Anastasia Taylor-Lind (1981, England/Sweden) is a photojournalist and documentary photographer for VII Photo Agency, currently based in London. In a conversation with Maria Teresa Salvati from the London Slideluck Potshow, Anastasia elaborates on her report of Egyptian Bloggers - a commissioned project by GEO Germany a year before the rise of the Spring Revolution. Find a selection of her work here.
Egypt has the largest and most active blogosphere in the Arab world, and their work is done at personal risk, facing arrest, torture and, in some cases, death. It's interesting that, despite the danger bloggers were facing, they allowed themselves to be identified.
They are really brave people, endangering their own lives especially during the revolution. There were many of them travelling a lot throughout and speaking about the issues that were affecting Egyptians outside the country, as well as working there on the ground and organising workers’ protests and demonstrations. Being pretty high profile bloggers, identifying themselves on Facebook and Twitter, they were not doing any of that mobilising anonymously. The police knew who they were.
The Egyptian revolution is also a story of social media and democratisation of media access. This is giving more people (whether talented or not) the possibility to tell stories with simple and easy technology. Do you think this is a threat for professional photojournalism?
Definitely not. I mean, you need both. For spot news, citizen journalism is really amazing and it could only be a good thing for us, as well. It doesn’t matter who takes them. Look at the pictures of Gaddafi when he was caught and killed; those images were released soon after the event. In that instance, would a photojournalist need to be there? Probably not. It just shows the power of photography. But the sort of work I do is more of an artistic endeavour. I think both sorts of photography are needed for different reasons.
Do you see a difference between photojournalists working within their own culture and those that travel the world to tell the stories of others?
Some photographers tell very interesting stories about their own lives or their own families - see Leonie Purchas, for example. Then there are war photographers who go and cover breaking news and event in places they are not from. And these are two extreme examples and, again, I think there’s space for both of them.
When you go out and document stories that don’t belong to your country, do you experience it as an outsider?
When I photograph, I never feel that things are so extreme or different from me. It all depends on having time and getting to know people. I, more often than not, see the similarities between people. Despite religious, or ethnic or cultural differences, we all want the same things: we all want to fall in love, get married and have children, and for our children to have a better life than we do, have peace, security, stability, access to good jobs and stable homes. If I were to shoot in a situation where I didn’t have the time to spend with people, to learn a bit about their lives and have a little opportunity to experience in some ways what their lives might be like, it’d be a different story. If you took that away from me, I wouldn’t enjoy photography, because that’s what I love about it.
Is that your main aspiration as a photographer?
Initially my aim was simply to take good pictures. I started to take photographs when I was 16. I worked really hard, kept my head down, and only now do I start to feel that I'm getting a grip with what I am doing. Of course, my aspiration is to be able to do much better. Jodi Bieber, during the World Press Master class, advised me to stop and think about what I do, why I do it and what makes a photograph a 'good photograph'. It certainly is not being able to compose something and frame it in a beautiful way and use lights. That is not the essence of photography. Not for me, at least. It is about connecting with people, about communication, interaction and understanding in a very basic and raw way.
Final question: There seems to be a rise of communities that support female photographers. What do you think of that?
Each photographer photographs in a different way and sees things in different way and gender is one of those things that affect a way of seeing the world. But obviously there are more men than women in photography, for different reasons. In photojournalism, for example, I think it has to do with the way it began. When Magnum was founded, around that time, the world we were living in, the relationships, the quality of living and the expectations for men and women were completely different. I think that we have still some way to go on that. Linsey Addario is a huge inspiration for me. When it comes to danger, Linsey said to me: when you are in a war zone, bullets don’t differentiate between men and women.