For many years now, conflict photography has fostered an appealing audience, focusing on documenting some of the most tragic events in the history of mankind including loss, depression and death. More importantly, brave and courageous photographers continually get in the line of fire trying to convey the realism experienced in war situations. Situations that the general public only get to watch on filtered news channels, where even the slightest change in detail can modify the perception of a specific story. Andrew Renneisen, a Brooklyn, NY-based young photographer shares his mind-opening experience while taking part in the Conflict Photography Workshop, conducted in Spain. Valuable lessons which will surely be helpful to those considering a photographic journey down the war and conflict road.
Please describe the Conflict Photography Workshop, who organized it, why did you want to get involved in this, why Spain?
The Conflict Photography Workshop is a week long course that trains photographers in combat first aid, military tactics, logistics and business of photography in order to operate more safely in hostile environments. The course is led by photographers Jason Howe, Louie Palu, Andrew Stanbridge, and a military trainer that combined have 40 years experience in some of the most dangerous places around the world.
I saw the workshop online after searching around for hostile environment training courses. I really wanted to take one of these courses due to previous experiences on assignments where I felt very unprepared for certain situations. I never want to be in a situation where my unpreparedness gets someone hurt. Also, the workshop was different in a sense because it is geared specifically for photographers.
The workshop is held in a remote location in beautiful Andalusia, Spain. The mountainous terrain and temperature created a perfect location for this type of workshop, and the area has very similar terrain to a number of current hostile environments depending on the season.
As a photojournalist living in New York City, what are your future goals in relation to Conflict and War Photography?
I am actually moving to Nairobi, Kenya in March (another reason why I felt the need for this type of course). But that doesn’t change my goals in the relationship to this type of work. I’m quite early in my career, and I still have never been in a traditional “war zone.” However, I’ve always been curious in the various social and geopolitical issues that cause conflict and documenting those for others to see.
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Why do you think learning about Conflict Photography is important?
I think it’s very important, and a way to raise awareness about what is going on in the world around us. I was talking to my friend the other day and she pointed out that images don’t need translators or literacy. Anyone can look at an image and understand, maybe even relate.
It’s also serves as a document for history, which is extremely important.
Please describe some of the key technical highlights of the workshop.
I think the most important parts of the workshop were the medical trainings and the practical scenarios. The workshop starts out with four days of classroom trainings that covers a wide variety of medical issues seen on that battlefield. Those trainings are then put to the test in a three day field scenario at the end of the week — which tries to get as close to war as possible without actually putting anyone in real danger. The instructors really push you to get as much out of the course as possible. I learned a lot.
Was somebody else using Leica, what other equipment is used and what tips if any would you share with the Leica community?
There was one other photographer who was using a Q. I was quite surprised because supposedly they are in very high demand right now! If you are planning on shooting a lot with the Q make sure you bring some extra batteries. We both really enjoyed the camera.
How did the Leica Q perform? Which lenses did you use?
The Q performed amazing, despite taking a beating from dust, rock, and mud. It is WAY more durable than I thought it would be. It’s a fixed lens — so the 28mm was my only option. I generally work with a 35mm focal length — so the 28mm took a bit of getting used to but now I am in love with that focal length. The autofocus is super fast, and the files look great.
You shared this workshop with other photographers – maybe some of them have been already at the midst of a war. Where were they from and what’s your take on sharing these experiences with them?
None of the actual participants had significant experiences in war, but all of the instructors have spent extensive time operating in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Burma and Syria among others. They were very open to sharing these experiences with us, as well as having honest discussions about the toll covering these types of stories takes on a person; both physically and mentally.
Is there art in war?
I think there is art in everything, war included.
Thank you Andrew!
Andrew Renneisen (b.1992) is an American freelance documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, NY interested in documenting conflict, race, and social issues domestically and internationally. He is represented by Getty Images Reportage and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times.
Prior to New York City, Andrew attended the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with focuses in photography and information management and technology. Andrew has interned at The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Press of Atlantic City, and The Wilmington News Journal.
Andrew’s work has been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Stern, TIME, amongst others. He has been honored with awards from American Photography, The Hearst Foundation, College Photographer of the Year, and The Alexia Foundation.
To know more about the workshop, please visit conflictphotographyworkshops.com.