Whether working the frontline of Middle East or European conflicts or training his camera on a forgotten corner of Africa, Goran Tomasevic has, for 25 years, taken images that reveal drama and pain, alongside incongruous moments where ordinary life emerges out of chaos.
He took these pictures in Burundi in May and June, as the tiny nation in the heart of the African continent confronted its worst crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005.
The determined faces of protesters framed by burning barricades; police officers turning to their rifles to drive back angry youths; or the surreal moment when a president accused of stoking the public fury by seeking a third term of office took to a football pitch in the capital, which was in flames, to kick a ball around.
“You need to show the reality of the protest, the brutality. But I wanted to show other aspects of life too,” Goran explains. “The dynamic was different from other places I have covered. In most places, police have better riot gear, but not here. So when protesters started throwing rocks, they started showing their guns.”
Goran, a veteran war photographer for Reuters, began his career covering combat at home in Serbia, documenting the collapse of Yugoslavia and the fighting that engulfed the Balkans. He has covered conflicts in Israel and the Palestinian areas, in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, winning awards for his iconic photographs.
He is no stranger to the kind of street violence that battered Burundi’s capital. In 2011 he was at the heart of the mass demonstrations in Egypt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. But street battles in Bujumbura, unlike Cairo, were not focused on a single city square, but flared sporadically from district to district.
“One of the most difficult things was to get to the right place. I got to know some protesters. They called to say what was happening. We would race to the scene... It was also important to speak to the authorities, to the police. A protest involves two sides.”
Similar contacts helped Goran reach Bujumbura stadium to capture exclusive images of President Pierre Nkurunziza, a soccer fanatic, turning up for football training, providing the peculiar contrast to the streets outside filled with poverty, anguish and anger.
Edmund Blair, Reuters
The pictures in the exhibition were taken in Bujumbura, Burundi, in May 2015.