Free Press the Auction: three photographers explain their motivation to participate

A black and white photograph through the scope of a rifle. The photo shows mud houses with a woman in the distance walking in a burqa. Two children and a motorcyclist approach her.

A group of renowned press photographers have donated their finest works to contribute to press freedom and journalists' safety. The photos will be auctioned on Catawiki from November 23rd. Some of them have found themselves in life threatening situations. Mariëlle van Uitert, Teun Voeten and Jet Budelman share their experiences. “A mortar shell hit my leg.”

Photographer Mariëlle van Uitert: 'I traveled to Syria with a colleague to report on the war. In the city of Aleppo we were kidnapped along with other journalists. We don't know if we were targeted or not, and we don't know if ransom was paid for us. In any case, the driver of the vehicle was beaten up and taken away separately. Our fixer, who was not there during the kidnap, was later shot dead. Our first instinct was to leave the country as soon as possible, but we were on the front line, we couldn't get out of Syria easily.”

Mariëlle continued: “A few days later, I was about to cover a demonstration when a mortar shell was fired, injuring my leg. While my leg was getting infected, I tried to leave the country. Several people offered to drive me to the border, but I couldn't trust anyone." For her career, she has traveled all over the world reporting on impactful events. She has traveled to Afghanistan several times. There, too, she narrowly escaped an attack in Jalalabad.

The story of photographer Jet Budelman proves that you don't have to be far from home to find yourself in a dire situation. In recent years she traveled regularly to Calais to report on the refugees residing there in hopes of making the crossing to England. "At one point I was locked in by the French police, they sprayed pepper spray right in my face and wanted to confiscate my camera," she says. "The atmosphere in the Netherlands has also become more grim lately. I've been knocked down before, this time by protesters. A journalist is quickly associated with fake news."

Teun Voeten, war photographer, experienced the same in Calais. He was also once shot in the leg in the former Yugoslavia. But: “I don't like to talk about these events because I see this as a business risk. I chose this profession and these are the consequences.”

All three photographers note that it is becoming increasingly unsafe for journalists and photographers to do their work outside war zones. Likewise in the Netherlands. Aggression and intimidation are on the rise. That is why they participate in the Free Press Auction.

Written by Sahar Jahish.

Photo header: Mariëlle van Uitert, Chora/Afghanistan 2010: "The Dutch ISAF troops continuously monitor the population from their base 'Minwais' in the Baluchi Valley"

Photo banner: Bert Verhoeff, Moscow/Russia 1990: "Tent camp of the homeless on Red Square"

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