War photographer feels compelled to cover Africa strife Japan ignores

Kyodo

War photographer Ryo Kameyama, 37, is no stranger to danger, having lost the sight in his left eye due to a stray bullet in 2000 while covering the Palestinian conflict. But he feels drawn to Africa, where he has witnessed rampant violence and where he feels Japan’s media don’t tread.

From 2003 to 2010, Kameyama captured images of conflicts in Africa — in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere — and published them last September in the book “Afrika War Journal.”

One photo shows a tearful woman whose entire family was slain in front of her; another is of a child soldier posing with a Kalashnikov rifle.

“Wars in Africa are trapped in insanity and chaos,” Kameyama said. “The more times I visit the continent, the more confused I get about what people there are fighting for.”

As a child, the Chiba Prefecture native was shocked by photos of the Vietnam War and would spend an entire day looking at them. It was only natural he would want to become a war photographer.

Kameyama started working overseas at age 20, covering conflicts in Colombia and the Palestinian territories.

The turning point came in 2003 when he visited Liberia, which was in the grip of civil war. Everywhere there were corpses on the roads and drunken child soldiers brandishing weapons.

“What I saw in Africa wasn’t the same as in Palestine and other conflict areas I had been to before,” he said. “The wars (in Africa) were chaotic and people were fighting for really nothing.”

Kameyama returned frequently to Congo, Burundi, Sudan and other conflict zones.

“I was scared, but my impulse to take photos was so strong it became an addiction,” he said.