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Louis Leeson, photojournalist : « I’m always looking for the human angle in my work »

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Louis Leeson, photojournalist : « I’m always looking for the human angle in my work »

If Louis Leeson had to choose only one word to describe him it would be Blue, like his eyes. « Obviously it is a color that I like but I look for it in my images and in filmmaking we often say « to put blue in the dark shadow » and I like that ».

Photojournalist and filmmaker, Louis Leeson has not always dreamed about a journalistic career. As his grandfather, he originally wanted to be a soldier until the Iraq war started in 2003, « I suddenly realized that I didn’t agree with this conflict and I couldn’t be involved as a soldier in it ». He needed to be engaged in the biggest stories of the world but in a different way as would a soldier be.

Cameras weren’t unknown for Louis. Indeed, he grew up in a house full of them, as his parents were photographers and artists. However, he knew from the beginning that he didn’t want to properly create « art » with the cameras, but documentaries. After a degree in Photojournalism at the University of the Arts in London, he started to travel around the world. Louis dedicated his entire career as a freelancer, and recently started a staff job at CNN, « I just asked to myself : do I want to keep doing journalism in that way or do I want to experience something new? ». However, if he could change one thing in journalism right now, it would be diversity,

« We are in a position where we have a lot of amazing and talented writers from different backgrounds. But it’s still overwhelmingly a white male middle-class industry, at least in the UK and the US. Diversity across the borders is what we need ».

Louis Leeson is always looking for an human angle when he bears witness to important events.

« The way I try to work is to talk about huge stories like refugees movements, crisis or conflicts, which are very important in human conception, with the right human angle ».

The 34 years old photojournalist is convinced that journalism is the first draft of History. His aim is to be in situations to document what is going on in the world, near or far away, so that everybody can be informed in the future about what was happening. « Everyone should think about how the understanding of History changed with the advent of the camera, and History before the written words. It’s a mystery and that’s what we are doing with journalism : we are building History for the future ».

« I don’t scared easily »

Undeniably, Louis already feared some situations, « Anybody that would say he wasn’t afraid once making this job would probably lie to you ». With the time, he learned to cope with stressful moments and to avoid dangerous situations. Now he is not afraid easily anymore but still wants to make sure that the future generation is aware of all the dangers that journalism can involve.

« This is something I really want to teach to young journalists : the dangers, the « post-trauma » and the physical and mental health. In this job, you bring home emotions and memories and sometimes you have to learn how to process with all of them. You need to give yourself time and talk to people about what you feel ».

The experience in South-Sudan was probably the most hardest memory for the Irish photojournalist. Civil-war, famine and a lot of suffering while there is nothing you can really do except doing your job, « You are just back on the plane and leaving the people you met. This is always difficult ».

The impact of meetings

Meeting people is part of journalism and sometimes, some special persons have a deep impact on you for the rest of your life. It is the case for Louis Leeson. He spent a lot of his time in Gambia, for his work, and this is where he met Jaha Dukureh, a powerful engaged woman who runs for president in December 2021 in her country. They quickly became close friends and still are. « One of the most privileged moment we had together was to be present when Jaha managed her country, Gambia, to change the law and banned female genital mutilation ».

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