Rémi’s images of war live on

Rémi Ochlik won a 2012 World Press Photo award a matter of a couple of weeks before his death. © Reuters

Killing condemned by UNESCO DG, 23 February 2012

Rémi Ochlik - Syria – Killed, 22 February 2012

The French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik would have turned 30 in October of this year, were it not for the Syrian rocket that took his life in Homs.

Ochlik may be gone, but his spirit lives on in the powerful pictures still to be found online at www.ochlik.com, the site of his own photo agency. The stark images remind us just how many tempestuous events have rocked our world in the past decade: tangled, confused wars in Central Africa, the conflicts and catastrophes that overwhelmed Haiti, the Arab Spring. These included conflicts each more blurred than the last, in which it was impossible to distinguish the forces of good and evil.

Ochlik was barely out of his teens when he made his international breakthrough with images of the rioting and the dramatic coup d’état in Haiti. By the winter of 2011 and the uprisings across North Africa, in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, he was already a veteran of crisis zones.

The young photographer was known among colleagues to be measured, even cautious in the carrying out of his work - a composed master of visual narrative from a new generation.  Major newspapers and magazines such as Le Monde, Paris Match, and the Wall Street Journal all recognised the gift and published his work extensively.

Rémi Ochlik’s images of Libyan rebels in the captured private villas and palaces of their former masters caught something of the wild jubilation of the Arab Spring.

In one shot we see a richly-decorated living room: a long plush sofa, a polished mahogany sideboard, a crystal chandelier. A grinning young man in a T-shirt gleefully tears a photograph of Muammar Gaddafi, and the pieces float in the air.  Only the assault rifle lying carelessly on the coffee-table tells us this is no ordinary house party.

The old guard of uniformed and ribbon-chested oppressors have been driven out by perfectly ordinary youngsters.  And in the very next Ochlik image we have the mutilated body of the ousted strongman Gaddafi stretched out on a mattress: the new bosses of Libya are capable of quite the same cruelty as those they have deposed.

Rémi Ochlik won the 2012 World Press Photo General News Prize for his “Battle for Libya” images. A couple of weeks later, on February 22nd 2012, his luck ran out in a house in Homs.

The building, believed not to be in the line of fire, was hit by a Syrian Army shell. Ochlik and veteran war correspondent Marie Colvin were killed, along with around a dozen others found from the ruins. Two other photojournalists and a French reporter were injured in the blast.

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This article was originally printed in the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomat. The content of the article may have been modified and/or updated as information became available following the date of publication.
UNESCO encourages all media outlets to inform the public of violations of press freedom; to raise awareness of issues impacting the safety of journalists around the world; and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.
The original article in Finnish can be found here.

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