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Boulat Dad
Photograph courtesy Annie Boulat
Friends share memories of award-winning photographer Alexandra Boulat, who passed away October 5, 2007.

From National Geographic photo editor Susan Welchman

When I first came to National Geographic magazine in 1979, I worked with photographer Pierre Boulat. He was shooting a story for us about Carrara marble. I was much less experienced and had just come here from photo editing at the New York Post—needless to say I was mannerless. I hounded Pierre relentlessly. I can remember him telling me that he had a family and they needed some of his time too.

Twenty years later I met Alex, Pierre's daughter, and she remembered him talking about his picture editor—I think she wanted to, but dreaded meeting me. Pierre died and so Alex and I loved talking about him. Last year I went to the country house the family shared and saw Pierre's darkroom. The walls were covered with his work, the books he'd published, and the rooms he lived in with Annie, Alex, and younger daughter, Antoinette.

On a winter windy day I walked with Annie, Alex and Issa (Alex's love of her life) to the cemetery, in the middle of a field where Pierre was buried with the farmers and people from the small village. This is where Alex was buried, next to Pierre.

From National Geographic photo editor Kurt Mutchler

Alexandra Boulat was no stranger to the battlefield, covering the Balkan conflict in the late 1990s ("Eyewitness Kosovo," National Geographic, February 2000), and so we sent her to cover the beginning of the Iraq war in early 2003 for the magazine.

Always aware of the risk to her own life, she was driven to give voice to the unheard and bear witness to the unseen, and somehow make sense of all the madness. She was a rare soul who could take all this in and somehow make it viewable for the rest of us.

In Iraq before the invasion, Saddam Hussein's government minded foreign journalists carefully by monitoring all stories and photographs being transmitted out of the country. Of course, almost every photographer was shooting digital and it was easy for the Iraqis to look at the photographs. A lot of photographers were subsequently kicked out of the country because the government didn't like the pictures they saw on the photographers' laptop screens. Alexandra on the other hand was shooting film, and the Iraqis had no way of knowing what she was up too. She knew this and was allowed to stay, taking advantage of it by traveling all over Iraq.

Just before the American bombs began to fall, then Editor Bill Allen called Alexandra and suggested that she leave for her own safety. She would have none of it. As other journalists left the country, she hunkered down in a central Baghdad hotel and watched the first bombs fall from her balcony. Her images of the Baghdad before, during, and after remain a unique view of the invasion that few other journalists witnessed ("Baghdad Before the Bombs," National Geographic, June 2003 and "Diary of a War," National Geographic, September 2003).

Legendary photographer Eugene Smith once wrote, "To have his photographs live on in history, past their important but short lifespan in a publication, is the final desire of nearly every photographer-artist who works in journalism." Alexandra's work will live on in history.

From photographer José Azel

In one form or another Alexandra was born into and lived photojournalism. Together with her parents, Annie and Pierre, the Boulat family has given to our community in multiple and generous ways. Alex will always be part of our extended family. She will be missed, but her energy will continue within our passion for documenting the world.

From photographer Pascal Maitre

Alexandra was full of energy, life, and motivation with deep feeling. I remember last year, I had an exhibition of pictures about night at Cosmos Gallery in Paris. Alexandra and Issa came to arrange the music during the exhibition. It was very nice and we had a lot of fun. It was a great time and now we will miss her greatly.

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