This writer never met late photojournalist Anton Hammerl, slain in Libya on 5 April. What is abundantly clear though, is that he was a kind-hearted man who formed strong, lasting friendships. Now his friends around the world have banded together to set up “Friends of Anton”, an online campaign to raise money for his children's education. By THERESA MALLINSON.
The Friends of Anton website launched on Monday 5 September – five months exactly since South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl’s untimely death at the hands of Gaddafi loyalists. The website sells photographs by world-famous photographers who have rallied round the cause, with proceeds going towards the education of Hammerl’s three children, Aurora, 11; Neo, 7; and Hiro, 6 months.
The contributing photographers include South Africans Greg and Leonie Marinovich, and João Silva, as well as several international photographers. Winner of the World Press Photo of the Year 2011, Jodi Bieber, is also planning to contribute a photo.
And if buying a print is too pricy, donations of any amount are also accepted. As of Tuesday evening, $2,306 had been raised in donations, getting the fund off to a good start. Bronwyn Friedlander, a friend of the Hammerl family who has been involved in the campaign, said that three prints had been sold so far. All money raised will go to the Hammerl children – with the exception of 2%, which will be given to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to recoup the organisation’s administrative costs in managing the campaign.
Friedlander explained that RSF’s share would support the costs of reaching out, staff time, and responding to donors. “They’re kind of doing the back-end; doing all the admin stuff,” she said. RSF had originally set its cut at 5%, although this has since been brought down to 2%. One expects that if the campaign is hugely successful, this percentage will be decreased even further.
While the website states that the prints are available “for a limited time only”, Friedlander did not specify a date that the campaign would run for. “I think there will be agreements with specific photographers as to how long their prints will be up there,” she said. “New prints will be added as well, and the site will be refreshed. Really, it’s for as long as people are interested”.
If you’d prefer buy a photo taken by Hammerl himself, rather than one shot by his famous and talented friends, you can go to Africa Media Online, which is managing sales of the last pictures Hammerl took in Libya.
Clare Gillis, James Foley, and Manu Brabo – the journalists who were travelling with Hammerl when he was killed, are among those supporting the effort. “We’re hoping to get people from all over the world to purchase these amazing prints,” said Gillis. “It will be like a central gallery showcasing some of the finest photography in the world. The gift of the prints from these wonderful photographers is truly a way of honouring Anton by his colleagues in the field.”
At Hammerl’s memorial service in Johannesburg in early July, his wife Penny Sukhraj spoke of her last Skype chat with her husband. “The last time I chatted with Anton was the night before he died, on 4 April. He was dishevelled, had stubble several days old with wild hair and a chequered scarf around his neck – but he glowed. He had the shine of a man alive, all senses keen, alert and excited, and in his element with a lightness of being that so obviously indicated that his being there was right. I was happy for him. Happy that the opportunity he’d worked so hard for, was paying off – especially after I saw his first lot of pics – which he shared online.”
As his friends and family gather again in London on 8 September for a memorial service at the “journalist’s church” on Fleet Street, Gillis will fly in from the US to be there. Fellow prisoner, Manu Brabo, has also spoken of his desire to help the family: “What happened to Anton was horrific. I feel compelled to help his family in any way that I can”, a sentiment echoed by the third captive, James Foley. But neither Brabo nor Foley will be in London on Thursday – the intrepid journalists are back in Libya. Which seems as good a tribute to Hammerl as any – chances are if he were still alive he’d be right there with them. DM
Photo: Unai Aranzadi
Watermelons were originally cultivated in Africa.