DPP Home Profiles Antonin Kratochvil: Master Of Conflict

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Antonin Kratochvil: Master Of Conflict

A photographer without borders, Antonin Kratochvil creates gritty images that reveal the essence of human suffering and spirit

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There were three sets of photojournalists back in the early days of the war, he explains. There were those who embedded with the invading forces, those who embedded with the Iraqi government and a third group that was independent. Kratochvil fell into the latter group, entering the country by driving a rented Mitsubishi across the Kuwaiti border. He didn’t embed with the military because he was concerned that associating too closely with the soldiers would cloud his judgment. The flip side of his decision was that the Pentagon viewed his presence there as illegal so he could have been arrested and deported. He also didn’t have nearly as much access as his embedded counterparts did.

“I was the only photographer in Iraq with an assistant. Everybody was laughing at me. In the end, everyone was stealing from me,” he says while laughing. “Iraq was a really tough assignment. When you’re not embedded with the military, you work alone with no support. I had my own car, but it was tough to find gasoline. It was tough to find food and shelter. We slept in minefields.”

Hundreds of miners search for diamonds at Congo Creek, outside of Koidu, Sierra Leone. The image was part of a photo essay on blood diamonds.
Many of his Iraq images are shot from angles that make the world around him look off-balance. He stayed there for three weeks until Baghdad fell, working in the southern city of Basra, where some of the heaviest fighting took place, and later in the capital. He returned after President Bush declared victory in May 2003 and again when the fighting became more like that of a guerilla war. He says that it’s difficult now to cover the war the way he’d like to from the perspective of the civilians.

In September 2001, Kratochvil was one of seven photographers who founded the VII Photo Agency, an international photo cooperative focused on documenting conflict across the globe. The agency’s photographers, who also include Ron Haviv, James Nachtwey and Gary Knight, are credited with bringing to the world many of the iconic images that have defined the 21st century so far. Beyond that, the group regularly holds seminars and exhibitions around the world that allow them to interact with the public and report on subjects often ignored by mainstream media.

In mid-October 2009, Kratochvil held a nine-day photography workshop at Chernobyl where, after more than 20 years, the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster still resonates loudly. Three of those days were spent working, eating and sleeping in the shadow of the reactor that exploded. He’s also working on a project with Doctors Without Borders that addresses malnutrition across the globe.

“People ask me how I make pictures, and I don’t know how I make them. I feel them,” says Kratochvil. “A lot of my pictures are off-the-cuff, made through my subconscious.”

Kratochvil’s Gear
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon PowerShot G11
Canon EF 28mm ƒ/2.8
Canon EF 14mm ƒ/2.8L II USM

To see more of Antonin Kratochvil’s photography, visit his website at www.antoninkratochvil.com.


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