. In fact it would have been cheaper for me to go away and actively learn something from an awarded-photographer, than sitting on my arse in front of this screen trying to learn how to shoot like them whilst paying rent, food and internet bills.

Yes, there is the issue that an assistant is a paid job, however without knowing the reasons for why payment wasn’t offered, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize and make out someone as a greedy bastard. All the same, although I’ve never been to Afghanistan, I doubt food/board/flights too and from Kabul for 3 months come that cheap neither.

Gregory with all respect, you raise a valid point on novices in warzones, but how else can someone learn to work in that environment as a photographer? I can only see a few options: training and becoming a member of the armed forces; paying (or having someone else pay) a massive fee to go to a hostile environment course; throwing yourself in the deep-end; or finally, having someone experienced show you the ropes, which is what’s being offered here. Personally I think you have to be mad/bloody generous/combination-of-both to even volunteer to take responsibility for, and, teach someone else the ropes in this situation.

J-F Vergel, I’m not too sure I understand your comparison, but I’m guessing your referring to the offer Zoriah made to take MULTIPLE PAYING students to Haiti to show them how to shoot in a disaster zone, in this case the offer is for one person and they are being paid for. Can you explain your comment?

Anyway that’s my unsolicited two cents

by Finley Garside | 24 Oct 2010 13:10 (ed. Oct 24 2010) | sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Where was this ad posted?

If someone can share that It’s just curious.


by Julio Aracil | 24 Oct 2010 13:10 | Santa Cruz , Bolivia | | Report spam→
I liked Howe’s story about love with a female assassin in Colombia…

by Noah Arjomand | 24 Oct 2010 14:10 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
You got it. There’s not much to explain… It’s not an exact match, but close enough for me.

IMHO, if he, J. Howe, wants to hire, for pay, someone who has experience to work for him… great! Fair enough.

But, if he’s offering to take someone with little or no experience into a war zone (because Afghanistan is a “War Zone”) for a “commercial shoot”, and put them in harm’s way – and let’s face it anyone and everyone is a target, even in NYC – for no pay but “experience”, then, I find it irresponsible.

As an aside, what about insurance? What security does he have in place? And, if he can afford security for 50 days, then why can’t he pay at least a minimum wage? A “commercial shoot”… In Afghanistan?
How is he going to vet them? (Anyone interested would need to be in Afghanistan within a week.) Really?
These are some of the questions that came to mind when I read this.

My two cents.

by J-F Vergel | 24 Oct 2010 14:10 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Julio, was posted on Facebook. Unsure if anywhere else.

by Camus Wyatt | 24 Oct 2010 19:10 | Wellington, New Zealand | | Report spam→
@duckrabbit “It means those that can afford to work for nothing have the best chances of succeeding.”

You are sadly right, in this very moment, those who do not have, even in the civilized world, cannot really access anything more that mere survival and you are talking from a UK point of view, where at least, right after the US, you have some kind of privileges in accessing certain realities like the news world.

This, placed in perspective, means that we all receive and will continue to receive the same kind of information, everything gets homologated to an Anglo-Saxon vision of the world, even when the news come from Al-Jazeera, whereas the content may sound more Arabic, the package and the journalists, all have a western, Anglo-Saxon education, there is no criticsm towards the information system, no difference in treating the news.

Different does not mean opposite, that is just the other side of the same coin.

Coming to the topic of Mr Howe I have no specific opinion about it, I’d call it sign of the times.

by Daniel V. Kevorkian | 24 Oct 2010 23:10 | Firenze, Italy | | Report spam→
Yeah sign of the times… that’s it!
Photographic schools are not affortable, workshops are expensive, building your portfolio is expensive and takes years, going to war and disaster zones if you are not on assigment is unaffortable and also quite stupid… so yes… learning and traveling for free is gold for today’s beginners…
I wish I was offered something like that few years ago :-/
But if I can give a suggestion… research carefully about the photographers who are offering those oportunities before going…

by Albertina D'Urso | 24 Oct 2010 23:10 (ed. Oct 24 2010) | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→

Obviously, I didn’t learn to read in elementary school. Or wherever one learns to read. I thought this was a 50-day gig with Jim Nachtwey. My enthusiasm has dropped for this project. I don’t know the photographer involved so I’d be dubious at best of this “opportunity”. I understand (from reading this) that the job is filled anyway. Time to watch the Simpsons.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 25 Oct 2010 00:10 | Dallas, Texas, United States | | Report spam→
What happens if the intern steps on a landmine?

by [former member] | 25 Oct 2010 01:10 | Singapore, Singapore | | Report spam→
That happens to even the best of photojournalists, as was so tragically demonstrated the other day.

Not everyone interested in this position was a fresh-faced teenager, after all…

by [former member] | 26 Oct 2010 02:10 | Pajama Factory, 17701, United States | | Report spam→
40 day commercial job in Afghanistan should be worth a minmum of $4,000 a day, or possibly much more. Photographers, photojournalists in fact are getting million dollar one year contracts to shoot ads for corporations out of New York and London, but admitting that they can pay or are wealthy is not part of the game— its sexier to say you sleep on couches and have to scrimp to get by, and creates a better image I suppose.

