Ireland’s leading war photographer on 15 years covering conflict: ‘There are things that are just too much to capture’
‘No Home from War: Tales of Survival and Loss’ is the first Italian exhibition by Irish photojournalist Ivor Prickett. Supported and staged by fashion house Max Mara founder Achille Maramotti’s Collezione Maramotti, he describes trying to capture the fallout of conflict and displacement
Irish war photojournalist Ivor Prickett has spent over 15 years capturing war-torn zones, both as a freelance photojournalist and more recently as a regular contributor to the New York Times. Now, as part of the 2023 Fotografia Europea festival’s Europe Matters: Visions of a Restless Identity, Collezione Maramotti (founded by fashion house Max Mara founder Achille Maramotti) is presenting No Home from War: Tales of Survival and Loss, the first Italian exhibition by Prickett.
Featuring more than 50 photographs taken in conflict zones from 2006 to 2022, this is the largest show of the Cork-born photographer’s work to date. Prickett, who is now based in Istanbul, studied documentary photography at the University of Wales, Newport, before working in Europe and the Middle East, where his plaintive, sensitive and almost painterly photographs of the effects of war on the civilian population soon began to gain attention. But, while initially focused on the private, domestic sphere of war’s long-term social and humanitarian consequences, Prickett’s gaze has shifted over the years towards places of forced migration and lands where people seek refuge, and then to the front lines of combat zones.
The exhibition follows the chronological order of the work, beginning in 2006 to 2010 when he was based in the Balkans and the Caucasus, and focuses on individuals and small family groups as units of resistance encapsulating the struggle for re-existence, before moving on to the war in Syria, which Prickett photographed between 2013 and 2015. “My path towards becoming a war photographer is one that is best told backwards,” he says. “In the beginning, I was interested in conflict and the effect it had on people – but more from the aftermath point of view.”
But this then shifted, which is shown in his series of stills of the brutal war against the Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq and Syria from 2016 to 2018, taken on the front lines, where he was embedded with Iraqi forces. “I see it now as a kind of natural progression from covering all of the aftermath effects and refugee crisis to ultimately ending up wanting to see from a personal point of view. Mosul and the defeat of Isis was a different level of conflict. It was the most intense frontline experience I’ve ever had.”
With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2022, Prickett has regularly been under assignment for the New York Times, capturing the conflict as it unfolded. “Ukraine is another step up in danger for everyone because you have two fully armed forces fighting, so being on the frontline is not really a good idea.”
That said, being in the wake of the destruction can be equally powerful to convey, with Prickett one of the first photojournalists to enter Bucha after the withdrawal of Russian troops.
“It was incredibly surreal, almost apocalyptic – and there are things or scenes that are too much or too graphic to capture.” It is his job, he says, to make it palatable enough, while still highlighting the realities of war. “It’s incredibly important to document things, particularly in this day and age where the act of denying whatever crime you’ve committed seems to be enough. Solid journalism is more important than ever to hold people to account.”
No Home from War: Tales of Survival and Loss runs from April 30 to July 30, 2023, at Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia in Italy. See: collezionemaramotti.org