With great excitement and pleasure I bring you my short film ‘Lutfi – Portrait of a War Photographer in Jerusalem’.
Lutfi Abu Umar is a photographer and journalist who has worked for over 32 years covering wars, conflict and news. He worked for the likes of Combat magazine, the BBC and also Der Spiegel. Now he works as a freelancer and also helps in his nephew’s jewellery shop.
Finding Lutfi was a gift from God, truly. I’d been asked to go to Jerusalem to film a number of things and knowing I’d be in such a historic place (especially at an important time what with the conflict happening in Gaza) I knew I wanted to work on a personal project too.Time wasn’t permitting, however, and I was getting desperate. Right at the end of the trip when I eventually conceded that my own film might not be possible, I was out on a (conscripted) shopping excursion when I came across Lutfi’s shop, only for the fact that I spotted him putting away an old SLR. I stepped into his tiny cove of trinkets and knick knacks and we began speaking about cameras and also his amazing career. Without difficulty he agreed to be interviewed for my documentary!
He doesn’t mention it in the film but he has a collection of over 70 cameras. 70!! I have 5 (including my iPhone)! He’s also a proponent of film over digital. Proper orthodox photographer. I remember he was even criticising (amicably) my use of a DSLR to film the documentary! But his many years of experience, his knowledge of his craft and the fact that he was my gracious host and subject kept my mouth zipped.
Another reason why it was fateful for me to stumble upon Lutfi was the fact that he was someone who knew too well the traumatic effect of documenting suffering. It’s something I’ve been going on about a lot in this blog, and not really been able to reconcile. Meeting Lutfi and hearing his answer got me closer to a singular understanding of why we do what we do in this field. He puts it really well.
So in terms of the production info, it’s quite simple. I used my trusty Canon DSLR with Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC. I took my other lenses, the super wide Tokina and a super zoom Sigma but didn’t need them. I used a Sennheiser G3 radio mic set up, and annoyingly it picked up the air conditioning. I knew it was running and would have turned it off but it was so hot I got complacent. I was accompanied by 2 good friends who helped carry equipment and also asked a few additional questions at the end that really helped get some nice information out of Lutfi.
In post I was a little bit stuck for cutaways. A perennial problem. So I decided to use some of the shots of the clashes between people and police I managed to get in Jerusalem. It seemed relevant and gave me a chance to use them. I also had to use my own photography for the trip, which don’t get me wrong, it’s totally gratifying but I had to as Lutfi didn’t have any of his pictures with him in the shop.
And there you have it. A film I’m pleased with, only because the subject is an amazing guy whom I have great admiration and respect for, and hopefully have learnt from.
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