On the other hand, some really do have to sleep on couches, and there are some who really need the help of an intern and are not able to compensate, but have a lot to offer. I think its cheap beyond anything to ask for a 40 day commitment for no money……its greedy as all heck too.

by [former member] | 26 Oct 2010 17:10 (ed. Oct 26 2010) | | Report spam→
Wait, please tell me that everyone that responded that they would go in a “heartbeat,” you guys are kidding, right? You have to be joking. This leaves me speechless and tells me a lot about the type of people who are on this site now.

by Edward Linsmier | 26 Oct 2010 18:10 | Saint Petersburg, FL, United States | | Report spam→
Desperate people take desperate decisions I guess…

by Yves Choquette | 26 Oct 2010 19:10 | Montreal, Canada, Canada | | Report spam→
On further thought, its most likely completely illegal. There are various labor laws in the US (or Britain for that matter) that define an employee and the necessity of paying for workmen’s compensation, social security, etc. Multiply that by working in a war zone and it doesn’t take a lawyer to realize that this is a big problem waiting to happen both for the “intern” and the photographer, not to mention whatever corporation is involved as they would be party to any suit.

If this were a film shoot there are companies that are tasked with payroll and taking care of all legal responsibilities. Still shoots are bound to the same laws, especially commercial gigs. Free advice— this is a business. Young photographers can’t be blamed for making bad business decisions but older photographers, have a responsibility and are legally bound to conduct themselves in a professional manner.

by [former member] | 27 Oct 2010 01:10 (ed. Oct 27 2010) | | Report spam→
Shit, I’ve been gone for almost a year now and still haven’t made a dime…and I’m not even interning!!!

by Nigel Gray | 27 Oct 2010 09:10 | Camp Buehring, Kuwait | | Report spam→
months ago there was a fair amount of outrage in the photographic community when James Nachtwey, who has made millions of dollars from his photography, put out an ad asking for a studio assistant who would be willing to work for him for free.[Quote]

Would they be required to iron his jeans for him?

by L--T | 27 Oct 2010 11:10 (ed. Oct 27 2010) | | Report spam→
I dunno where to start, its quite a discussion. I have missed the whole James Nachtwey add story so I googled it and it came as a shock. Some people on the original forum decided to go and tell James Nachtwey that he should get killed on next assigment…Others were hurling abuses at him for looking for `cheap labour` and doing `illegal stuff`, also telling how much he had earned. Its not so emotional in here but i see the same points being raised.

Dont get me wrong, I dont think that add was fortunate but to me (and I believe for many on this forum) James Nachtwey is a reason that i picked my cameras and started shooting ih the first place. I dont think it should go this way that we are telling one of the finest among us how to behave or how much he`s earned.

We dont know if James was behind the add or did anybody talk to him about it. I dont think its fair that after there are still people who can say stuff about being illegal and exploiting. The same goes for the earnings. I mean we all know how the art we do pays. Somebody will break through, somebody will be able to live from photgraphy due to skills, persistance, pure luck whatever it is. James made it. Can`t we just leave it at that, or is it jealousy. I dont also think what he proposed was illegal otherwise the authorities would be there first. because he is known and recognized.

As for working for free. I have seen people outside photography who paid to get a free apprenticeship in a company. I have seen people who worked for years as waiters and practced at a local photography studio for free. I have been a freelance cultural journalist and bought books to review from my own money. I have organized events that others took credit for. I have know a bit in my life and know that you have to do what you think its right. if you agree on something, you learn. sometimes you learn the easy way, sometimes you learn the hard way, sometimes nobody wants to take you for an assistant and you have to figure out stuff for yourself. perhaps that was James Nachtwey idea. Cause I dont think he had it easy, maybe he had it harder out there than anybody else. I dont know.

I will agree that some standards should be set. But perhaps we should start from ourselves, we should set up and start doing something to raise the bar, im sure others would follow.

dont get me wrong i believe that they are wonderful people on this forum, but some words are really badly chosen. I mean today is James Nachtwey, tomorrow somebody else.

Ken Oosterbroek once said that this business is full of big egos. Im not naive to think that we all should love each other and have group hugs. but perhaps we should leave some points to ourselves. cause its hurtful towards others of the same profession.

sorry for long and useless post. its been really hard week on every level.

by Malicia Dabrowicz | 27 Oct 2010 19:10 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
Hello Malicia,

Very good comments. I agree with you as if you disagree with the guy, not a reason to insult him. Some of the comments remind me last year when Zoriah set-up a workshop in Haiti. Some of the comments were purely hates and jealousy.

Now regarding the fact itself. Talking for myself, having the chance to work with someone like James Nachtwey, sound fantastic and if I was in my twenties, I would, probably, go for sure. But being older give you the opportunity to think twice before acting. I wonder why he’s not offering at least a symbolic salary? Lack of money is not a reason so why?

If he’s really behind this add, he know that his reputation will attract thousand of photographers willing to follow him anywhere on the planet, no matter the risk. Well I don’t know him personally so I don’t know either what kind of ego person he is.

If he’s not behind this add, like you propose, well someone should tell him I guess.


by Yves Choquette | 27 Oct 2010 21:10 | Montreal, Canada, Canada | | Report spam→
I can’t believe that James Nachtwey is behind this post… I think that a good commercial business man IS, and James would know that in Afganistan. Sad, but True.

