The photographer from the Kenyan mall massacre

A child runs to safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree at Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi
by Goran Tomasevic

As news from the horrible events unfolding in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi began to appear in/on our various sources of news, many people began to ask questions about the photographer. Sadly it was not ‘wow what brilliant photographs – he has really captured the horror of the moment’.  Many of the questions were typical of the one below (taken from The Daily Mail, which is always a good read if you want to raise your blood pressure). Although one good thing is that the stupid question below was red-arrowed 1652 times.

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This is the same argument used when Kevin Carter took a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a vulture and starving child in the Sudan. He killed himself two months after accepting the prize, after being criticised for not helping her, and being called a murderer, among other things.  Read about it here

So, in answer to the above – ‘the idiot taking photo’s’ [sic] was ‘Goran Tomasevic, a veteran war photographer, covering conflict for over 20 years in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria. As Reuters chief photographer for East Africa, Goran is now based in Nairobi, Kenya.’

I am putting a link to the story below but there are graphic photographs included, so for people who prefer not to look at those but still want to read his account of the massacre, here it is:

I was at home when I heard from a friend about something happening, but we weren’t sure what it was. I went to the Westgate mall and saw some bodies lying in the car park and realized it was serious. I saw some police so I hid behind the cars to take cover and slowly got closer to the gate.

An injured child was being pushed in a supermarket trolley. The woman said to me, “Please, take this child”. But the police jumped in and helped her. I took some pictures and then saw a couple of plainclothes and regular police. I asked when they would be moving and they said they were going to try and enter the shopping mall from the top. I went with them.

In the parking lot there were a lot of dead bodies and a lot of injured people with blood everywhere. There were people hiding and screaming and asking for help. I tried to help but I couldn’t do much because the ambulance was arriving and I wasn’t sure exactly what to do.

I saw this younger guy who was hit by shrapnel. His leg was broken, but he wasn’t bleeding that heavily. I didn’t want to move him and make it worse. If I started helping, I could do something wrong. I am not a doctor. I just tried to calm him down. I said, “The medics are coming. You will be alright. You are okay.”

I entered the mall and followed the police searching room by room until we ended up on the ground floor where the supermarket is located.

A policeman got shot in the stomach. He asked me to take a picture of him screaming and asked me for help. I tried to help him but I guess he was in shock or something because when I helped him up he started firing his rifle into the floor. He almost shot me accidentally. Then he dropped the weapon.

Children were following their parents. I saw a mother carrying her child. They were hiding when plainclothes police who said they were good guys gave instructions on how to run.

I followed the police up and down through the mall, bodies were here and there. One of the policemen told me there were a lot of bodies in a shop near the entrance. I went there and took a couple of pictures.

There was one moment when the police and I were hiding behind a column in the mall, sort of a stand holding something up. It wasn’t part of the building. I knocked on it and it was made out of thin material. I said “Hey guys knock on this!” Everyone started to knock. They said “So, what?” I said “It’s not going to protect us.” So, I dived down and everyone followed.

A woman ran out from a shop with some children and I helped some of them to get out. I took one of their hands and helped them run together. There was an older lady and she couldn’t run. People were in panic. Some kids were running and kids run quite well so they didn’t need any help. All of them were in total shock; they didn’t know what was going on.

I helped the police with some of the evacuations but after some time they asked me to leave and I decided it was time to do that.

I was inside the mall for around 4-5 hours.

The source of this article is here. As I mentioned above, I did not link directly to the article because there are one or two rather graphic shots which have (as far as I know) not been published anywhere else, so avoid if you usually don’t get on with gory details.

My reply to the Daily Mail comment was:

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I have a background in journalism and know the things that media workers in conflict/war have to witness and how dangerous it is for them. Give a thought today to the silent, behind-the-scenes workers who risk their lives to bring injustice to the gaze of the world and hopefully help to make things right, even if it is just by making you choke over your cornflakes in the morning. 

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

4 thoughts

  1. Janet, your reply to the article was spot on. I have seen criticism of photographers in difficult situations before, and it makes me angry. Their role is to bear witness to history. An incredibly important task, often with great risk to themselves. Thank you for sharing this article and issue.

  2. Oh Steve that is terrible. The civilian loss is always considered ‘collateral damage’ but all the victims are loved by many and their lives will be changed forever.

  3. A very good friend of mine from a previous employment lost the wife of her cousin and daughter in the massacre, they are both British and trying to come to terms with their loss, they were there on holiday.

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