Mike Graae’s photos of the revolution in Libya are all over the London newspapers.
The adventure began when Mike was talking with a friend from college who lives in Bahrain. He was telling Mike about the changing situation at home. Mike, who is currently studying photojournalism at the London College of Communication, decided it was a great opportunity for a budding photojournalist and hopped on a plane. It was a good trip and he took a number of successful pictures in Bahrain, but then two things happened and the trip took an unexpected turn. The unrest in Libya began and, completely by chance, Mike met a free-lance photojournalist. They decided to pool their resources and head for Libya.
The pair flew from Bahrain to Egypt and hired a car and driver to get to the Libyan border to the west. Unfortunately, or perhaps typically in this kind of situation, a dispute as to the fee arose and they altered their destination. But before they even got there, the car broke down on the motorway in the middle of the desert at ten o’clock at night. Luckily, they caught a ride the rest of the way across Egypt on a passing microbus and walked across the border into Libya.
Finding a new car and driver in the new country, they rode to Benghazi (which the press has dubbed “free Libya.” They were among the first journalists to enter Libya. “CNN was first, by about 12 hours, then Reuters, then us,” Mike recalled, “so there were a lot of exclusives because no one was there yet.” They found several hotels deserted and when they came across the one where the other journalists were staying, they found the hotel an apt metaphor for the feeling of change in the country - “The hotel clerk told us, this is a state-owned hotel. The state is no longer in control of the hotel. It’s not costing us anything to run it. You’re a journalist? Stay here as long as you like.” So they stayed there at no charge.
Mike described the scene in the square: “I was there with all the protestors when they fired on the crowd… teargas and what we later learned was live ammunition… it was chaos… people were running past me… you can’t run with them, you have to stay still to take pictures! But after you take a few, you can run like heck…” Mike found the Libyans helpful and kind. They went out of their way to assist the journalists. Among other things, he learned, “you have to carry an onion everywhere… see, the way to get over teargas is to rub an onion all over your face – it provides immediate relief. Always have an onion with you.”
Mike was back in school in London when he spoke with us at Kent. “Now I’m exhausted… just completely spent. It didn’t really strike me until I got home.” We’re so glad you made it home safe.
Note: In addition to the London newspaper photos above, you’ll see Mike’s photos on the Kent School website. His advisor recalls that Mike always wanted to be taking pictures. He came to school in the 4th form and announced that he was going to be a photographer. He took thousands of pictures during his years at Kent – maybe 10,000. He was tenacious!