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Panpa Bulletin : September 2010
A HUSH falls upon the audience in anticipation of stories of heroic photo- journalism in the darkest corners of our planet. Photographer Kate Geraghty takes the stage. Unassuming. Modest. In- sistent she is not the story but a mes- senger; her pictures a mirror of stark and sometimes unpleasant realities. Those in the audience want to hear tales from the Turkish flotilla, heading for Gaza when it was intercepted by Israeli commandos. What was it like, was she really shot with a taser gun . . . unspoken questions etched into the atmosphere of anticipation. "I want to make clear that the story is not about me, it's about what hap- pened," Kate declares. And so she tells her story, a com- pelling recollection of danger and journalism that captured the world's headlines and ignited the public's concern. Her desire to avoid personal atten- tion, and simply tell her story, con- tinues as she speaks with the PAN PA Bulletin. She and fellow Herald journalist Paul McGeough were on a boat that was part of a flotilla sailing to Gaza to deliver aid. Commandos killed nine in their mission to stop the boats. "I thought they (the Israeli army) would use tear gas," Kate recalls. "There had been no other indication in the past that they had used live ammunition, let alone wound or kill people." Kate was attacked by an Israeli soldier while on the boat, Challenger One. The Israelis knew she was a journalist. "I was looking down from the second level of the boat photographing as the first commando came up," she says. "I felt an impact to my right arm and was thrown about one and a half metres, there was a big white flash and I began to feel sick. It was dark so it was hard to know what weapon it was, but it was a stun-grenade of some sort. "After that, the first Israeli com- mando on the boat, lunged over the topofme--Iwasfacedownandhe forcibly seized my camera. "Paul (McGeough) and I were call- ing out that we were Australian jour- nalists, the first Commando said: 'We know you are from the Herald' -- and the second commando -- said 'Yeah, no worries' in an Australian accent." Kate recalls her surprise at learning that the Israeli soldiers had probably grown up in Australia. Kate had the foresight to rotate her seven memory cards through her camera to try to get as many photo- graphs of the action on every single card. "That would mean that if I got to keep one card then hopefully I would have a range of photos on it." Kate smuggled three cards out, avoiding detection through the deten- tion process that followed the attack. She is no stranger to such vio- lence. Kate has covered the Iraq war, documented with stunning images the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Australian intervention in the Solomon Islands , the Bali bomb- ings, and the conflicts of Lebanon. She has followed an elderly Aus- tralian who travelled to Switzerland for access to euthanasia. Kate started her career as a cadet at the Border Mail, a daily, regional newspaper on the NSW and Victo- rian border. She got her first taste of interna- tional photojournalism in Cambodia through a friend who was taking a break from AFP; and she joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1997. "By working as a professional pho- tographer, you get to go to places and meet people that you wouldn't ordi- narily meet as a tourist," she says. "I fell in love with the idea of be- ing able to work, take photographs, and travel -- I thought that was just amazing." One of the few assignments Kate has taken outside of newspapers was in the Democratic Republic of Congo with journalist Jonathan Pearlman. They travelled to the northern province of Kivu, which has been ravaged by 15 years of devastating war and some 5 million people have died and millions others displaced. In the Congo, rape was a weapon of war and a quarter of the women had suffered sexual attacks. "The people were amazing. They had no problem with us photograph- ing or doing interviews because they knew that by us being there it would actually bring light to their situation." It was the only chance many wom- en had, in the absence of a justice system, to tell their stories. Kate is also dedicated to maintain- ing the integrity of the subjects in her photos, and believes it is an integral part of photojournalism. "Each assignment is different," Kate says, "but you must respect eve- ryone that you photograph." S lH PHOTOGRAPHER PROFILE See more photos and listen to the interview with Kate Geraghty by scanning the code with your mobile. www.panpa.org.au When on assignment Kate chooses to use a Canon 1D Mark IV I'm not the story Clockwise Top Left: A Congolese sexual violence victim who told her story to Kate and fellow journalist Jonathan Pearlman. A Palestinian supporter on his way to deliver aid to Gaza on the Flotilla in May this year; Israeli Commandos surround the Mavi Marmera in International waters; Woman grieves during the 2006 war in Lebanon The Sydney Morning Herald's Kate Geraghty talks to REBECCA LEAVER about her work in conflict zones from the home of the Palestinians to the killing fields of the Congo Soldier in the desert battlefields in the first two months of the Iraq war in 2003 16 | SEPTEMBER 2010 | The PANPA Bulletin