Joao Silva is a renowned war photographer/photojournalist who has made a name for himself thanks to the impact of his work in conflict areas in Africa, Central Asia, Russia, the Balkans, and the Middle East.
Born in August 1966 in Lisbon, Portugal, Silva lived in Portuguese Mozambique with his parents till around the age of nine when the family migrated to South Africa in order to get away from the war in the colony. The young man studied at a local high school before dropping out in order to pursue his interests in photography. He studied black-and-white photography at a vocational night school before going on to establish himself as a photographer by the late 1980s.
Joao Silva has since gone ahead to work with and for some famous media houses in the world. He started off as a freelancer for the Johannesburg Herald before working for the Alberton Record and then The Star newspaper as he also freelanced for Reuters. In 1994, he joined the Associated Press which he remained with for a while before joining the ranks of the New York Times.
Things We Bet You Did Not Know About Joao Silva
He is a Member of the Bang Bang club
The Bang Bang Club is a group of four photojournalists that were active in South Africa between 1990 and 1994 when the country was transitioning from apartheid rule to a system of democracy. They were made up of Joao Silva, Ken Oosterbroek, and Pulitzer winners Greg Marinovich and Kevin Carter. Other photographers who worked with them include Gary Bernard and James Nachtwey.
The Bang Bang Club was devoted to covering the conflicts and infighting between South Africans, particularly between the supporters of the ANC and IFP as well as the neo-Nazi group, the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging.
In 1994, during a battle between the supporters of the ANC and the National Peacekeeping Force in Thokoza Township, Oosterbroek was killed by friendly fire while Marinovich was seriously injured. In that same year, the group lost Kevin Carter who committed suicide. Of the two remaining surviving members of the group, only Silva is still active.
Silva was notably with Carter in Ayod, Sudan (now South Sudan) during the famine when the latter shot the very popular photo of a vulture stalking a little starving child known as “The Struggling Girl” or “The vulture and the little girl”. It was this picture that won Carter a Pulitzer prize but inadvertently contributed to why he decided to take his life.
Joao Silva Lost Both of his Legs in Afghanistan
Silva has no doubt seen and photographed lots of horrors in his line of work. In 2010, while going about his business, this time in Kandahar, Afghanistan where he was on patrol with US soldiers, the photographer stepped on a land mine and lost his left leg below the knee, and his right leg from just above it.
Following the incident, Silva was treated at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District of Columbia. He underwent more than eighty operations and rehabilitation training courtesy of his employers, the New York Times. After his recovery which required him to receive two prostheses, he was posted to the White House.
Silva’s Work Has Earned Him a Few Awards
Joao Silva first got recognized for his work in 1992 when he was named the South African Press Photographer of the Year Award. That same year, he earned the 2nd prize and an honorable mention in the World Press Photo awards.
In 2006 and 2007, he won 2nd prize and earned an honorable mention respectively at the World Press Photo Awards. 2012 saw him go home with the Ordem da Liberdade award from the Portuguese government, the same year he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by the Corcoran School of Arts and Design in Washington DC, USA.
He has a Few Published Works
In 2000, Joao Silva co-authored The Bang Bang Club: Snap Shots from a Hidden War with Greg Marinovich to tell the story of the final times of Apartheid in South Africa. Five years after the release of his first book, he wrote another one titled In The Company of God.