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  Field Notes From
Libya: An End to Isolation?

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From Author

Andrew Cockburn

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From Photographer


In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mark Thiessen (top) and Reza

In an Outlaw Nation

Field Notes From Photographer
Bringing this country to light gives me great pride. I’m the first photojournalist to show the real Libya since 1969, when Qaddafi came to power. I photographed who these people are and how they live. Of course, other photographers have gone there and taken pictures of the scenery, but the Editor made it clear he didn't want to see pictures of sand and ruins. I only used that as background for the modern Libya. This was the most difficult assignment I’ve ever had in my life. I was under psychological pressure every day, every minute. Mr. Qaddafi’s secretary called me with the order to be at the desert headquarters in four hours to take the President’s photograph. But it’s a six-hour drive from Tripoli. So when I didn’t get there on time, they sent me to a guest house and told me they would call the next day. I waited seven days and seven nights in that bloody hotel, taking only a few minutes to run downstairs for meals. To pass the time, I picked up the world atlas I brought as a gift and read it from cover to cover—three times. I know that patience is important for a photographer or for any photojournalist, but this was extreme. I needed to hire a helicopter, so Qaddafi’s officials referred me to a guy who was supposed to help me. I called this man eight or ten times every day for 40 days. He would say, “Oh, Mr. Reza, I’m so sorry! Please call me back in half an hour.” But each time he put me off again. After all that time trying to make arrangements with him, he still never got the helicopter.

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