Unconventional Mentor no. 10 - Marie Colvin

“Bravery is not being afraid to be afraid.”

65 Marie Colvin header image.png

With the recent publication of In Extremis by Lindsey Hilsum, I thought that I would feature Marie Colvin as my Unconventional Mentor this week. I haven’t got a copy of the book yet, but it is going to be the Book of the Week on Radio 4 this week, so I will be able to listen along to it this week.

I first mentioned this quote by Marie Colvin back when I started this project to talk about Gerda Taro, a war photographer who died during the Spanish civil war and whose legacy and life story was almost completely lost. The quote really resonated with people. Although we don’t all venture out into war zones every day, we do face challenges and obstacles that scare us and learning to be brave and doing things despite the fact that they scare us is the only way to develop.

“Simply: There’s no way to cover war properly without risk”

I didn’t know who Marie Colvin was until after she died, and it is a loss for the world that she was killed. Marie died in Syria in 2012 reporting on the situation in Homs, killed alongside a French photographer Rémi Ochlik. Her death wasn’t accidental. She was targeted by Syrian forces who didn’t want her to be reporting on the situation there and her family have filed a civil action against the Syrian government.

She had spoken before about the risks that journalists take to report on war zones.Marie was badly injured when reporting in Sri Lanka, a solider launched a grenade at her and the shrapnel entered her face and chest causing her to lose an eye. She didn’t let this stop her reporting and instead donned her iconic eye patch and continued to report from places of conflict all over the world.

“ Our mission is to speak the truth to power.”

She truly believed that the risk to her own safety was worth it to tell the stories that needed to be told. Her career spanned over 30 years and during that time she reported on conflicts in the Middle East, Chechnya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and East Timor. As a journalist she won many awards including The British Press Awards Foreign Reporter of the Year three times,

At a time when journalism is under threat (with the death of Jamal Khashoggi currently in the news) Marie’s story is a reminder of the great personal risk journalists put themselves through to ensure that the truth of these horrific situations is told.

Mentor Advice: Take risks for the things you believe in

The advice that I take from Marie Colvin is that you need to take risks for the things you believe in. It is hard not to be inspired by Marie and want to put yourself out into the world a bit more when you look at how she lived her life. It makes you realise that it is no good staying at home and hoping that things will change, you have to get out into the world and risk things not working out. The risks I take in my career are nothing like the risk of going into a war zone, they might just make me a bit uncomfortable. The risk of saying aloud something I want to achieve and failing to be successful. The risk of asking someone to get involved in project and them saying no. The risk of putting my work out into the world and it being critiqued, disliked or just ignored. None of these things are pleasant and they are a possibility, but they are not the end of the world and the successes I might achieve from taking a risk could be huge. The next time I am worried about taking a risk I will think of Marie and just go for it

There are several books and films that have recently been released about the life of Marie Colvin. Paul Conroy, the photographer who was injured in Syria when she was killed has made a documentary about her work called Under the Wire which you can watch here. Lindsey Hilsum’s book was published by Penguin Books on 1st November and you can find out more about that here. A Private War is a film starting Rosalind Pike about the life of Marie Colvin which was released in February 2018, you can see the trailer here. For more information about Marie and her own words about war and the risks journalists take then do visit this website.