Photojournalist brings war-front to campus

By on October 19, 2005

Photojournalist Alyx Kellington has been threatened, detained, arrested, and even kidnapped. In her line of work, war photography, this is not unusual.

Kellington spoke last Thursday in the School of Law about her career experiences throughout 25 countries, specifically in photographing the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico.

Kellington traveled to Chiapas in 1994 after a guerilla uprising erupted there.

“I was the first gringa. I was one of two women allowed in the first weeks,” Kellington said. She went to photograph the people, but had one burning question that led her to do more than just observe.

“My question was: ‘Were there any women in the Zapatista movement?'” Kellington said.

To find out the answer, Kellington told the audience how she tracked down the elusive man who is allegedly the leader of the movement: Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Marcos told her that, yes, not only were women involved, many were serving as officers, sometimes supervising groups of men.

Once she found out this information, Kellington began to live with the women and take part in their daily lives so that she could photograph them.

“This was the most profound memory of my career,” Kellington said of spending time with these women, sometimes befriending them.

Kellington’s presentation of slides reflected her interest in the Zapatista women. Titled “Women and War,” the pictures showed a Mexican society in which women are mothers and children, and also soldiers at times.

However, Kellington’s photos are not just of women. Many were of male soldiers in combat. To take these pictures, Kellington spent equal time with both the Zapatistas and the Mexican army.

“When actual combat is going on, it’s intense,” Kellington said. “There’s adrenaline.”

Kellington recalled standing in the middle of a combat zone with bullets whizzing by and about 37 people dead in the street. She wore a bullet proof vest and steel toed boots in order to take photos of a male soldier in action.

“You are literally risking your life for the humanity of other people,” Kellington said.

Although Kellington was able to survive unscathed, many other war photographers are not as lucky.

“Along the way, I’ve had 19 friends killed in this business,” Kellington said. She estimates that on average 42 photojournalists die in a year in war situations.

The danger of the job is not really why Kellington left the business, however. She did retire several years ago, but says it had more to do with personal fulfillment.

“I had been on the cover of every magazine I had ever dreamed of, and it didn’t even matter anymore,” Kellington said. “I feel like I get more out of it by having these lectures with you than having my work on the front page of the New York Times.”

Kellington’s photos have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines and educational books. She currently lives in South Florida and spends much of her time traveling throughout the country speaking at high schools and universities.


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