A Witness in Our Time
War photographers are often anonymous figures who work hard to keep their perspective out of their accounts: the lives they lead are mostly unknown. Yet their work has the power to affect the very world we live in. The images we see in newspapers, on television, and on the Internet increase international awareness and prompt us to take action in response. Though changes over the years in war zones have increased risks for those photographers that give us access to this footage and knowledge, these men and women have continued to seek truth through the instability that has defined the 21st century. Now, Jared Moossy, a 2008 Parsons The New School for Design fine arts graduate, is helping to tell the stories of contemporary conflict photographers in the new HBO series, Witness.
As the director of photography for the four installments of Witness, Moossy combines cinematic art and reality TV techniques to document the lives of three photojournalists in Mexico, Brazil, South Sudan, and Libya. “People often don’t know what it takes to be a conflict photographer,” says Moossy. “They think we just swoop into a front line, shoot a picture, and then swoop right out.”
Witness episodes shed light on the complicated and dangerous lifestyle these photographers lead, including their reliance on “fixers” (locals who provide intimate access to the subjects being photographed), personal safety issues, and the psychological repercussions of exposure to war and suffering. “We use the photographer—the main subject of each documentary—to show people how the work is done and to illuminate details of the conflict in each of these areas to a wide audience.”
Moossy first picked up a camera professionally while studying photography at Parsons. Although his BFA was an unconventional springboard to a career in journalism, the award-winning photographer attributes much of his success to lessons learned at the university. “Getting a fine arts degree forced me to be more open to ideas with a free-flowing conception,” he says. “At Parsons, there aren’t any restrictions. The school helped me understand light and how to use it to tell stories.”
After spending the summer between his junior and senior year documenting the impact of the war in Afghanistan on civilians, Moossy felt a calling to tell the stories of people “before, during, and after” war. “The great conflict photographers have an active interest in the war they are trying to document,” said Moossy. “I’m inspired by people like Tim Hetherington [the award-winning documentarian killed in Libya in 2011] and [VII photo agency photographer] Ron Haviv for their innovative ways of capturing the essence of a place beyond the front lines of combat.”
As for where Moossy’s globetrotting career will take him next, the newly minted cinematographer is a little cryptic. “I can’t really say yet, but there are definitely more video projects on the horizon, and maybe a personal project from Syria. With all the technological advancement in recent years, there are so many new ways to tell stories. I’m just happy to keep searching for the decisive moment.”