Walkley Award winning photojournalist and Nikon Ambassador David Dare Parker has made an outstanding career telling the story of our world, whether covering conflict overseas or documenting people’s daily lives. He talks to Emma Wheaton about photojournalism and reveals the story behind two of his captivating images.
Tell me about this image…
I first went to Indonesia in 1998 to cover the Reformasi movement. In University cities like Jakarta and Surabaya students risked their lives by demonstrating on the streets amid a general public outcry for democratic reform. With the eventual resignation of President Suharto, Indonesia was left to deal with a military trying to retain its powerbase and demands from areas within the archipelago for greater autonomy. Within this climate of change the people of East Timor held a referendum in 1999. After 21 years of brutal oppression East Timor bravely voted for its independence. The violence that followed saw many dead, and the capitol’s infrastructure destroyed by pro-Jakarta militia and rogue elements within the Indonesian military.
I arrived in Dili on August 30, 1999 — the day of the vote. I made the decision to go there initially to add to the body of work I had begun in 1998 and to fulfill the first responsibility of the photojournalist to give people a voice.
One image I made during this turbulent time was of a family having just returned to the burnt-out remains of their home. It was tense, as rampaging militia, alongside Indonesian soldiers, were continuing to torch nearby buildings. I was immediately struck by that look of concern on the father’s face. I took a couple of shots and moved on. I went on to make many images during this time. I covered the withdrawal of the departing Indonesian forces. (What they couldn’t take with them they destroyed). I documented the arrival of INTERFET forces, (a multi-National force organised and led by Australia in accordance with United Nations resolutions). I also documented the search for and recovery of human remains, the victims of the violence.
Over the next few years I returned to the newly independent Timor Leste on a regular basis — occasionally with a guarantee of an assignment from the likes of TIME Magazine — other times on self-funded personal projects.
I also had it in mind to track down people I had photographed in 1999. The aim was to find the survivors and continue to tell their stories, a task made even more difficult by the fact I had made the decision not to record names at that time, not wanting my notes to fall into the wrong hands and place people at risk.
Each time I returned to East Timor I handed out sets of black-and-white prints to friends and colleagues in the hope of giving names to some of the people I’d photographed. One such friend, (and future wife), was United Nations photographer Martine Perret. Martine handed my prints to her friend and colleague, Dino Soares. That day Dino managed to track down a relative of that family I had photographed back in ’99.
On March 22nd, 2011, I was formally introduced to Marsal Guterres and his family, wife Tereza Da Silva Almeida Dos Santos, daughter Martina Margarida Guterres, 13 years old, and son, Jacinto Guterres Da Silva, 11.
What camera gear and settings did you use?
- First shot of the family in 1999:
- Nikon F100, NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8, or NIKKOR 17-35mm f/2.8
- BW Kodak Trix- film at 400 ASA
- Second shot of the family in 2011:
- Nikon D3s, NIKKOR AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm, f/7.1, 1/320 sec, converted to BW.
As a photojournalist, what do you look for in a potential image?
I like my images to get to the point — not be so complicated that you would need the equivalent of the Rosetta stone to figure out what is going on. The first responsibility of the photojournalist is to reveal what is happening in front of you truthfully and get it seen by as many people as possible — as soon as possible. You want the viewer to feel as if they were standing beside you when you captured the image. You want to inform them, move them and potentially have some influence over public opinion in order to initiate change for the better… in an ideal world.
Why did you become a photojournalist?
I was a working musician up until the age of 25. I had taken up photography as a hobby and read everything I could get my hands on about photojournalism (in particular). I was inspired by the work of Don McCullin, Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith and the tradition set by the Magnum photo agency. When I decided that is what I wanted to do with my life, it was their careers and ethics I tried to emulate.
What are you currently working on?
I am beginning a long-term project on human migration – watch this space.