IT IS FAIR to say that Enniskillen-born photojournalist Andrew McConnell gets around.
The 37-year-old has spent the last few months in the some of the world’s big trouble spots, like Iraq, Palestine and eastern Ukraine.
The former St Michael’s student also spent time covering the conflict in Gaza last summer, and is hoping to return in a few months time to complete filming in the area.
Reflecting on that initial period in Gaza, Andrew told the Fermanagh Herald: “It’s hard to say. When you’re in the middle of it it’s incredibly intense. Then it drops off the new agenda and the world seems to move on. And yet speaking to friends in Gaza and seeing the situation – much of Gaza still looks the way it did when the ceasefire came into effect.”
Funding permitting, Andrew hopes to return to Gaza in September – and all being well hopes to have his film completed by mid to late 2016.
“It’s an attempt by me to keep the attention on the situation. I started working out in the press where you take a photograph, it’s published in the paper and then it’s forgotten about and this is sort of an attempt in the other direction. The goal would be to say that yes this did happen and the world turned its gaze towards it – but the problems still exist. Nothing’s really changed on the ground. So you can’t look away.”
Beginning his career as a press photographer before leaving to concentrate on documentary photography, Andrew has covered conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, e-waste in Ghana, the surfers of the Gaza strip, and life in Damascus during the civil war in Syria.
Since returning from Gaza, he has continued to capture poignant snapshots of life across conflict and division.
“What I mostly do is refugee work on the Syrian crisis. Lebanon has over a million Syrian refugees so I spend a lot of time documenting that. I was in Iraq also for the first time in December and I was back in January – that was very interesting. And now I’m in Greece looking at refugees coming in by boat.”
His motivation, he says, is to bring attention to issues that many won’t be aware of.
“It goes back to the days I worked as a press officer – you have the motivation to tell stories about contemporary life, the world we live in today. And I guess the reason to travel and see other parts of the world is that there are situations that need attention.
“I believe photography can be a great advocate for change, and there is no more powerful use of the medium than to highlight injustice or inequality, wherever they may be.
“I’m very interested in what happens when the media gaze goes elsewhere. Those people are still there and trying to deal with those situations. It’s important that people don’t lose sight of that.”
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