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  • Matilde Aranha & Echo Caise

Interview with: ADAM DOBBY

We interview former SAS soldier turned photojournalist Adam Dobby, who put down his rifle and picked up a camera to capture the real human stories and aftermath in conflict zones.

Adam Dobby
(c)Adam Dobby

One man, one shift of profession, over 90 shifts of operating countries. From soldier to war journalist, Adam Dobby develops a striking exhibit of storytelling - a provocation to the eye as well as to our trivial ways. A room of photographs Dobby captured with a distinctiveness he attributes to his “bizarre background”...

His service in the Special Air Force, part of the British Special Forces, gives him a deep understanding of the tragedies of war that not many possess. Due to this, Dobby didn’t originally think to release the photographs he took. Not until many people stressed the importance of sharing his powerful photos did Adam decide to exhibit his work.

Adam Dobby at his exhibti - "Война и мир, War and Peace”

This Sixteenth gallery exhibit- “Война и мир, War and Peace”- is titled in Ukrainian after an homage to the country Dobby spent the last few months articulating his passion for visual and word-written storytelling, the latter of which resulted in a collection of stories available in the previous issue of Soulkind. Despite that head-on tribute to the Ukrainian people, three other nations are also represented in this insight into humanity at its worst (as Adam terms it): Iraq, Syria, and Sri Lanka.  

Forthright with his speech, he connected the photographs in the gallery through enticing accounts. 

There was no room for euphemisms, Adam walked us through these images and told their scenarios as they were: a funeral for a child whose twin brother was to be killed six days thereafter; Dobby would return to this family's story showing us a second photograph in which a girl, their sister, stands alone looking at the boys' graves, buried in the place which was meant for their parents. Another shows a boy collecting bullets in Ukraine, which as Dobby was sure to point out, is a bit of a contrast to most children’s ludic activities.  From Ukraine as well: a scene of an old lady “not taking too much of a rush” to get to the shelter as the missiles were landing in Odessa. 

There are also meaningful captures of the Middle East: two orphaned babies in Abu Ghraib, both muted by trauma, whose single way of communication was through their eyes; a group of ISIS on their way to be processed as refugees, an image Dobby attained without their knowing. Ultimately the journalist took us to see the picture displayed outside the gallery, as sort of the “exhibit’s face”: “My boy from Aleppo, orphaned- didn't have anybody.”, were the words he uttered. These are only a few of the literal rooms-full of settings and narratives Adam has collected.   

After gifting us with this overview of his work, Adam sat down for a couple of questions.

Interviewer: Is there any common thread in human behaviour from all the settings you have seen?

Adam: Yeah, the common thread is men cut hair. Women bake bread. (...) I mean, when I covered the Haitian earthquake in 2010, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed in a split second…(...)I was amazed by the resilience of humans, but men cut hair and women bake bread. And that's the first thing they do;you go to any war zone, and everybody's dying, or everyone has been blown up. Men cut hair, women bake bread. It's bizarre, you know, sounds very simplistic.[But] there's no electricity, you can't charge phones. There's no cars, there's no fuel. There's a pair of scissors, and there's  flour and a stove. 

Interviewer:  You take these photographs under very dangerous situations. Do you ever fear losing all your work due to a mishap?

Adam:I go to these places not to take photographs. That's not my work. My work is to go to these places to get stories about people. [I] can't lose that because it's in my head- unless I die.    

We resumed for one final question- addressing the beauty Adam averred to seek in the whirl of these war zones:  

Interviewer:What does capture your lenses nowadays?”  

Adam: Kids. (…) And why do I say kids...? Because human adults tend to be stupid; they don’t read History books, they don’t learn from History.  We just keep repeating ourselves, we just keep causing unnecessary devastation (…) But kids are innocent, so wherever I go, I try to connect with kids because if you can connect with a child, especially in this kind of conditions (…), give them some kind of memory of a random guy with a camera who took a photograph, made them smile, took them away from what they, unfortunately, were born into- just for a split second… You hope that they will remember that there is hope.


Adam continues to take photographs and strives to share all these accounts and their “faces”. 


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