Guillaume Bonn tells his story…

Posted by on Jun 25, 2013 in Twenty Years On

The idea of becoming a photographer always appealed to me, initially I think I thought of it as a way of recreating the life I always had with my parents, and in those days I saw photography more like an Helmut Newton, snapping pictures of naked models in remote luxurious places.

That was until I saw my first dead body at the age of 20 just outside Mogadishu; it was 1991, on a silent road in the middle of the desert, a few days earlier President Siad Barre had been overthrown from power.

That day I think changed my life forever, I never looked at photography in the same way again, I was going to become a photojournalists and tell stories with my camera about places, people and issues that I felt the world was turning away from. Little did I know that Somalia was going to be so much a part of who I am now, two years latter in 1993 during the failed US restore hope operation, my friend Dan Eldon who had at the age of 22 managed to become the chief photographer for Reuters in Somalia, called in Nairobi and asked me to come to Mogadishu to take some pictures and help him. Both of us were 22 and being there at that time really felt like we were in Coppola’s film; Apocalypse now, it was all there, the music, the girls and the surfing.

It was unreal, surreal, I am not sure how to explain but we were really having fun in this desperate time Somalia was going through. I only know now after many years in this profession that Dan had already seen in Somalia for a 22 year old, things most in their twenties have not, things that cannot be shared easily and affect you for life. I was still a kid and Dan had become a man, and I never truly realized how dangerous it was to be there at that time, we never discussed it. For many years after I wished that him and I had talked about danger, I wished for that moment that never happened where I could have told him something that would have changed the unchangeable.

Dan was killed on the 12th of July 1993 with three other colleagues doing his job; he died trying to tell the story.



Photo by Guillaume Bonn
Guillaume Bonn / Photographer / Vanity Fair magazine contributor
My last series “Silent Lives” on The New Yorker blog: