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A photo of an Afghan National Police officer manning a checkpoint.

AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus captured this photo of an Afghan National Police officer May 15, 2013. Niedringhaus was shot to death Friday by an Afghan policeman while she was covering Afghanistan's presidential election. She was 48.

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP

Pamela Chen

National Geographic

Published April 5, 2014

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed on April 4, 2014, while covering presidential election preparations in Afghanistan for the Associated Press. Her photographic work spans more than 25 years of major international events and conflicts. Her death shocked the photojournalism community and many have come forward to celebrate Niedringhaus's life and dedication to covering the hardest news.

David Guttenfelder, chief photographer of Asia for the Associated Press and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Magazine, worked closely with Niedringhaus for many years. He shared his memories of her with National Geographic senior photo editor Pamela Chen.

What was it like to work with Niedringhaus?

I met her in Albania in 1999 while covering the war in Kosovo. She was working for EPA [European Pressphoto Agency] at the time. Somebody said, "Anja Niedringhaus is here" and I thought, "Oh no." Her reputation was so strong and I was afraid of getting clobbered on the newspaper front pages every day. But I was looking forward to meeting her. When AP hired her some years later I was kind of relieved: She was now on our team.

Over the years I've worked with her in many places. Mainly Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade or more since those wars began. Anja and I were two of the photographers responsible for the building of AP's Iraqi photo staff. She not only photographed the war herself, including the battle of Fallujah, but she mentored the entire Iraqi team. And she did it in her own huge-hearted, tough-love way. The Pulitzer Prize that AP won that year included her photographs and the pictures by all of the Iraqi guys.

I honestly don't think that the AP could have covered that war without her influence. Our entire staff was raised in her image. I'm sure that even now, when they go out the door with their cameras they ask themselves "What would Anja do?" I think maybe every AP photographer has asked themselves that at one point.

An Afghan girl tries to peer through the holes of her burqa as she plays with other children in the old town of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, April 7, 2013.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
An Afghan girl tries to peer through the holes of her burqa as she plays with other children in the old town of Kabul, Afghanistan in this Niedringhaus photo from April 2013.

How would you describe her photography?

She covered every major conflict, every massive world-changing event of the past 25 years. She was unflinchingly brave. Not in a cavalier way, but more like "This is very dangerous. But it's important. It has to be done. It has to be covered. Who else is going to do it? I'm going."

She was also the most well-rounded and versatile wire service photographer I can think of. She's the only one I know who could go to the front lines of Afghanistan or Libya, and then also be AP's go-to photographer for the primo finish line position of the Olympic 100-meter dash final. She never, ever missed.

She also never stopped evolving as a photographer. She did empathetic long-term projects. She was creative and bold. She took pictures in a very honest, tender way. But she was a journalist first. She really set the bar when it comes to no-nonsense integrity, ethics, even morality. She expected everyone around her to be as unshakable. If you had Anja's respect, then that was saying something hugely important about you and your work. That I was her friend and worked side by side with her—I wear that like a badge of honor.

A photo of a U.S. Marine picking up food supplies in Afghanistan.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
A U.S. Marine goes to pick up food supplies dropped from a plane by small parachutes in southern Afghanistan, June 2011. Niedringhaus started her career as a freelance photographer for a local newspaper in her native Germany at the age of 16.

Tell us a story about what it was like to work alongside her in the field.

During one of her military embeds in Kandahar, Afghanistan, someone threw a grenade over a wall and it exploded while her squad was on patrol. Anja was injured with shrapnel in her hamstring. Everyone was worried about her and calling her. She just rolled her eyes and made a joke about it. She said, "What do you want me to do? Go home? Over some shrapnel in my butt?" She wanted to continue working and only left when her bosses insisted. She was so serious and practical. Modest. She was funny. Ask anyone and they will tell you that she had the loudest laugh of all time.

A photo of a U.S. Marine carrying a G.I. Joe for good luck in Iraq
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
In 2005, Niedringhaus and a team of AP photographers won the Pulitzer Prize in the breaking news category for their coverage of the war in Iraq. This 2004 photo of a soldier carrying a G.I. Joe for good luck was part of the honored portfolio.

I am so sorry.

