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Pictures from the Life in the Firing Line workshop

Saturday 31 March: A good turnout of GTC members is gathered at the RAF Museum in Hendon for a powerful and fascinating exploration of the work of cameramen, photographers and journalists who, at times, risk their lives to transmit to the world images of what is happening in the world's conflict zones. 

After an introduction from Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News, the day starts with some moving screenings of news/current affairs footage from GTC member Mark McCauley filmed during the conflict in Sarajevo and with Ross Kemp in Afghanistan, a series for which he was awarded a GTC Award for Excellence in 2009, along with Jonathan Young.

Thoughtful discussion follows the screenings and explores the emotional response to this kind of work as well as the ethical dilemmas and practical considerations involved. How do you evaluate the risk involved in any particular situation? What do you do if someone is injured in front of you - carry on filming or put down the camera to help? Who ultimately makes the decisions about risk within a crew on the ground? How do you deal personally with the harrowing events witnessed? Is the involvement of celebreties in current affairs series a help or a hindrance in telling these important stories? How on earth do you get insurance for this kind of work? All these and many more topics are being covered in this fascinating examination of the particular and extreme demands of this challenging genre.

The next speaker is Mike Reece, former paratrooper turned cameraman who, in an insightful talk entitled 'The Soldier's View of the Media', explains the attitude of those in the armed forces to journalists and camera crew who are there to cover stories involving the army or even become embedded with a batallion. How do the armed forces view the media? The answer: with an engrained scepticism. Mike explains that if a soldier refuses to speak, this is not due to being difficult - the fact is they are not allowed to under the Official Secrets Act. And Mike's top tip? Learn about the armed forces, and in particular the specific unit you are to work with - you will be joining their team and this is an extraordinarily tightknit one, so you need to make the effort to understand the culture and environment you are about to enter.

Photographer Giles Duley's talk is inspirational on so many levels.
First of all his overarching motivation to "tell the stories that aren't being told", and the haunting portraits this intention has produced, is memorable in its own right. But then there is also the extraordinarily impressive way he has faced up to his own devastating injuries sustained when he lost three limbs to an IED whilst photographing in Afghanistan. None of us really knows how we would face up to something really bad happening to us until it happens. All I can say is, if anything like that ever does occur to me, I hope to goodness I can approach it with the bravery, determination, humour and desire to turn something dreadful into a force for good that Giles Duley demonstrates. If you weren't able to get to Hendon on Saturday, then you can get a flavour of what you missed by watching Giles' recent 'TED' talk (linked on the image above).

Filmmakers Elizabeth Jones and David Niblock, who
have both worked extensively in Africa to document some of the world's most turbulent areas, then show an amusing unbroadcast short film entitled 'Ou est la guerre' ('Where is the war?') showing what can 
happen when you go into a conflict zone unprepared. Basically everything that could go wrong, did so: vehicles stuck in ditches, translation/language barriers, not being able to find out where the frontline of the war was - or who exactly was on which side. The point of the film is show that the lack of preparation led not only to not being able to film the story but also potentially to enhanced danger.

To wrap up this varied and informative day, Tyrus McQueen gives a fascinating account of his involvement in the evacuation of Mohammad Ballout, a reporter injured during the Libyan civil war. He assures us that, unless physically impossible, he will never leave the cameraman behind just because the reporter is down – which cheers us up no end! Finally, Head of Security for ITN, Colin Pereira, talks about the importance of quite simple measures that sometimes get overlooked, but which can make an enormous differenence in case of an emergency, such as 'having a plan' and leaving accurate contact and financial etc details with whoever is back 'at base', be it the BBC, ITN, your parents, friends, or so on. He refers to a couple of cases where details not being accurate added to the problems created by the emergency.

One of the best things about GTC workshops is the
opportunity to network both with other delegates and with the expert speakers; this was no exception, with the speakers on hand for GTC members to chat with over lunch. The break also gives an opportunity for delegates to get their hands on a good selection of current products from GTC sponsors Panasonic, including the 
AJ-HPX 3100 and HPX-250 cameras. For personal protection 1st Option Safety Services and Avon Protection had brought along an array of personal protection equipment,
which GTC member Liam Adam kindly modelled for the assembled crowd and cameras.

Alison Chapman

Pictures from the day:

GTC member Mark McCauley addressing the audience at RAF Museum, Hendon

Mark McCauley addressing the audience at RAF Museum, Hendon

Mark McCauley addressing the audience at RAF Museum, Hendon

Mike Reece expaining how the armed forces view the media and offering some tips on how to work well with them

Photographer Giles Duley shows some of his moving photographs and explains
what it is like to 'become the story' 

Photographer Giles Duley with his iconic self-portrait in the background

David Niblock talks about his work in the conflict areas of Africa

Liz Jones and David Niblock taking questions at the Life in the Firing Line workshop

Security experts Tyrus McQueen and Colin Pereira talk about the importance of planning and what happens when things go wrong

 

GTC member Liam Adam models state of the art personal protection gear from 
Avon Protection and 1st Option Safety Stores (formerly Safety Equipment Stores)

GTC members enjoy networking over lunch at the Life in the Firing line workshop

GTC members enjoy networking over lunch at the Life in the Firing line workshop

Feedback

Fantastic day!!! - thanks very much GTC :-)

Just wanted to pass on a massive thanks to all those involved in setting up a very interesting and intuitive workshop at the RAF Museum in London today. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and thought the guest speaker line up was amazing. The workshop was a truly invaluable experience, listening to some very personal and touching stories, it helped me understand and gain a greater insight into the effects and challenges that camera crews are faced with when working in hostile environments.The staff at the RAF Museum were extremely friendly and were on hand to provide us with such lovely refreshments throughout the day. Thanks again.

Great time with great people and coffee ^**^

Amazing day with the GTC, totally absorbed by what I heard and learnt... Great organization and superb guest speakers.

Another vote of thanks from myself, a great day, not least for the talks by the excellent speakers, but also a great opportunity for me to talk to others about various things. Looking forward to the next event!

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