Cheers, Patricio

by Patricio MICHELIN | 27 Oct 2010 21:10 | Lyon , France | | Report spam→
People…geezus!!!…J.N. has nothing to do with this post. Please read more carefully. The photog looking for help has already been named above.

by Gregory Sharko | 27 Oct 2010 23:10 | Brooklyn, New York, United States | | Report spam→
What you say is true, Greg, but the original post was so poorly, or perhaps, deceptively written, it is understandable that some readers were misled.

by Barry Milyovsky | 28 Oct 2010 01:10 | Manhattan, United States | | Report spam→
I have no idea of Jason’s situation and I am posting this as a hypothesis based on information on this thread……in the hopes that it helps to educate people who really need it apparently as
there is a lot of speculation, but little by folks who have actually employed an assistant I am afraid….

As described above, this is a war zone gig, shit happens, look at Joao.

1) Is there evacuation insurance and health coverage in case the “intern” is hurt or injured?
2) Will the company paying the photographer cover any expenses incurred should the “intern” be be injured?
3) Will the intern qualify for disability insurance if they are injured?
4) What are the consequences to the employer (photographer) in this case?

The photographer is an independent contractor, the intern is not…..if a photographer wants to go to Afghanistan underfinanced and on their own—great. But you can’t bring an intern along for the ride on a paid war zone gig and not be responsible enough make sure that everything is as it should be.

by [former member] | 28 Oct 2010 17:10 (ed. Oct 28 2010) | | Report spam→
Thinking of only the usage rights of so many free things on internet, where you are free to download this and that for your portfolio as a student, private use, etc, but please be aware that you have to pay us rights if you are planning to use our work to make money out of it, why isn’t this applied to photography too? I go to Afghanistan, to make money, i need you to assist me, you should, of course, get a small fair share of my profit. Wouldn’t that make sense? I know there are many desperate people out there willing to volunteer their work for free, but right now i am talking sense, not situation.
It would be different if the assignment was completely free, a volunteering project where the team would not get a penny, but only their flights/expensive paid. That should apply to the whole team,Nachtwey, or whoever else.
Andy put it right, a lot of things are to be considered before venturing into such a free assignment. But before considering the financial aspects, shouldn’t the ethical ones be taken into consideration

by G. Muj | 28 Oct 2010 18:10 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates | | Report spam→
It seems to me that if an assignment was legit in all aspects, then all of the push-me-pull-you of getting an intern for free would be mute…Why would you do that, especially when it could be that you would have to depend on someone to deliver your product and get paid? This sounds like a script for a “reality” movie and not a serious project.


by David Bro | 28 Oct 2010 23:10 | Orange County, california, United States | | Report spam→
stepping aside from the endless internship debate – this conversation underscores 2 points.

1. the void in academia/education for real-world conflict reporting training. I don’t know of any journalism or photography school or institution that offers anything real. A lot of dirt gets sucked up in a vacuum.

2. the questions raised by Andy -

1) Is there evacuation insurance and health coverage in case the “intern” is hurt or injured?
2) Will the company paying the photographer cover any expenses incurred should the “intern” be be injured?
3) Will the intern qualify for disability insurance if they are injured?
4) What are the consequences to the employer (photographer) in this case?

The same questions apply to just about every single one of us out here who works with a driver, a translator, a “fixer”, or a local assistant. How many media organizations actually have an articulated policy on how to handle the casualties associated with their operations?

If Joao Silva had been in a vehicle that hit a roadside IED, and his driver had his legs blown off, do you think the NY Times would step up and do the right thing?

Guess again.

As dangerous as it is to work out here, western journalists are rarely the ones who get hurt.

Look at the long list of names of the journalists who’ve been killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan – they’re overwhelmingly local “media workers” (the industry still doesn’t even acknowledge them as real journalists) – they’re the “assistants” that foreign news organizations routinely (directly and indirectly) hire to do the most dangerous work in the field.

Those of you who work on assignment in conflict areas, ask your clients what their responsibilities are in the event that one of your assistants gets wasted.

Tell me if you a straight answer.

by teru kuwayama | 29 Oct 2010 05:10 | New Delhi, India | | Report spam→
very good point Teru..

by BignoseTW | 29 Oct 2010 06:10 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→
Ok as someone who was considering this I will attempt to show my side:
I have had no work for 2 months, nada, zip. As such at the moment I am ostensibly ‘working on my portfolio’.
I do not have very much international conflict experience, mostly European/Balkan conflict work, as such I was interested in checking out the possibility of tagging along with someone with more experience than myself in the area and learning from them.
First on my list of long questions was security, evac procedures and insurance.. as I would hope it was on anyones in this situation.
Now at the moment there is no work, so everything I am personally doing is self funded so my savings are going down, the way I looked at this was an opportunity at expanding my knowledge and experience without it coming out of my own pocket. And yes I am relatively young and not terribly established.
So yes there was a opportunity there for me in my mind, and I chose to investigate further.

by Jay Gannon | 29 Oct 2010 13:10 | Glengad, Mayo, Ireland | | Report spam→
I see that many of you are North American or European photographers and travel to the third world hot spots to do stories.

Would any of you give up your first world citizenship and settle in a third world country and live there as a permanent resident or citizen, working in the lives around you and understanding the life and issues?

I wonder if it is the future, rather then jetting out of
New York or London etc to do your stories.

