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Somalia, 1994. Photo © Theodore Liasi

Black Hawk down, Mogadishu, Somalia - Theodore Liasi, 1994

1 February 2013

I have travelled to Somalia several times over the years since 1994, the last time was in 2007 when I found the situation to be as anarchic as my very first trip. Somalia has always been a special place for me as it was the genesis of my career in photojournalism after several years working in Italy living La Dolce Vita for ABC News and Reuters.

The image of the downed Apache helicopter was, as always, fortuitous in many respects but especially in the act of stupidity. Upon arriving in Mogadishu, at a time of severe infighting between rival warlords, I was supposed to have been met by an NGO, however due to security issues near their base camp they were unable to reach me in time.

So, being rather green, I accepted an offer of a lift from a bunch of armed Somalis in a pick-up and promptly got a guided tour of the city. My tour included a quick stop by a building behind which was the remains of the US chopper.

On every level the decision to get into a vehicle with armed men in Somalia at that time – or at any time – bordered on lunacy. I can only imagine that my adrenalin levels were running on max, coupled with the excitement of being in Mogadishu, severely affected my judgement. I was extremely fortunate to have been delivered unharmed to the NGO safe-house upon which I received a bollocking like never before.

For the shot of the Apache wreckage I had two minutes from the time the vehicle stopped until my presence began to attract unwanted attention.

The image, for me, represents all that went wrong with Somalia. Following the harrowing pictures of the dead crew being dragged through the streets, the US Marines pulled out leaving the UN to take charge at a cost of a $1000 a minute, which begs the question: what do they have to show for it?

This being the early 90’s I was using roll film and there was no means of getting the images developed, or out of the country, until I reached Kenya a few weeks later.

As far as I am aware, these are the only images of the downed Apache helicopter. I suspect that shortly after my trip the remains would have been stripped down by the locals and recycled leaving little if no trace of one of the most significant moments in Somali history.

Hopefully, my exploits as a freelance photojournalist will soon be published in the book Baptism of Fire, a collection of warts and all diary accounts of my trips, the do’s and don’ts of photojournalism, and hopefully a companion for any aspiring young photojournalist.

Theodore Liasi has over 25 years experience as a photographer receiving such awards as Documentary Photographer of the Year and Photojournalist of the Year. He has covered areas of conflict from Afghanistan, Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and many others.

Photographer since 1985, EPUK member since 2007.

See more work by Theodore Liasi

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