Young Vietnamese photojournalist and his story in Syria

Mai Nguyen Anh was 20 years old when he was studying in the UK. He had a lot of choices for a part time job, but he chose one of the hardest: photojournalist.

In 2011, Syria’s conflict became a war. Till 2012, this issue was still really new, most big news agency hadn’t sent any production crew into Syria, so the biggest source of images came from freelancers.

The first time, he connected via a website with freelance journalists who worked in the area and matched with a reporter from London to know about preparation, scheduling and ticket booking to Turkey.

August 2012, they flew to Istanbul. At the hotel, they researched internal intel, they had to know who should they meet, what should they prepare: helmet, kevlar, Med-kit with army bandages. The accessories were expensive and in the first mission, Mai Nguyen Anh paid this by his money. He described this experience as dangerous, reckless because, at that time, he was not equipped with any basic survival skill.

At the border of Turkey and Syria, Mai Nguyen Anh focused on a hospital. Because he worked as a photojournalist, he just needed to take pictures, took notes names, ages, reason join the forces. His first mission took 1 week.


Nguyen Anh’s first chance to get into Syria was via the only doctor in the hospital. He got into Atme and experienced one of the worst living conditions, even the war hasn’t spread to there. The weather was cold, no clean water, no electricity, no Wc were built by the carton. The story in Atme was not easy selling because the news agency had to verify all information. Later on, he sold his pictures for Corbis (photo galleries which created by Bill Gates). The money he received only enough to provide for the next mission.


In the end of 2012, he returned to Syria. This time, he visited Aleppo. Luckily, he was well-prepared: an organization called Freelance Frontline Club trained him in 1 month, provided insurance, tool-kit, plane ticket. It took 1 hour driving from Turkey border to Aleppo. And in this stage, Nguyen Anh stressed the important of the driver. The driver was also the translator, protector, and reporters must find someone trust-worthy because in some cases, the driver turned into the kidnapper. Aleppo was the hot spot and there were regular gun fights on both sides. This is the first and the last time Nguyen Anh visit Aleppo.


Being a photojournalist is hard, being a photojournalist in the middle of a conflict like this is much harder. All reporters have to face death and intense violent environment every day. And I asked myself how a 20-year-old boy can endure in that environment??

Mai Nguyen Anh shared that he did it because he loves photography, he believes photos are not only beautiful but also record history. He hopes his images can be seen by people and change people thinkings and perspectives. He also shared that all photos in Syria.



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