The carbon foot print of the photojournalistic profession would also be reduced.

by John Robinson | 29 Oct 2010 15:10 | Durban, South Africa | | Report spam→
Yes definitely, I would much prefer to spend a year or two in a place getting to genuinely know the people and the atmosphere, but unfortunately getting funded to do such things is next to impossible, the closest I’ve managed to get to that was being funded to spend 3 months in North Africa traveling across the desert visiting tribes. But if the funding was there I think most of us would prefer that ethos of working.

by Jay Gannon | 29 Oct 2010 15:10 | Glengad, Mayo, Ireland | | Report spam→
What the intern/assistant is likely to learn is how to do a commercial job and maximize their profit margin by getting a someone on the cheap to do all the logistics.

What I don’t understand is why ask for someone outside of Afghanistan to tender their services. Surely their must be some willing, keen, reliable Afghan student photographer who could do all the required duties and have the language skills to boot.

The cost of the flight to Afghanistan could be paid to them. Still morally dubious but at least it would be going to someone who really could do with the experience.

BTW I know the photographer in question and depending on his mood it could be a barrel of laughs or a depressing chore.

by [former member] | 29 Oct 2010 16:10 | Agadir, Morocco | | Report spam→
Well yes, impossible to deny that this thing is a bit crazy…
I was just trying to say that if the photographer is reliable (I don’t know him so I can’t tell) and all the security, insurance, ecc… are well organized is less crazy to take oportunities like this than to travel alone without any assignment or sponsor in war o disaster zones.
Speaking for myself when I have no work I prefer to keep on long term projects in places that are not dangerous nor expensive or even just to wait for better moments. But I know that there are so many people going to dangerous places without any clients and any support just cause they hope to sell some pictures (and in most of the cases they won’t cause places “in the news” are always already well covered by corrispondents and people on assigment) or to build their portfolio… in that case it become such a money waste that is way better to work for free but to have expences covered, security and support.

by Albertina D'Urso | 29 Oct 2010 16:10 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
The cost of the flight to Afghanistan could be paid to them.,,,,,,,, and the body bag, not that it would be a concern to the intern scattered over a wide area

by Imants | 30 Oct 2010 00:10 | " The Boneyard", Australia | | Report spam→
Apologies if there was some confusion in the initial post but I’ll repeat what others have said: this ad has absolutely nothing to do with Nachtwey and was from another photographer (Jason P. Howe). I thought it would be clear from the title, content, and first reply (from me) that made a clear distinction between the previous Nachtwey ad from many months ago and this new one from a different photographer (Jason P. Howe).

It’s unfortunate that someone named the photographer as I just wanted it to be a discussion of the issue without blaming anyone. I never saw the original ad but it was passed along to me by a fellow Bangkok-based photographer and seemed similar to the issues posted here long ago. I was jokingly asked if I had any interest. There are obvious shades of Zoriah too- profit from putting someone into a difficult situation, in this case a warzone and $15,000 or so of free labor.

One question for those who have actually been to Afghanistan. I have not and likely never will. If this was a paid job, what would the day rate be? Someone said $300/day.


by David Campbell | 30 Oct 2010 03:10 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
I knew it wasnt about Nachtwey`s add. I just wanted to point out that this topic was turning into bashing of some of people of the same trade.

but right now the discussion is awesome, its the lightstalkers forums i know.

guys i have a question. I have just checked Zoriah`s workshops. they seem to be something I would be looking to take part in. before you label me silly, i am not a pro, but i try to work hard on my craft and maybe in the future I will be able to do it full time. it been a while since i have seen both bang-bang club and Nachtwey`s images and it was obvious from the day one that it was something I wanted to do. I perfectly realize what kind of job it is, but I want to try nontheless. If I cant do it, i will get out of the game but I HAVE to try.

So to cut long story short: have anyboy been to Zoriha`s workshop or does anybody know a person who took it? Is it worth it? the website is nice and offers a lot of insight but Id like to know what you guys think. especially because some of you do the job.

cheers for any insight.


by Malicia Dabrowicz | 31 Oct 2010 23:10 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
Did you see the post re: Zoriah’s $4,000-workshop in Haiti? Worth a read.



by [former member] | 03 Nov 2010 08:11 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia | | Report spam→
oh god that was a painful read… one thing really bother me about that thread. it seems that some people in here think of those who are “starters” as naive and idealistic, but also as opportunists. like war covering is a great career that opens doors and god knows what. perhaps folks like me do have a degree of idealism and innocence but then again. I have been broke, unpaid, looked death in the eyes in the literary sense. Im not adrenaline junkie who wants to do extreme stuff to get high. I have other reasons: i want to tell stories as they are. Voice to the voiceless. if that makes sense…

If starters sign up/ look for a workshop they rather want to test themselves or for guidance. a lot to think of for sure.

to change a topic: does something like a draft of what a workshop should contain exist? i mean “guidelines” that would give some pointers or is it as liquid and unwritten as anyting else in the industry? cause if its liquid then perhaps we should come up with a draft. just for the sake of ourselves. ok that the idealism of a new bi now;0)

by Malicia Dabrowicz | 03 Nov 2010 11:11 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
If i get the money to cover myself during those days, i would probably go. I mean, diverse things are already covered. If you would had to pay for food and bed, maybe that would change a lot. But to be honest, for someone like Natchwey would be glad to see that he pays, not like a “guru”: -I give you my advise and with that, u ll pay bills, house and food. No, of course not.

by Oscar Pinal | 03 Nov 2010 17:11 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
Some of the best pictures I have seen have come from non-war situations. You don’t need to go to afghanistan to learn how good photographers work. I have been to rwanda, somalia, sudan and lots of dangerous places in africa… and I would not go there if I did not have to. As for going to to “do a commercial shoot” for the experience, all I can ask is “is your life worth that little?”

by [former member] | 04 Nov 2010 13:11 | Nairobi, Kenya | | Report spam→
George, that was a good question, that can be applied to everyone on the forum.

