National Geographic : 2013 Jul
138 national geographic • July 2013 THE MOMENT David Guttenfelder Caged Birds After 18 years covering conflict in Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Iraq, photojournalist David Guttenfelder was unsure if he had the skills for a delicate new assignment: documenting the trapping and eating of songbirds. But he soon found himself on familiar ground, enmeshed in a story with carnage and tension. He had an awakening as well. In Ayia Napa, Cyprus, he met a man who’d illegally caged a dozen wild birds. Guttenfelder thought: “This isn’t how birds are supposed to be.” In this case the authorities came in and freed the birds (below). — Daniel Stone who do things you don’t agree with to photograph things you want to show. After spending an entire day with a family in Egypt that hunted songbirds, they invited me to eat with them. I probably ate three or four birds. It wasn’t for me. Taking pictures of birds isn’t your usual line of work. DG: After so much time covering war, I remember some of my friends in Syria and Libya said to me, “You’re out there covering birds?” I’ve spent a long time photographing people doing horrible things to each other, but seeing hundreds of birds suffering was a very challenging project. It made me realize there are other types of conflicts that need to be covered. How did people justify killing them? In Cyprus, when I listened to activists argue with local people, the Cypriots would say that the birds are delicious. One man told me, “Imagine the best thing your mother made for you as a kid, then multiply it by a thousand. That’s how delicious they are.” Did you eat any of the birds? I did. As I learned from war photogra- phy, you sometimes need to hang around with people BEHIND THE LENS See an interview with Guttenfelder on our digital editions.