By Steve Appleford
Emilio Morenatti was a reluctant visitor to Los Angeles last month, here to accept his award as 2009's Newspaper Photographer of the Year. The Spanish-born photojournalist was uncomfortable being away from his post in Pakistan. “You want to be everywhere that things are happening,” he told L.A. Weekly. “Anything can happen and I don't want to miss it.”
This week, Morenatti, 40, was one of two Associated Press journalists (and two U.S. soldiers) seriously injured in Afghanistan when their vehicle ran over a bomb planted in the open desert. He lost his left foot in the explosion, and was flown to a hospital in Dubai. He is another frontline casualty from one of the world's most dangerous professions.
“The possibility of something like that happening is always at least in the back of your mind,” says Getty Images photographer John Moore, who was present at the 2007 assassination in Pakistan of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and barely escaped injury in that explosion. “A number of conflict photographers are close friends of mine, and I always knew something like this would happen to one of us. It could have been me. All of us who are friends of his are happy he's alive.”
In 2006, Morenatti was kidnapped and held for 16 hours in Gaza
City, but his work in the warzones of the Middle East and Central Asia
continued, with images that could be subtle or horrific, powerfully
moving and elegantly composed.
Dubai-based photographer Balazs Gardi first met Morenatti in
Pakistan this May, and they spent “a great time” together in Los
Angeles at the Pictures of the Year International, held at the
Annenberg Space for Photography, where Gardi was given the World
Understanding Award. He's been in touch with Morenatti's wife,
photographer Marta Ramoneda. She and Morenatti were married in Jerusalem before
arriving in Pakistan last year.
“She told me that he is aware of the situation and he is very
strong,” Gardi writes via e-mail. He fully expects to see Morenatti
back in action. “He is very committed to his profession. I am pretty
sure this passion will help him over these hard times.”