Was that directed at Oscar or me, btw?

by Malicia Dabrowicz | 05 Nov 2010 10:11 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
No question wasn’t not meant for oscar or for you either its an open question to anyone willing to go to afghanistan, somalia and other dangerous places to work for free, because, as I have seen before, one could just come back home in a body bag. There are places I will not go for any money. seriously. Malicia and oscar hope I didn’t offend you.

by [former member] | 05 Nov 2010 12:11 | Nairobi, Kenya | | Report spam→
no you didnt offend me for sure. I also think this is a great question. but then again, depends on a person and situation. For instance Kevin Carter paid himself to go to Sudan to take photos that later gave him the higest honours. I dont know if he had a client before hand but it was a self – funded trip. It wasnt the most of safe places for sure.

At this moment I wouldnt go directly into a war zone, but I would be willing to go to a difficult place even even self fund it to test myself and my skills. later on, I cant tell. If i found it too hard, Id keep away and try to do something else. But If I found Id manage to do it, then Id go just about anywhere i guess.

I see myself as a tool – tool is as good as it is working. its a dangerous world out there, and i have come to know that life is quite cheap these days anyway.

by Malicia Dabrowicz | 05 Nov 2010 12:11 | St Julians, Malta | | Report spam→
Not at all. I also hope i didnt offend anyone with my “working-for-free-idea” :)
I mean, i just want to take chances. But yes, it is risky as hell.
I also tell you, the offering job is not so bad, bed and transports payed, well, not so often we have that kind of chances working with so known photographers, but you are right, nothing is worth enough to come back in a body-bag, of course not, but i tell you that most of the photographers that go there, not just this country, they know perfectly the risk but they also know their passions, and they wanna go either way.
So, no worries ;)

by Oscar Pinal | 05 Nov 2010 13:11 | Ourense, Spain | | Report spam→
This Jason P. Howe/Zoriah thread was a good discussion but I want to go back to one question regarding the original advertisement by Jason P. Howe seeking someone to work in Afghanistan for free. A friend of Jason Howe posted that he found someone to work for free in Afghanistan but if this was a paid assistant position in a combat zone, what would it pay per day? Just curious if working in difficult areas pays much more or if it’s just a matter of the work being there if anyone wants it and the difference is minimal. I have no interest and was just curious. Thanks. David.

by David Campbell | 16 Nov 2010 04:11 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
This is just not happening in the photo world, it’s everywhere. There are virtually no jobs for graduates of any kind, so it’s a buyer’s market.

by Ian Taylor | 16 Nov 2010 10:11 | hong kong, Hong Kong | | Report spam→
I can see the frustration in this but as a photography student I would gladly take this opportunity. Being able to associate my work with Natchwey is in itself payment.

by Saira MacLeod | 30 Nov 2010 18:11 | Nottingham, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
No one wants to answer your question. IMHO-bang/bang coverage pays little more than conventional rates. The opportunity for greater usage exists, i.e. covers, double-truck spreads, etc. but day rates are not much higher. Name photogs do a little better by securing multiple deals and longer term assignments. My information is a little dated as I haven’t played this fool’s game in several decades. I lost a colleague in Nicaragua in the late 70’s. He was on a 3-day $250/day agreement. Big time! Remember, publications are not exactly rolling in cash today.

by Allen Quinn | 30 Nov 2010 22:11 | houston, United States | | Report spam→
You know, maybe it’s just me, but I’m intrigued by what a commercial photographer would want to photograph in Afghanistan. A Girls of Qandahar calendar doesn’t seem within the realm of possibility, and I am sure that the opium growers and the gunrunners believe that the quality of their products sells themselves and so they do not need to advertise them. There may be a market for how to build your own IED kits, but much of that information is available on the Web for free, so it’s hard to see how an entrepeneur can make any money there. The US Army and the Marine Corps already have their own advertising budgets, complete with their own photographers, so that leaves al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and if you’ll pardon me for saying so, those guys will probably want to do their own commercial shooting instead of contracting it out.

by Akaky | 03 Dec 2010 20:12 | New York , United States | | Report spam→
I would assume either a Military Contractor or an Equipment Supplier doing advertising shots.

by Jay Gannon | 03 Dec 2010 20:12 | Glengad, Mayo, Ireland | | Report spam→
Girls, opium, gunrunners, US army, Al-Qaeda and taliban people… Or “How to simplify a country in two sentences”.
Dude, dont go there, nothing happens, no future. (Kidding)
I think most of the info comes from the media, isnt it?
In a few months, ill be landing in Israel, and i should assume that there is nothing there?
Girls, molotov cocktails, Israel army and Palestinian Hamas people…Mmmm, yep. Not big deal. (just kidding again)
I already said something about the offering from Natchwey, and is that i would probably go there, but after checking all of your answers, maybe i m starting to chage my mind, dont know.
And my comment comes cause i always say: if i want to know something, better way is going there. Well, it wont be always possible, but to me is the best way to know something for sure, with no polution or banks and big corporations guiding news.

