How did you get involved in the project? My commercial agent, Process, presented my portfolio to M&C Saatchi. The idea was to take family portraits, leaving a gap for the missing relative. This brings home the reality of the war to people. Even though the camps we visited were the more established ones, they were still pretty awful.
What is the biggest challenge when taking pictures in difficult situations? Ever story is different. In this case, the job was made easy – all the ground work was done on my behalf. Other times, you just go. I went to Banda Aceh just after the 2004 tsunami. I was on my own and my bag didn’t turn up – so I just had my cameras. But you meet people and you get on with it.
Have you ever been frightened for your safety? Of course. There are a couple of situations I’ve been particularly afraid. Such as when I was in Tiananmen Square in the night and suddenly the army started to shoot. You couldn’t see where the bullets were coming from but people were getting killed literally right beside you. It was the longest night of my life. But I never push myself to get a photograph at the risk of being killed. The temptation is there but you have to have good judgment.
How do you deal with what you witness? Time will tell. I have seen some pretty horrific stuff, but it’s important to tell these stories. I’m not a doctor or teacher; taking a picture that can be used in a useful way is my way to contribute. I have been in situations where people relied on the media to tell the story. So far, I don’t have nightmares.
Which pictures are you most proud of? To be able to give someone a voice makes me proud. I am proud of my work in the Rwandan genocide. Cafod spent £5,000 to send me there for three weeks. My photographs helped raise £3 million in donations. I also did a big project about street children in India. My photographs were used by activists in Mumbai to urge the government to stop paedophilia happening on the beaches. When your pictures are used to make something happen, that makes me proud.