The Middle East has been plagued by war after war, and the western world isn’t always there to cover it. Ahmed Najm is one of a group of Iraq photojournalists who are changing the face of photography in a post-war country.
How many of you remember what you were doing on the day that they captured Saddam Hussein? How many of us remember watching the war’s progress on the television through mediums like BBC News, CNN, and Fox? The Iraqi Dictator’s regime didn’t come to an end until the early 2000’s, and it was through journalists exactly like Najm that we got to witness its downfall.
Western Journalism Is All About Violence
Ahmed Najm started his career in those vital post-war years. Iraq was rebuilding itself as a country, and ISIS was still attacking throughout the land. Even ten years after Saddam was stopped, ISIS was always moving throughout Iraq, causing untold harm to its people.
A picture can tell a thousand words. But what if that photo is mired in bloodshed?
Here in the west, we were treated to reports that highlighted this bombing or that shooting, without indeed ever given details of the horrific loss of life that was happening here. We heard the words ISIS and ‘regime’ and pictured a land a million miles away… not a progressive society akin to our own.
Ahmed has voiced his opinions on western journalism loudly throughout the years, but never more so than he did back then. As the youngest of six brothers, Ahmed never expected to have a career as a photojournalist. It was his elder brother Kamaran that inspired this path.
The Early Days of Iraq Photojournalism
Najm describes a race between local photographers to take bigger, better, more gruesome pictures back in the beginning. The demand was for photos of the warzones, of the suffering of a people that the rest of the world did not understand. Ahmed’s brother Kamaran set out to change this by putting a human face on the conflict… something that got him captured by ISIS in 2014.
Since then, Ahmed has taken up his brother’s torch. As well as successfully managing to change the way we see the war in the middle east, he has been involved in taking over the helm of the first ever Iraq photography agency – the Metrography Agency. On top of this, he has been one of the driving forces behind the Kamaran Museum, situated inside Metrography Agency.
“Kamaran Museum contains all the photography works of Kamaran Najm. You will become familiar with Kamaran's experience in photography here, all the way to the last day of his work and his disappearance. You will also see his tools and instrument he used for his work.”
This location is named for his elder brother and is dedicated to the life he lived. It is about photography that has inspired truth, reflecting humanity. That gives us glimpses into the lives of people who are still – to this day – recovering from a brutal regime that saw loved ones disappear in the night.
Bringing Photography to the People
Nowadays, Ahmed Najm is building a legacy of his own. He is one of the names behind the “Humans of Kurdistan” photography project and has been active in establishing the Vim foundation. This organization aims to pinpoint the gaps still left in post-war Iraq society to be filled meaningfully.
As well as working in all of the above, Ahmed Najm is now due to be involved in the World Press Photo’s General Jury of 2021 contest. With all of this on his plate, we can safely say that Ahmed Najm is a name the world stops presses for. We can expect to see a lot more of his particular brand of cultural representation in the future.