Long assignment photography case study:

Greenpeace International

There are big days and there are small days and then there are mad days and my first day working for Greenpeace was the latter.

As a long term assignment photographer I am used to being away from home for weeks and months. As a commercial outdoor photographer I am skilled at photography on land, on the sea, underwater and in the air. I am also comfortable in risky environments, which is why several years ago Greenpeace International approached me to cover their Mediterranean marine reserves campaigns. It was a multi faceted campaign that involved science, protests and campaigning. It took several years to complete.

The first trip saw me away from home for six weeks living on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise as it documented the blue fin tuna fishing fleets around Cyprus. On my 2nd day I lifted off a ship in a helicopter for the first time in my life (and the pilot's life); got shot at with a flare gun while flying and later (back onboard) got attacked by a pack of Turkish fishermen. They smashed the helicopter and endangered my life and everyone on board.

tuna fishermen are just jerks

The ship was just documenting the purse seine fishing vessels and making sure they were all legal (there are some that aren't). We didn't do anything to be attacked, but I guess Turkish tuna fishermen are just jerks.

The following year I was back working in the blue fin tuna fishery and Greenpeace stepped up its action. The idea was to demonstrate against the trade in a critically endangered creatures. This part of the fishing industry is pretty horrible and because it works away from most people's eyes, they get away with pillaging the sea, so Greenpeace worked to stop it. That bought us directly into conflict with the fishermen who turned out to be as nasty as my first encounter. Shooting flares, using grapples and knives and ramming our boats were used to get back at the ships and crews. My job was to document it all.

BAD FISHERMEN ARE AS DUMB AS A SACK OF HAMMERS

However, blue fin tuna fishing is not the only bad industry on the Mediterranean. Off Italy I worked on a project to find and report illegal long lining and netting. Miles of nets are laid overnight and retrieved early in the morning for endangered swordfish which fetch a good price in the fish markets of the world.

One morning I was awoken by the campaign leader as the night watch had spotted a vessel starting to retrieve an illegal net. I jumped into a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and headed out to document the catch. I got lucky and as the Greenpeace ship was directly behind the fishing boat it pulled in an illegally caught swordfish.

Greenpeace had the evidence it needed and so we headed back and I jumped straight into the helicopter to photograph the vessel's details as the crew had covered its number and name with buoys. This is when it helps to have an ex-special forces guy as a pilot. He flew the helicopter like demon and used its downforce to blow the buoys aside allowing me to photograph the name.

Another day we were sheltering from a strong easterly wind off the island of Pantelleria. There were several fishing boats doing the same and we motored around them as the area is a marine park and only certain fishing methods are allowed. One vessel was packed with long nets and the campaign manager suspected they were illegally fishing and contacted the coastguard. The vessel heard the radio call and took off. A doddery fishing boat is no match for a coastguard vessel and it wasn't long before they were escorted into the port. The Coastguard made the fishermen offload their nets and they confiscated the catch. As you can imagine the captain was not happy and attacked the campaign manager.

Within three days my images had hit front pages around Europe

Action aside a lot of being a long term assignment photographer is waiting. I like to fill these times with documenting the people involved in the campaigns and I built up a collection of portraits.

LONG TERM ASSIGNMENTS

Long term assignments are not for everyone. Many photographers have family commitments or just don't like being away from home for a long time. I love it. These assignments can be campaigns like the above case study, or an editorial travel piece for a magazine or a specific project for a company or NGO.

If your organisation has a long term project it would like documented please drop me a message or give me a call. It could be a week, a couple of weeks, a month or several. My pricing is competitive and you will not be disappointed with the results.