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

Ivor Prickett is one of Ireland’s leading war photographers. In this image, Slavica Eremic feeds her baby son Nikola while her husband Nebojsa sleeps; 21-year-old Slavica married Serbian Nebojsa when she was 19. Nebojsa had returned to Croatia after several years of exile in Serbia, only to find his family home inhabited by a Bosnian refugee. The young family now live in what used to be Nebojsa’s grandmother’s house. Jurga, Croatia. Picture: Ivor Prickett

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.

A Mingrelian Georgian woman waits to sell a piglet at Gali market. Gali, Abkhazia. Photo by Ivor 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.

A man collapses out of an armoured vehicle at a first aid station in east Mosul, holding the body of his younger brother who was killed moments earlier in an Isis mortar attack. Iraq, November 2016. Picture: Ivor Prickett

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.”

Tengo Inalishvili’s mother makes a spicy paste from dried chilies at the Inlaishvili family home in the village of Rechxi. Gali, Abkhazia. Picture: Ivor Prickett

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.”

Oleksandr Kornienko’s family home in the village of Velyka Dymerka, just north of Brovary, was destroyed in a rocket attack in early March, shortly after Russian forces had taken over the area. Although unverifiable, given that Russian forces were occupying the area, it is likely the strike was carried out by Ukrainian forces. Oleksandr’s grandmother and uncle died in the same bombing in their house next door. The area was heavily fought over, and Russian forces occupied the area for nearly a month as they staged their attack on the capital. Having retreated at the end of March, people have started to return to the area. Brovary, Ukraine, May 2022. Picture: Ivor Prickett/The New York Times

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.”

Mohammed Haj Ali was busy in the run up to the Muslim holiday of Eid, cutting the hair of some of the few residents who had returned to his neighbourhood in Raqqa. Syria - June 2018 Photo by Ivor Prickett

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: