Contemporary Photography in a War Zone

14 May 2016

SIG: Contemporary

I came across a blog last week which mentioned that photojournalists working in tough locations are, even if they’re on assignment for a publication, likely not to be covered by healthcare, disability or accident insurance.  Interestingly enough a new colleague, Tom Daams, joined the company I work for recently and commented on an internal social media site that he had been working as a photojournalist in the war zones of Ukraine and Syria.  I followed up with a good look at Tom's blog and found some excellent storytelling with photography, great photojournalism and great images, then contacted Tom to talk about his experience of location work and ask permission to use one of his images in this Contemporary blog.

Tom said he is fascinated by Robert Capa and felt compelled to strive for the same kind of career.  Tom started his path to war photography by covering protests and riots across Europe and in the summer of 2012, Tom prepared for a long period of photographing in Syria.  After the rise of the extremists in Syria many journalists, including Tom, were no longer able to remain because of the risks – no one wanted to be kidnapped.   He moved his focus from Syria to Ukraine; Tom travelled and documented a large group of voluntary soldiers.

After the summer of 2015 Tom needed a break, being lonely and mentally exhausted after many months in front-line situations, and decided to head back to his native Netherlands.  He stopped in Hungary to cover the refugee crisis, travelling through Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Austria to travel alongside with the refugees to Budapest.

After completing this work Tom decided to stay and live in Budapest, he said “The city is dynamic and the people are international, and Robert Capa was born here!”

Thinking of the blog I’d read about the state of professional photojournalism I commented on the fact that Tom now worked in the corporate world and asked how he’d been able to do the photojournalism.  It was quite a shock to me to find out how he funded the work: Social media.  Using this he was able to bring his images to the media and use multiple crowdfunding projects to get funding.  This funding was able to cover most of Tom’s costs.  

The images are clearly the reward for all this risky work, but is that enough?  I think Robert Capa made some money from his war time photojournalism, it’s sad that today’s generation of brave photographers only get to cover their costs.

Anyway, ending on a positive note – go and look at Tom Daams’ work, it’s contemporary!  Some of Tom’s work covering protests, the wars in Syria and Ukraine and the refugee crisis is available via Tom’s blog


Image by Tom Daams.



[FYI the blog on the state of professional photography is “Can photographers restore their devastated business?” by Danielle Jackson,