Photojournalism at the Crossroads is a series from Lightbox that takes a closer look at how photographers are creatively revisiting traditional ways of image making or using the latest digital technology to revitalize the genre and reach a wider audience.<!-- more -->
For a series of pirate portraits he made in Somalia, photographer Jehad Nga used Polaroid film. "It became clear that I would finally be traveling to Hobyo, Somalia, to meet major players in the piracy trade," recounts Nga, "so I started to think. This was a group of men and an area of the country that I had yet to familiarize myself with. I knew it was one of the more important trips I would be taking to Somalia in my five years of working in the country."<!-- more -->
"I really began to realize how Polaroid has a very appropriate place in the work I was doing while I was in Iraq the last year. To me, it changes my head space from when I am shooting digital, when errors need only be clicked away. I always feel something intimate and candid in Polaroid. Neither of these qualities are what come to mind when I think about most work I see from Somalia. I think sometimes the road less traveled with technical choices can best serve in seeing a side of a subject that we otherwise may miss if one follows the same choices again and again."
"To me, the pirates were ideal subjects because underneath the guns and bullets, most of these men were shy and easily resorted to giggling when provoked with a portrait. Their otherwise intimidating body language would give way to true curiosity at the sight of the oddly shaped camera and was followed by kidlike excitement soon after. A key component in gaining trust and the slightest bond in many of these cases as a photographer, in Somalia and many places, is to be able to share the photograph you have just taken with whoever it is that is standing in front of you. Polaroid in this case far surpassed digital, as I was able to share copies, which they were overjoyed to have. To watch them closely examine themselves slowly appear inside that frame will be a lasting memory for me."