The turmoil of Africa’s emergence into the 20th century has longbeen the focus of the critical eye of the Western World. Fromexploration to exploitation; from fear and famine to fame andfortune; from war-torn horror to wildlife wonder; it has all been exposed to the relentless gaze of the international press.
No one has caught its pain and passion more incisively thanMohamed Amin, photographer and frontline cameraman extraordinaire. He was the most famous photo-journalist in theworld, making the news as often as he covered it. ‘Mo’ trained his unwavering lens on every aspect of African life, never shying from the tragedy, never failingto exult in the success.
He was born into an Africa at the high noon of colonial decline, and by his early teens wasalready documenting events, which were soon to dominate world news. He witnessed andrecorded the alternating currents of his beloved continent and beyond, projecting thoseimages across the world, sometimes shocking, sometimes delighting millions of televisionviewers and newspaper readers. Through the gaze of his camera lens, he showed the worldwhat some were afraid to see and what most people wished they could ignore.
His coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine proved so compelling that it inspired a collectiveglobal conscience and became the catalyst for the greatest-ever act of giving.Unquestionably, it also saved the lives of millions of men, women and children. He served as both the inspiration and as a catalyst for Band Aid, USA for Africa and Live Aid.
Born in Nairobi, Kenya on 28 August 1943, the second son of a poor railway worker, Mo wassoon faced with racism, an inevitable product of colonialism. He never forgot those under dog years and fought against prejudice the rest of his life.
From the time he acquired his first camera, a second-hand Box Brownie, Mo’s future wasdetermined. Quickly he learned photographic and darkroom skills and was already applyingthem to commercial use when he went to secondary school in the then Tanganyika. Before hewas 20 he was a recognized force as a freelance in Dar es Salaam and his work appeared in allthe Fleet Street national newspapers.
In a career spanning more that 30 years, ‘Mo’ was our eyes on the frontline in every situationand his honest unwavering approach to photojournalism earned him the unconditional respectof both friends and enemies alike. Mo covered every major event in Africa and beyond, braving 28 days of torture, surviving bombs and bullets, even the loss of his left arm in anammunition dump explosion, to emerge as the most decorated news cameraman of all time.
Mo’s remarkable life was cut tragically short inNovember 1996 when hijackers took over an Ethiopian airliner forcing it to crash land in the Indian Ocean killing 123 passengers and crew. Mo died on his feet still negotiating with the terrorists.
By any standards, Mo’s life was truly extraordinary; action-packed, full of pain and passion and inseparable from the troubled chronicle of emergent Africa.