by Oscar Pinal | 03 Dec 2010 21:12 | Ourense, Spain | | Report spam→
Perhaps this whole request was a bit of smoke and mirrors. After all a good assistant is a valuable asset on any commercial shoot and well worth paying a fair wage to. The idea that a professional would take a newcomer or intern on a commercial project, let alone in a tough environment, raises a few alarm bells in the first place. The stakes are too high for most pros to take on somebody new that might require any kind of extra maintenance that detracts from the job at hand.

by richard sobol | 03 Dec 2010 21:12 (ed. Dec 3 2010) | | Report spam→
Re: what kind of commercial photography ops are there in Afghanistan.
I had an inquiry a couple of years ago to work for one the large US civil engineering companies there to document some roads and dams they had constructed. It would have taken me to a lot of provinces. In the end it didn’t happen, but I think this falls roughly under the heading of “commercial photography”.

by Ian Taylor | 03 Dec 2010 23:12 | hong kong, Hong Kong | | Report spam→
Hello David,
I do not have any issue with criticism I only ask that those doing it have a good base of facts and do not misquote my Face Book post. The reason I posted the original request on Face Book not on Light Stalkers was that it was an invitation to people I know or who had previously been in touch with me not to the photography world in general.

Anyone who does know me and my work from the past decade in conflict zones around the word would know certain facts about me that have not been taken into account by yourself or many of the folks replying to your thread.

Let me clear up a few points for you since you seem to have an enduring interest in this issue.

The post did not at any point say that anyone would be required to work for FREE.

Quote: There is no salary as such but all expenses including airfare, internal travel,food, accommodation and security will be covered. This should be viewed as a learning opportunity rather than a money making opportunity.

So this was in fact a fully paid 3 month trip to Afghanistan with everything covered ie visa costs, travel, accommodation, food and security, this amounted to several thousand dollars. Additionally the assistant received a daily stipend which in this case meant they went home with considerably more than they had been earning in their regular job in the UK. Also because they did an exceptional job they received a bonus.

The post clearly stated that it was a COMMERCIAL shoot. NOTHING to do with conflict, embeds, walking through mine fields etc…. I have never heard of anyone taking an assistant into such an environment , ones own personal safety is enough to deal with in such hostile environments without being responsible for someones else’s. Assumptions have been jumped to and conclusions reached without anyone actually checking the facts prior to voicing their opinions.

There are many many thousands of ex pats working here in Afghanistan in every job you can imagine. Of course everywhere in Afghanistan there are security concerns it is not by any stretch of the imagination a ‘safe’ place but here in Kabul for example there is a vibrant social scene, we have a British pub, Chinese, Thai, Croatian and 2 French restaurants and on and on, people go to the gym, there is a running club, we have house parties. There are so many aspects to life here that people who have never been here have no idea about. Ski trips are pretty popular at the moment since have had a decent dump of snow recently. There are parts of this country that tourist regularly visit and are and have been almost completely untouched by the decades of conflict.

Yes there are occasional kidnappings and suicide bomb attacks but this is true of rather a lot of places nowadays, many of which no one would ever label as being war zones. Kabul is not Helmand or Kandahar. It is a bustling wonderful city of 5 million plus people with whom we interact on a daily basis. One tries to maintain a reasonable low profile and reduce the risks of living in a sometimes hostile and volatile environment as much as possible.

Given the amount of investment there is in this country for construction, telecommunications and so on there are commercial photographic opportunities. This particular job happened to be a 50 day shoot for a telecom shoot with the focus being on the culture, food, religion, ethnic groups etc in as many parts of the country that after a rigorous risk assessment were deemed safe enough to visit. The assessment was ongoing and as the situation changed in some of the locations we were due visit they were removed from our program.

The large companies here take their security very seriously and do not permit anyone contracted to them to take any un-necesary risks even if one were so inclined. Obviously the risks one has to take during news coverage are very different to the risks one would be prepared to take for a commercial or advertising job.

Travel to the provinces was done by air and we stayed in secure accommodation provided by the company we were shooting for.

I have never needed an assistant prior to this and never had a big enough budget to be able pay someone and cover all their expenses I this way. I do however receive emails pretty frequently asking if I have internships available which as stated given the normal nature of my work is not a realistic possibility. I also receive a few emails a week from photographers asking advice on coming to and working in Afghanistan.

There are a lot of photographers who would love to visit this amazing country but either cannot find and assignment nor self fund such a trip or have valid concerns about security and the realities of working in such a place.

My thoughts therefore were that if I could fund all of that and send the person home with money in their pocket and hopefully quite a bit of very useful knowledge then that in exchange for helping me with data management and listening to me moaning when thing were not going according to plan it would be quite a good trade.

I received a lot of interest in the opportunity both via Face Book and then after your post from people who saw it on Light Stalkers and quite possibly were clever enough to spot that it was a commercial assignment and perhaps had a better than average grasp of the realities of working in this country. Many of the folks who applied were not suitable, some I suspected were far better photographers than I and others I could tell, despite some of my comments here were not considering that without question coming out here is a serious undertaking.

I therefore was very careful in my selection and ended up inviting a photographer who I had actually met here in Afghanistan a few years ago and had met up with since. They therefore had at least a basic understanding of the country, the cultural issue to be faced, the security situation and I felt they might just be able to put up with spending 3 months working with me.

