International Festival of Photojournalism

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03 / 09 / 2008

Interview with Paolo Pellegrin

“Photography combines several aspects: it has an artistic factor, and a humanistic element. It’s also a way to discover the world and myself.”

Interview with Paolo Pellegrin

Paolo Pellegrin was born in 1964 in Rome. He started his studies in architecture before turning to his passion, photography. From 1985 to 1987, Paolo attended the Italian institute of Photography in Rome, and started as an assistant of many photographers. He also began to work on his own projects. P. Pellegrin is known for his capacity to tackle different subjects with his personal artistic look, bringing images both sober and spectacular. Not satisfied by the commercial and factory photography he did at his beginnings, Pellegrin turned to photojournalism. He has been covering social issues like immigration, AIDS, terrorism and voodoo. In the last 13 years, he has been working on a lot of conflicts and post-conflicts. Paolo Pellegrin has travelled everywhere in the world, bringing back images on war effects and poverty. In 1995, his report about AIDS in Uganda allowed him to get the World Press Photo first prize. In Kosovo in1999, he covered  the massive exodus of the Albanians out of their country, and the return of the refugees. Lately, he has been to Israel where he was the first photographer ever to be allowed to accompany the Israeli in a secret mission. “I try to cover the news aspect, but also to go in depth, to tell the story that goes beyond.”

He became a Magnum Photos nominee in 2001 and a full member in 2005. He is a contract photographer for Newsweek magazine. Pellegrin has won many awards, including eight World Press Photo and numerous Photographer of the Year Awards, a Leica Medal of Excellence, an Olivier Rebbot Award, the Hansel-Meith Preis, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award. In 2006, he was assigned the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography.

He is one of the founding members of the touring exhibition and installation Off Broadway along with Thomas Dworzak, Alex Majoli and Ilkka Uimonen.He has published four books.

A humanist photographer, Paolo Pellegrin covers events around the world to display the best like the worst.  

His exhibition, “The Iraqi Diaspora”, in Couvent Sainte Claire, shows one of the least-discussed problems since the American invasion of 2003 in Iraq: the mass exodus of Iraqis from their homeland, and its long-term consequences for the entire world. More than 2 million Iraqis now live as refugees in other countries, essentially in Jordan and Syria. A few Western nations (like Sweden and Australia) have granted asylum to a certain number of Iraqis, but it is just a tiny fraction. The most shocking has probably been the United States which have been taking care of 756 Iraqis. According to many Iraqi refugees, the American government just does not care. Another explanation is that granting refugee status to large numbers of Iraqis would undercut the Bush Administration’s argument that the refugee crisis is a temporary problem that will solve itself as “the situation in Iraq is improving”.

Paolo Pellegrin and Scott Anderson interviewed several Iraqi refugee families in Jordan and Syria to learn why they left their homeland, in which conditions, and above all, to know what comes next? Many remain so traumatized by what they endured in Iraq that coming back is unthinkable. For those who have lost everything, there is no reason to go back. Even for the minority who hopes to go back someday, any return is impossible as long as the current Iraqi government is in power. 

“The war in Iraq has been one of the major events in the last 5 years. At one point, I realized that Iraqi refugees were a big issue I want to point out.

When you are with the families, you always feel there is so much more to show. I plan to continue this project.”


Marion Mozzi

Visit his exhibition