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The New York Times Lens Blog Turning Point Series: Ayman Oghanna on Alex Webb

Changed by a Car Bomb in Baghdad
September 1, 2010, 12:00 pm

Ayman Oghanna, 25, a multimedia journalist, was born and raised in London. He studied at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and is currently based in Iraq. His conversation with Amanda Rivkin has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q.How was this picture taken? How has it changed the way you work?

A.I took this photo after a suicide car bomb exploded across the street from where I was staying in Baghdad.

Technically or aesthetically, it wasn’t taken with any special approach or concept. I just went out and tried to capture reality. I included it, however, because it marks an important moment. It sealed my commitment to this medium.

At that point I had been in Baghdad for a few months on my own as a freelancer. It can be a miserable place. I had grown increasingly frustrated with working there. It’s a difficult country to operate in, especially freelance, and the news interest isn’t there anymore. Iraq bombings and Iraqis dying don’t garner much interest now. In fact, if the girl in the photograph had lost her mother in a bombing that wasn’t targeting Westerners, I don’t think I’d be writing about her picture right now.

It was a grim day. I told myself that if the images didn’t get out, I’d quit. They did; I didn’t.

Inspiration: Alex Webb
“Mexicans arrested while trying to cross the border to the United States.” 1979. San Ysidro, Calif.

Q.When did you first come upon this image? How?

A.This image hangs on the wall of the Magnum office in New York City. Deskbound in a Manhattan office, I’d spend hours looking at this photograph while interning at Magnum last year.

Q.What do you like about this image?

A.It reminded me why it’s worth traveling down this sometimes difficult path: to create something beautiful and true. It’s inspiring to leave something unique like that behind.

Q.How has it influenced your work?

A.Technically, I’m not conscious of it changing the way I shoot. But it did help get me out of the cubicle.

“Turning Point” is an occasional series featuring images by young photographers. The column was conceived by the 26-year-old photographer Amanda Rivkin.

Previous Turning Point Columns:

Wednesday, Aug. 4
Amanda Rivkin, 26.
Inspired by Dorothea Lange.

Wednesday, Aug. 11
Aga Luczakowska, 29.
Inspired by Stanley Greene.

Wednesday, Aug. 11
Robert Caplin, 27.
Inspired by David Alan Harvey.

Wednesday, Aug. 25
Yana Paskova, 28.
Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson.