In Yemen, a Photographer With No Name
It has been hard much of this year for Western photojournalists to enterYemen to cover the political turmoil of the Arab Spring. It took Samuel Aranda more than a month to find a safe way into the country, giving him plenty of time to ponder what it would be like working in the deeply divided nation, where hundreds have died in protests.
Mr. Aranda, a freelance photographer, had worked in the Middle East before, but never in Yemen. Much of the news coverage he read centered on violence, tribal discord and Al Qaeda’s growing influence.
“I was expecting Yemen to be like Iraq in 2004 or Pakistan or Afghanistan — where you can’t go out at night and a lot of people don’t really like foreigners,” said Mr. Aranda, a Spaniard from Barcelona. “Here it’s the opposite.”
He added, “They love foreigners.”
Mr. Aranda, 31, strove for anonymity for the first several weeks he was in Yemen, where for a while he was the only Western news photographer working. Out of concern for his safety, The New York Times withheld his name from picture credits until last week, when he requested that it be used again.
Yemeni photographers were generous in their assistance, he said, and helped him avoid being arrested. Wearing local dress, sporting a full beard and traveling by motorcycle, he was greeted warmly and operated freely in areas controlled by the opposition, he said.
But not everyone was so accommodating. He hid his camera in a small bag and avoided contact with state operatives and soldiers when working in parts of Sana controlled by loyalists of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. While covering the city of Taiz, Mr. Aranda said he and Laura Kasinof, a freelance reporter for The Times, came under fire from government soldiers.
Despite the difficulty of photographing, Mr. Aranda said, he enjoyed his introduction to Yemen and envisions staying to cover events unfolding after the apparent resignation of President Saleh recently.
“The best thing about this trip was discovering the old city of Sana,” he said, “the best city that I ever been in my life.”