“I thought (the bullet) had gone through me. Nobody wanted to look. I wasn’t breathing properly because my lung had been punctured. And there were a couple of other wounds, rather embarrassingly, in my buttocks and in my hand,” recalls conflict photojournalist Greg Marinovich.
This is one of the four times the 53 year old has had to endure bullet shots in his career, three in his home country, South Africa, and the last in Afghanistan in 1999.
Awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1991, Marinovich is one of four members of ‘The Bang-Bang Club’, famous for its brave coverage of a violent war that raged between 1990 and 1994 during South Africa’s transition from apartheid. As many journalists stayed away from the violence that broke out between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party, only these four photojournalists braved the worst and alerted the world of the gruesome rivalry between the two political parties.
Interestingly, Marinovich only fell in love with the camera in his early adulthood years.
“Growing up I never had photographer or journalist role models, I had no ambition to do this work. Now, though, I look up to many of my colleagues, especially Gilles Peress who is a great photographer and a great thinker,” says Marinovich.
The, now, US based photojournalist co-authored the book ‘The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War’, together with the only other surviving member of the club, Joao Silva. Fellow Pulitzer Prize winner, Kevin Carter, took his own life; ken Oosterbroek died from a stray bullet in street fighting in Johannesburg, East Rand.
After being dissatisfied with what their images alone told about the war, Marinovich and Silva decided to write a fuller account, what he describes as being deeper than the superficiality of conflict images. Marinovich is still a bit dissatisfied with the legacy ‘The Bang-Bang Club’ has left.
“It (The Bang-Bang Club) seems to have left a legacy contrary to what we aimed to achieve. It seems that so many young photographers see the business as being glamorous and attractive, whereas we hate the glamorisation of photojournalists, nor is it heroic,” says Marinovich.
On his legacy, Marinovich is prouder.
“Perhaps I have left a passion of truth telling of people’s stories no matter how difficult that is. Of never faking stuff,” says Marinovich.
Testimony to this would be the Marikana investigations where Marinovich helped reveal that South African police had executed miners in a hidden area after the televised shooting, which resulted in the death of 34 mine workers at the hands of the police in 2012.
Although Marinovich says that only a lotto ticket would make him stop being a photojournalist any time soon, he has ceased from doing conflict journalism, which cost his friend, Joao Silva, both his legs.
“We are as close as ever, but i was horrified by the incident. He has suffered and still suffers greatly from the wounds,” says Marinovich.
Marinovich reckons the future of photojournalism in Africa is promising, mentioning some “great” ones in Zanele Muholi; Andrew Esiebo; Tsepo Gumbi; and Boniface Mwangi among others.
“It’s very tough to make a living for the majority, but if you are consistently excellent you will succeed. Keep telling stories close to your heart.”
*This article is available in the March 2016 edition of FORBES AFRICA.