This is a profound loss for photojournalism. You think back to the giant figures of our industry—names like Robert Capa, Henri Huet—to understand what this means to our profession.

A lot of people are shaken by this, including me. I imagine her seeing me get choked up over her death, and laughing at me for being too soft.

She was one of the best people I've ever known. I was so lucky to have known and worked with her. I'm just one of countless people all over the world to have loved Anja. We are all totally devastated.

More of Niedringhaus's work follows:

A photo of Libyan rebels celebrating on top of burning cars.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
Libyan rebels celebrate on top of burning cars after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces where pushed back from Benghazi in March of 2011.
A photo of an Afghan National Army soldier lined up with other soldiers.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
An Afghan National Army soldier, with a small love poem to his country scratched on the surface of his helmet, lines up with others in this 2012 photo. "She took pictures in a very honest, tender way. But she was a journalist first," Guttenfelder said of Niedringhaus.
A photo of an Afghan boy holding a toy gun on a merry-go-round.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
An Afghan boy holds a toy gun while riding a merry-go-round during the the Eid al-Fitr festival, in Kabul, Afghanistan, 2009.
A photo of a young girl reaching out to greet a Pakistani policeman.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
Guttenfelder said of Niedringhaus's versatility: "She's the only one I know who could go to the front lines of Afghanistan or Libya, and then also be AP's go-to photographer [at the Olympics]." Here, Niedringhaus captured a young girl reaching out to greet a policeman in Pakistan in 2012.
A photo of a marine holding his Rosary beads as he is rescued on a helicopter.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
Marine Lance Cpl. Blas Trevino grasps rosary beads as he is rescued by helicopter after being shot in southern Afghanistan in this 2011 photo.
A photo of an Afghan solider and a police man peeking through a window.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
An Afghan soldier, left, and a police officer peer through a window as they wait to register to vote in Kabul, Afghanistan. Niedringhaus captured this photo on April 1, three days before she died.
A photo of an Afghan man watching his pigeons.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANJA NIEDRINGHAUS, AP
A man in Kabul, Afghanistan, watches his pigeons after feeding them in this 2012 Niedringhaus image. She "never stopped evolving as a photographer," said Guttenfelder.
A photo of Anja Niedringhaus, a photojournalist who was killed on assignment in Afghanistan.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER DEJONG, AP
Niedringhaus poses for a photograph in Rome, April 2005. "She was one of the best people I've ever known. I was so lucky to have known and worked with her. I'm just one of countless people all over the world to have loved Anja. We are all totally devastated," Guttenfelder said.
14 comments
PASCAL MAITRE
PASCAL MAITRE

What a lost, I feel deeply sorry for her and her friends

What talent!!!

Leslie Mills
Leslie Mills

What a brave, talented woman. What a loss to the world.

David Nussbaum
David Nussbaum

If there was a single word for Photographer, it would have been Anja. We met in Kosovo and swapped stories. She had 'The Eye', it was like an extra sense we all wish for. Rest in Peace Anja.

Dave

Bull Durham
Bull Durham

Neil Davis, an Australian, should always be listed with Larry Burroughs, Capra and the others.


Davis brought the most iconic photography from Vietnam War to American public (the days when no one filtered, spun or altered with editing and photoshop).


He actually filmed his own death as a tank turret turned on him in Thailand and blasted him.


These brave hearts serve humanity by documenting the abyss of war. We must review their work and marvel at the courage, skill and determination of their work.

Phoebe Wong
Phoebe Wong

Respect. True and touching pictures, thank you for linking me to the other side of the world. great photographer. r.i.p 

Andrew Booth
Andrew Booth

Why was she shot by the Afghan policeman?

Shirley Ng
Shirley Ng

Her life will be celebrated in her wonderful collection of photos n the lives she touched. RIP.

lottie smith
lottie smith

The world lost a very talented person. So sorry to all her friends, family, coworkers. She will be missed, of that I am certain. My daughter is considering a career in photo journalism, she was very upset upon hearing about Anja's passing.

Myrna Alward
Myrna Alward

Please accept my deepest condolences and prayers for such a celebrated photo journalist...may all the hearts she touched hold memories of her in happier times. May my  prayers for family and friends who mourn her loss go with you.

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