Monday, August 24, 2009
I'll never forget a question posed to James Nachtway, one of the world's great war photographers, on how he deals with photographing in dangerous situations. His answer was simply "it's what I do, It's part of the job". For some reason, that small statement has helped me somehow cope with entering these hairy situations. I sometimes think that if I am going to "go", It might as well happen while doing something I love, i.e. photography. I wonder what kind of motivating force Martin Luther King, or Ghandi must have had knowing there were lots of people who wanted them dead. We all have to put our ass on the line every once in awhile if we want to make a statement or , in my case, want to tell the story that needs to be told.
I was assigned to go to Tijuana to illustrate a story on Mexico's legalization of small amounts of drugs. Knowing the streets well, I headed right for the "Red Light" district where most of the illegal activity occurs. As I was roaming around, I looked over and saw a number of folks shooting-up heroin and lots of rough looking dudes hanging out that looked up to no good. I knew I had to get this so I just took a deep breath and went and sat next to this guy that was using. As I was shooting, all eyes started to focus(no pun intended) my way. One guy flipped me the bird and started cursing and then headed towards me. Knowing I was caught, I then went in to survival mode and for reasons unknown got up, and with a big "I'm just a dumb Gringo" smile, walked right towards the guy and just introduced myself and just told him what I was doing. I said " The government just legalized small amounts of drugs and I'm just getting shots to tell the story" He let his guard down a bit, and then oddly enough offered to go get some weed if I'd give him 10 bucks and come back in an hour. He also wanted me to buy this odd rain tarp that looks like he probable stole it and wanted to get rid of it. That's when I started to think maybe I should get outta dodge. By that time, lots of people had congregated around us and it just felt like time to go.