At the conclusion of the shoot they left having had an opportunity to travel widely throughout the country and to shoot a vast array of subjects. they learned how to put together from a client’s brief a very complex 50 day commercial shoot, how to manage a budget, a team of drivers and fixers and deal every type of problem and disaster of the kinds that arise everyday during such an assignment. They learned a lot about workflow, managing the clients expectations, dealing with the cultural issues that we faced and so on. They also managed to pick up a paid assignment of their own from contacts made whilst here.

All in all I find it hard to see any of this as exploitative. Certainly I feel that accusations of putting anyone in danger are misplaced. There are young photographers arriving here in Afghanistan regularly with far less knowledge than my assistant had when they joined and now has after working here for 3 months with me.

I have gained my experience the hard way. After a few self funded ( I stacked shelves in a supermarket between trips, before any accusations of trust funds start getting thrown around) years of learning on the ground covering the conflict in Colombia I arrived in Baghdad in December 2003 on a one way ticket, without any contacts, promises of work or guarantees and with $500 hidden in each boot. My first story was the capture of Saddam which happen a few days after my arrival. Somehow I survived and left a year later with $100,000 in my pocket (not literally, it was in the bank) having managed to work for every major British newspaper,Time, Newsweek, etc.. and completed a 90 day assignment for the New York Times. I continued to work in Iraq for several years before relocating to Afghanistan in 2007.

I would not really recommend that approach, necessarily, it happened to work out for me and has done for others but there is of course the potential for it to have gone horribly wrong. I have been fortunate enough from that dubious start to have remained in fairly constant work in very interesting place for a wide range of great clients for the last 7 years. Of course there are many up’s and downs it has not been an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination.

Many, many photographers helped me out when I was getting started from scratch and I have always felt hugely appreciative for their advice and assistance. There are a great many photographers out there looking for ways to get into the industry, looking for a break and if I am able to offer some opportunity or advice based on the experience I have gained I am very happy to do so and I know many of my colleagues feel the same.

There is no obligation for anyone to take up an opportunity I offer and if anyone views learning how to find and successfully complete a 50 day commercial shoot either beneath them or exploitative then they are welcome not to be involved. I am glad they are photographically and financially successful enough to not have to entertain the possibility of exploring new possibilities. I do think there are though quite a few folks out there who would welcome such opportunities.

I hope I have answered the questions and concerns raised by your post. I am sure someone will have enough time on their hands to find something I have missed and more things to criticise but I do not wish to get into a debate about the subject, there is work to be done and photographs to be made and a life to be lived.

I would suggest and ask that before putting up posts that are rather accusative in nature it would be respectful to make sure that some thing is known about the person and subject involved including at least the basic facts and as much context as possible.

A brief email or PM to me at the time could have clarified a lot.

Given that I have had a good friend murdered here last year whilst working a doctor, several colleagues kidnapped over the years, a photographer friend recently severely wounded and know of another British photographer who has suffered horrendous injuries only a few weeks ago the subject of security and risk taking is very close to home.

I hope I have clarified the two main points, I was not and did not seek to take an intern/ assistant to the battle fields of Afghanistan and they did NOT work for FREE.

I am preparing to leave for a 2 week assignment in Helmand Province with British Forces tomorrow and just wanted to try and provide some context to this post/thread. I hope I wont regret taking the time to do so.

Incidentally insurance is a subject that get mentioned a lot. I will put up a separate post about an excellent and very affordable insurance cover offered by Insurance Without Borders in collaboration with Reporters without Borders, they offer full medivac cover and death and dismemberment compensation for war zones at reasonable rates.

Best regards,



by [former member] | 04 Mar 2011 14:03 (ed. Mar 4 2011) | Kabul, Afghanistan | | Report spam→

Nothing was misquoted. The original post and discussion was based on an advertisement by you, actually. It is relevant to Bradley’s discussion and the debate of going into a conflict area.

Your argument is that you can say a job is “fully paid” if you pay for someone’s transportation, housing, and food but don’t actually give them any money. I understand you need to salvage your reputation after making the mistake of advertising for someone to work in Afghanistan for free (which most people define as not being paid which is what you advertised). If you re-read your post, you will see that it says exactly that. It is slightly bizarre that you quote your own ad that says no salary and then say it is “fully paid” because transportation, etc. is covered. This is simply irrational.

If I went up to someone and said, “This is a fully paid job and you won’t be working for free but I’m not going to give you any money for your work” people would say that is delusional. It’s great that you ended up changing the position to provide some per diem but I can only wonder if the debate here was influential. Something like a daily stipend would have been mentioned in your ad and I don’t see it there. Even Zoriah changed his Haiti workshop later to say part was going to charity.

It’s nice that Kabul expats ski, you made $100,000 in a year, you once worked in a supermarket, you’re going to Helmand, etc but none of that seems relevant to the issues brought up in either post. Again, I understand the need for you to salvage your reputation by throwing in some bio information but the issue of exploitation such as getting someone to work for free in a difficult area is the topic of the first post and the nature of going into a combat zone is the topic of Bradley’s post.

And while you try to claim that Afghanistan is safe, you start contradicting yourself with your points on security and my favorite quote:

“Yes there are occasional kidnappings and suicide bomb attacks but this is true of rather a lot of places nowadays, many of which no one would ever label as being war zones.”

