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Ed Ou TED Fellowship Recipient February 5, 2013

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Ed Ou, TED , trackback

The TED blog reveals  a lot about Ed Ou’s reasons for engaging in photojournalism and lots of good advice for young photographers on a mission to engage in that paradoxical world .


Award-winning Canadian photographer Ed Ou fell into photojournalism as a teenager, while studying political science in Jerusalem. Since then, he has blazed a trail of cinematic images covering the Egyptian revolution, the Somali Civil War, victims of radiation poisoning in the Soviet Union, and beyond, capturing moments of beauty and humanity in the midst of suffering and violent revolution.

SEMEY, KAZAKHSTAN – NOVEMBER 24 Nurse Larissa Soboleva holds two-year-old Adil Zhilyaev in an orphanage in Semey, Kazakhstan Nov. 24, 2008. Adil was born blind and afflicted with Infantile Cereberal Paralysis (ICP) and hydrocephalia, as a result of his mothers exposure to radiation during years of Soviet weapons testing during the Cold War. He was abandoned by his parents, and is now cared for in an orphanage. (Photo by Ed Ou/Reportage By Getty Images)


How did you get from Canada to being a photojournalist in the Middle East at such a young age?

I was born in Taiwan, and my family moved to Canada long before I can remember. I grew up in Vancouver, a very multicultural city where more or less everyone I knew were immigrants who came from a far-flung corner of the world. In university, I studied languages and international relations, and so my focus in school was the Middle East, as all eyes of the world were on the Muslim world after 9/11. As part of my studies, I ended up in the Middle East as a political science student studying Arabic and Hebrew and trying to academically understand the forces that lead us to conflict. It was a time of intense turmoil in the region, so it didn’t take long to get caught up in the news.


I got into journalism because I found there was a disconnect between academia and the realities of what happened on the ground. In school we would study histories and political systems with such dispassionate analysis that the human toll of politics and conflict became lost in statistics and academic nomenclature. Seeing the troubled outcome of poor political decisions firsthand in the Middle East made me want to report on human stories, and look at how everyday citizens are affected by conflict. I began to shoot images for news wires — the Associated Press and Reuters — covering breaking news and feature stories. While I did not officially train as a photographer, I was lucky to be shooting next to some of the best photographers in the world, many of whom took me under their wing and taught me how to chase news, hone my personal vision and tell stories. I’ve been working in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia for the last few years, continuing to shoot news and long-term documentary projects, often working with The New York Times.

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – APRIL 24 Awil Saleh Osman, a 12-year-old Somali fighter for the Transitional Federal Government guards a check point near the airport in Mogadishu April 24, 2010. According to Somali human rights groups and United Nations officials, the Somali government is fielding hundreds if not thousands of children on the front lines and some are as young as 8 or 9. And this government is backed by the United States, which sends it weapons and pays the soldiers’ salaries. (Ed Ou/Reportage by Getty Images for the New York Times)

What is it like to be photographing in a war zone? How does this work, on a practical level?

Photographing in places of turmoil can be difficult, and there is a lot of preparation that one has to make. Safety is the top priority before heading into any conflict zone. You have to consider every variable, and imagine every situation that may occur, and have a plan in case something happens. Every situation is different, and you just need to be able to quickly adapt to anything that comes up.

I try to carry around as little as possible so I can move around quickly. In breaking news situations, I often have to photograph and send off images as quickly as possible so they can be used in print the same day, or often the same hour on the internet. It can be intensely stressful at times, juggling personal safety, being where the key moments are happening, and also being able to send off your photos. But it is also quite rewarding and humbling when your images are used to show things as they happen, and add to our collective consciousness and inform the world.



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