Documentary photographer Jan Husar

Jan Husar - battleface interviewI want to portray reality. People assume so much about the world. Photography has the power to shatter those assumptions. For war photography to be worth the risk, it covers what  is happening somewhere and what’s wrong.

I think war photography is worth the risk because it documents crazy bad things from a perspective many people cannot even understand to exist. It leaves space to argue and discuss geo-political issues, racial issues, religion issues and most importantly it witnesses all the crimes, atrocities, humanitarian catastrophes, and brings a light of hope and justice to the people who are being photographed.”

I’m 33 years old, based in Slovakia. I have been constantly travelling around the world for the past 10 years. My work philosophy is quite simple: Witness, Inspire, Make a Difference.

A small militia Dwekh Nawsha is guarding a village area on the frontline with the so-called Islamic State. Surrounding towns and villages are mostly Christian or Yazidi. © Jan Husar

What or who first attracted you to covering conflict? Tell us how you got started and who helped you break in.

I was working for many years in the documentary film business on the side, really never gave much thought about covering conflicts or even photography per se. The main breakthrough came the same year I was working on a production for filming special forces in Afghanistan, and was asked by my business partner from Belgium to step-in on a technological startup project focused on crowdfunding visual journalism called I was working as project manager and technical creator of the software platform, from there I started to make friends with these recognised famous photographers, that’s how I start taking pictures.

On covering conflict, it was the combination of showing reality to people out there and the inner need to push the society further. I started documentary work with conservation issues, saving the oceans, the sharks, at the end I understood that we (people) don’t even value human life, how possibly we can then move on to the greater challenges of the planet, of other species? I think that drove me in the beginning, still keeps me interested enough to care.

What are the items you can’t survive without in the field?

Depends on the situation, but a flint, knife, camera with extra batteries.

An officer from the militia holds his live weapon. © Jan Husar

Describe that item you carry around with you all the time and never use.

I don’t have such item, occasionally it’s either tripod or bullet-proof vest.

Tactical training briefing for the defensive force in the city of Dohuk. © Jan Husar

What media/news/feeds do you follow and why?

I mostly follow IRIN news because I’m interested in humanitarian issues. Also many feeds of humanitarian organizations, like International Medical Corps.

How do you measure risk and how do you protect yourself?

I measure risk by doing personal research on the topic or area and also consulting other people with practical local experience. I usually protect myself by working with trusted people who I can rely on.

In the means of personal protection, I almost always carry a trauma kit or two, sometimes I wear bullet-proof armor. Most important is to blend in, which at times means to not being seen as a working journalist, which always I am.

Describe your most rewarding career moment.

Most rewarding for me is always to be able to work on feature films and documentaries, to me that is my biggest reward, that I was able to work on few of those.

Tell us about your most recent assignment or work.

My most recent conflict assignment was in northern part of Iraq, Kurdistan region: I was working with the Assyrian and Christian militias living on the front line with the so-called Islamic State.

More work by Jan Husar:

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