We’ll have to agree to disagree. I will copy this to both posts as you have but had no intention of bringing up again the discussion of your advertisement for someone to work in Afghanistan for free.


by David Campbell | 05 Mar 2011 04:03 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
Hello again David,

Thanks for your reply. You are correct my advertisement did say the position was not salaried and it was not, yes my assistant worked entirely for FREE. In return for working fro FREE I paid all of their living and travel expenses for three months, took them all over Afghanistan and tried to teach them as much as I could, gave them a daily stipend and at the end for working so hard for FREE they received a bonus. BUT it was not a salary….

If this is a such a dreadful thing to have done to someone I apologize profusely and beg for the forgiveness of the photographic community but…. given what an amazing time we had on the shoot, how happy the assistant /intern was with let’s call it an ‘all inclusive’ trip to Afghanistan and the number of people who have emailed and PM’d me asking to please be considered next time an opportunity like this comes up I am afraid I may well re-offend.
At least we have ascertained that YOU are not interested right?

Certainly your comment that it was a mistake to post the advertisement is incorrect. It was an excellent decision that worked out incredibly well for both me and my assistant. This person had never worked as an assistant to a photographer and I had never used an assistant before so we both learned a lot. They did not come to me as an already skilled professional assistant, they came as someone willing to learn the ropes and hoping to make progress professionally from the experience they could gain.

I will in future try and be clearer when I post an ad, I need to anticipate better the implications of such an action. If it had it occurred to me that someone like you would join Light Stalkers on the 23rd of October specifically to try and start a controversy about my advert and try and tie it in to previous threads I would have added something at the bottom of the Face Book post asking that it please not be forwarded to people who are not likely to be interested in the position and simply have too much time on their hands and like arguing.

I am sure I am delusional and irrational at times and I am sure if you try a bit harder you can find many more insults to throw around. I had no idea there was an intention to damage or a perception that any damage to my reputation had occurred because of my post and that I was now trying to salvage it.

That is really quite amusing, if only you actually knew my ‘real’ reputation you would hopefully realize that the controversy you tried to start is about as significant to my overall reputation as what I ate for dinner last night. I am sure the last thing I will be remembered for in the grand scale of things is my photography but at least it will not be for pointing fingers, criticizing and failing fairly miserably to ignite criticism.

I am sorry that the additional context I tried to add about myself, Afghanistan and the job were not appreciated by you. I suppose if people know who I am and what the reality of the situation both here in Afghanistan and the details of who things panned out with the assistant it rather spoils the shock value of your sensational post. Once again I apologize I did not mean to spoil your fun. Some of my comments were in response to issues raised by other posters on the thread. Since the working for free business seemed to be of little interest to anyone and folks were more interested in the specifics of the dangers, the type of job it was, insurance etc…

Fortunately your views and obsessions seem not to be shared by too many Light Stalkers, certainly not the ones who responded directly to me. If you had not been clever enough to put Nachtwey’s name in your original post I doubt anyone would have even read it at all and that would have been another 5 whole minutes of your life wasted.

If you were actually, genuinely interested why did you not email me and address your questions to the person involved? How has this experience worked out for you overall. Do you feel satisfied? I would be most disappointed if I had joined a forum just to try and cause controversy and this was how it ended up. Very poor show. Oh well my friend not everything works out as spectacularly as we imagine in our own little worlds does it?

I apologize if my comments about Afghanistan and safety and security seem contradictory, I am a photographer who has lived and worked here for 3 years not an analyst. The place is indeed very contradictory as you would know if you had been here and were in a position to have a valid opinion instead of simply mocking my comments. But very sweet that you have a favorite quote from my reply. Try describing Bangkok a few months ago, not usually labeled a war zone but certainly parts of it were. Simple labels are usually applied by people without any real first hand knowledge, when you have the firsthand knowledge it becomes a lot harder to give simple explanations especially if some of the people you try and explain to are really only interested in trying to discredit you.

Anyway I was warned by many many friends NOT to respond to your silly post but I didn’t listen did I? I am actually only writing to you today because it is bloody cold in Kabul and typing is keeping my fingers warm.

If you discover you have the urge and the time to respond to me at length and further mock or criticize me you could always consider using that same amount of time to do something positive instead like post some useful resource on the site or give someone some encouragement. Just an idea.

If you live in Bangkok why have we not met by the way, I spend several months a year there and know about 30 odd photographers surely you can’t have offended all of them?

It would be nice to discover that you had a sense of humor, taking oneself too seriously normally ends in tears.

You do know what it is called if you get lot’s of folks involved in a debate don’t you?

A Mass- debate!

Sound familiar?

Yup thought so…

Look forward to spending more time discussing with you the exact definitions and possible interpretations of words like free, salary, job, work, dangerous etc …etc… but I may have to leave it until I retire since I do actually have work to do and can’t pay the bills from responding to attempts at controversy and reputation damage alone.

Lot’s of love,




Oh PS I am not a professor of English either so if there are typo’s or grammatical errors please don’t be too harsh on me. It’s the unpaid secretaries day off!

by [former member] | 05 Mar 2011 07:03 (ed. Mar 5 2011) | Kabul, Afghanistan | | Report spam→
I would like to see that ad. Any links on this?

by Philipp Breu | 07 Mar 2011 13:03 | Cairo, Egypt | | Report spam→

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