Olivier Voisin: Renowned French Photographer Dies after Sustaining Injuries in Syria

Syrian Opposition Flag.Photo: Flickr.com/FreedomHouse2

Syrian Opposition Flag.
Photo: Flickr.com/FreedomHouse2

French photograph Olivier Voisin, well known for his freelance work in war zones in Palestine, Libya, and Syria, succumbed to his injuries Sunday, February 24, 2013 in Turkey.  Voisin had sustained serious wounds to both his arms and head in a shelling attack by the Katiba, an opposition group, close to Idlib in the north of the country.  He was transferred to an international hospital in Antakya, Turkey where he was reported to be in critical conditional after surgery, though too weak to return to France for treatment.  A spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed Voisin’s death Sunday.  He was 38 years old.

Born in South Korea, Voisin was given up at a young age by his birth mother.  He was then adopted by a French couple from Bourgogne and grew up as a French citizen.  Proof of his tenacity, Voisin returned to his place of birth in search of his biological mother, and eventually found her in the United States.  Several of Voisin’s friends have come forward to share stories about this courageous man, willing to risk life and limb to capture wartime’s humanity and destruction.  Antoine Vitkine, in an article for the Huffington Post, remembered Voisin as an “adorable, touching and very talented person…. [who] loved to take risks.”  On the subject of Voisin’s work, Vitkine remembered their collaboration in Libya, where he and Voisin “briefly worked together.  “He took this photo, one of the greatest war photos I’ve ever seen,”  Vitkine writes.  The photo, which can be seen on the photographer’s website, is truly remarkable.

Voisin had been covering the conflict in Syria since it first erupted in March, 2011.  On his most recent trip, he had illegally crossed into Syria from Turkey after being turned away at the border, determined to capture the war on film.  In a letter to his friend and fellow photographer, Mimosa Martini, Voisin writes plainly and eloquently of the horrors of war, but also of the amusing, every day encounters with ordinary people, despite their extraordinary circumstances.  The letter, translated by the Huffington Post, can be viewed here.

The last line of the letter underlines the true courage of a man who willingly put himself in harm’s way in the service of those in Syria, and around the world, who would have otherwise remained unseen.  Voisin, reflecting on the times where he questioned the work he was doing, quotes a line from the Paratrooper’s Prayer, originally written in French.  It is as follows: “Dear God, give me what others do not want, give me battle and torment, I ask this of you tonight because tomorrow I will no longer have the courage.”

Olivier Voisin is among 27 other journalists who have died covering the conflict in Syria in the past year.

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