War photographer Andy Spyra: more than just pictures
He travels to Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria. There’s hardly any war region that he hasn't visited. And usually, he comes back with highly moving pictures. By Bettina Baumann
War photographer: Andy Spyra was born in the western German city of Hagen in 1984. After finishing school he travelled around Central America and Southeast Asia while discovering his passion for photography. From 2007 to 2009, he studied photo-journalism and documentary photography at an academy in Hanover. He travels to war zones frequently, typically taking black-and-white pictures on long-term assignments
Long-time project "Kashmir": the region of Kashmir is the world's most militarised region. The area is claimed by India, Pakistan and China. Roughly 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 1989. In 2010, Andy Spyra received the "Leica Oskar Barnack Award" for his long-time project, "Kashmir". "The two boys in the picture have known nothing but violence," Spyra noted
Daily life in crisis regions: Andy Spyra took this picture of men during Friday prayer at the Blue Mosque of Mazar-i-Sharif in May 2014. The son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have been buried on this site, which makes it Afghanistan's most important place of pilgrimage. Andy Spyra prefers black and white photography as, in his view, this accentuates emotions more than colour photography
A school class close to the front: even during war, most people try to continue with their daily lives as best they can. Spyra took this picture of a school class in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif in June 2014. What makes it special are added elements like the blurring caused by the light contrast. "These blurred interspaces bring out emotion," Spyra explains. "I often use blurring techniques to express myself"
A busy market: despite terror attacks by the Taliban, Afghans continue to visit the market to do most their shopping. Andy Spyra took this impressive picture in Mazar-i-Sharif in May 2015. He prefers to stay away from the actual brutality of the theatre of war, instead presenting the colourful everyday drama on the sidelines
On the border between Syria and Iraq: heavy fighting between Kurdish militia and Islamists belonging to the so-called "Islamic State" (IS ) and the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front have forced many people from Syria's Kurdish region to flee. Andy Spyra shot this picture close to Faysh Khabur at the Iraqi-Syrian border. Over 220,000 people have already used this crossing to flee the violence
Refugee camp: whoever makes it out of Syria hopes to find security at a refugee camp close to the border. Depending on the severity of the fighting, the UNHCR registers up to several thousand refugees at the unofficial border crossing every day before distributing them to various camps – making this yet another location on the sidelines of war explored by Andy Spyra
A picture from the front – a rarity: Spyra tends to stay away from actual scenes fighting, focusing on stories from behind the frontlines instead. But when he took this picture, he was right in the middle of events at the frontline Ras al-Ayn in northern Syria. Here, Kurds fight Arabs, Turks fight Kurds, Islamists fight Christians, and all of them fight the regime. "From a distance, the war is almost inscrutable," Spyra noted
The Christian minority in Iraq: in June 2011, Andy Spyra witnessed a funeral in Al-Qosh in Iraq, where 98 percent of the population is made up of Christians belonging to the Syrian Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church. IS held the city in its control from August 2014 until October 2016, forcing many of the Christians to flee their homes
Nigeria and Boko Haram: Andy Spyra travelled numerous times to Nigeria where he photographed roughly 80 women and girls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram. These were his first posed portraits. It was important to him to not present them as victims. "But I think I reached my own limits there as a photographer. There was still so much that I wasn't able to capture in a picture"