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News & Insight

Joao Silva Continues Taking Photographs After Losing His Legs in Afghanistan

By Ruth Dunn on September 4th 2013

In 2010 the photography world was rocked by the news that Joao Silva, a New York Times photo-journalist, had stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan and lost both his legs. Since that time, Silva has managed to make a fresh start after battling though a long and difficult period of rehabilitation. France 24 English released an interview with Silva yesterday, that gives a glimpse into his incredible story.

Silva is an award winning photographer who covered South Africa during the turbulent time when Mandela was released up until the first elections in 1994. He has also covered conflicts in the Balkans, Central Asia, Russia, and the Middle East. Despite his struggles, Silva has been actively taking part in exhibitions and is now able to walk around taking pictures again.

In an interview with The New York Times he said:

“Well, I mean, I’m not finished, I’m not done. I still have lots to accomplish. And as you know, I’m back at work. I’ve been running around […] I’m shooting riots and whatever else comes my way. It’s good to be out and about again. I walk free now. I no longer have a cane. That was the key to shooting pictures freely again. Both hands are free to grab a camera, and that’s just amazing.”

The arresting, sometimes shocking, and always moving photography from the first 20 years of his career are currently on show at the Visa Pour l’Image festival. While recovering, Silva has had time to sift through his many photographs and re-look at them in a different way. Although he has footage from a number of places, when he looked back over his work, the photographs that really stood out from the rest was the body of work from South Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. He told The New York Times that “those were the countries that shaped me as a human being”.


Ruth is a Brisbane based journalist specialising in articles about visual art, photography, design and fashion. Co-founder of Raw Ink magazine, she enjoys uncovering interesting and unique events, issues and people to write about.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Reynardt

    “And South Africa was a free country”…. mmm not very acurate.

    Sorry to bring this up, and most of you will jump on your horse because you’ve never lived here and have a very misguided image of this country. We never exterminated our ‘African Brothers’, we just controlled them. Now post-apartheid we took away the control, and look what happened, they lost control.

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