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Photographer Interview: Walter Astrada

Photojournalist Walter Astrada
Photojournalist and press photographer Walter Astrada won "1st Prize Stories" in the Spot News category of the 2009 World Press Photo contest. I read about him in a recent issue of PDN magazine. Astrada's image of a 7-year old Kenyan boy screaming as a policeman approached his home (shown below) struck me hard. This image haunted my memory for days as I thought about the fear and terror in this little boy's heart.

Walter Astrada recently took time out from his travels through Uganda to grant Dodge & Burn this interview.

D&B: Where are you from?
W&A: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but since 1999 I'm traveling and living outside my country.

D&B: What kind of photography do you shoot and how did you get started - any "formal" training?
WA: I shoot for wire services but also I shoot long term projects. For example now I'm working on one about "violence against women" in different kinds of violence in different countries and continents.

I started it in Guatemala documenting the killing of women (what is called "Feminicide") in 2006 and 2007, last year and this I was documenting the sexual violence in Congo. Later this year I will be documenting violence against women in India.

I hope to be working in one European country next year.

Copyright Walter Astrada, Argentina, Agence France-Presse.
Monday Lawiland (7) screams as a policeman approaches his home, in the opposition stronghold of Kibera, in Nairobi, on January 17th.

D&B: What cameras or techniques do you use?
WA: Since 2003 I use only digital. Actually I'm using Nikon D700 and passing to fixed lens again.

D&B: Who are your mentors (in photography)?
WA: Really, I don't have one mentor.

D&B: When did you realize you could have a career in photography? Describe your journey towards becoming a working photographer.

WA: I don't know really, but at 13 years old I decided that I wanted to be a photojournalist after seen an exhibition of Argentinean press photographers.

When I finished high school, I made a workshop on photojournalism and the next year I made another. When I finished the second one, to the best students the prize was an internship in the main newspaper, La Nacion.

When I finished the internship it was not possible to stay on as photographer. I decided to continue working on my own to prepare a portfolio and leave Argentina. When I was ready to leave I called the photo editor of La Nacion to show my portfolio. After he finished looking at it, he asked me if I was working for anybody. My answer was no because I made the portfolio working on my own.

He offered me a 3-day test to be photographer. After the 3 days I was working as a photographer there.

But what I wanted was to be traveling and shooting my own projects - 2 years later I resigned and I started to traveling in South America.

AP [Associated Press] took me to work as correspondent in Bolivia first, later Argentina and Paraguay. Later came The Dominican Republic, living in Spain, etc.

Actually, now I'm working as freelancer, doing some assignments for AFP [Agence France Presse] but principally I'm trying to work on my personal projects.

What do you hope to achieve with your photography?

WA: I know that it's not possible to change the world with one photograph, but I hope if after some people see my work and they start to think that what they see is not right, then I think I achieved my purpose. For that principally I work on topics where human rights are not respected.

photography by Walter Astrada
From the series Femicide in Guatemala 
Copyright Walter Astrada
D&B: What's your dream photography project?
WA: Actually, I'm working on something which I consider to be a very important project - it is about violence against women.

I think it is a problem that not many people are giving enough importance to, but we can't talk about 100% of human rights being respected when 50% of the population of any country is under threat of been punched, hit, tortured, raped, battered, killed...

Do you have questions for Walter?
Submit them in the comments below and I will ask for another interview to get answers to the best ones.

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Dodge & Burn is a blog dedicated to documenting a more inclusive history of photography and supporting the work of photographers of color with photographer interviews.

This blog is published by visual artist and writer, Qiana Mestrich. For regular updates on diversity in photography history, follow Qiana on Twitter @mestrich, Like the Dodge & Burn Blog page on Facebook or subscribe to Dodge & Burn by email.

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