Anja Niedringhaus, Pulitzer-winning photographer, killed in Afghanistan


Anja Niedringhaus, shown in 2005, was shot by a policeman while covering the election campaign in Afghanistan. (Peter Dejong/AP)
April 4

Anja Niedringhaus, a German-born photojournalist who shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Iraq War, was shot dead April 4 by a policeman while on assignment in Afghanistan. She was 48.

Ms. Niedringhaus was killed while reporting on an election- commission convoy preparing for the presidential election in Afghanistan, according to Baryalai Rawan, a spokesman for the governor of Khost province. A Canadian-born reporter, Kathy Gannon, was wounded in the same attack. The women were seated in the back of a car when the officer fired.

In the past month, Afghanistan’s Taliban has killed at least 25 people in Kabul, including policemen, election officials and foreigners. A Swedish journalist was shot dead in the Afghan capital last month, while a local man who worked for Agence France-Presse and his family were killed in an attack on a luxury hotel.

A photographer for the Associated Press since 2002, Ms. Niedringhaus was the only woman in a team of 11 photojournalists from the AP who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in the breaking-news category for coverage of the Iraq War.

She was the chief photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency during the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, where she covered the conflict from Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to her Web site.

“For me, covering conflict and war is the essence of journalism,” she wrote for the spring 2012 issue of Nieman Reports, a publication of Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism. “The legacy of any photographer is her or his ability to capture the moment, to record history. For me it is about showing the struggle and survival of the individual.”

Ms. Niedringhaus was familiar with the hazards of her work: She was hit by a sniper’s bullet on her first day in Sarajevo; had her foot broken in three places by a police car while covering demonstrations in Belgrade in 1997; and was blown out of a car by a grenade in Kosovo the following year, according to the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation. She was among a group of journalists mistakenly bombed by NATO forces in Albania in 1999.

Based in Geneva, Ms. Niedringhaus reported in other conflict zones, including Israel, Palestine and Pakistan. She also covered nine Olympic Games and other sporting events. She was a Nieman Fellow in journalism at Harvard University from 2006 to 2007.

Anja Niedringhaus was born on Oct. 12, 1965, in Höxter, a town in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. At 16, while in high school, she was a freelance photographer for a local newspaper, according to her Web site. She then studied German literature, philosophy and journalism in the university town of Göttingen, Germany.

In 1990, helped by her photo coverage during the fall of the Berlin Wall, she gained a staff position at the European Pressphoto Agency in Frankfurt.

Ms. Niedringhaus, who is survived by her mother and two sisters, didn’t stop caring when she put down the camera. In 2011, she photographed a Marine who had been evacuated from Afghanistan with severe injuries. She wanted to know what happened to him, and after six months of searching she found him.

She showed him her photos from that day and gave him a piece of wheat that had stuck to his uniform when he fell; she had plucked it and saved it when she was finished taking photographs.

“I don’t believe conflicts have changed since 9/11 other than to become more frequent and protracted,” she told the New York Times in a 2011 e-mail exchange. “But the essence of the conflict is the same — two sides fighting for territory, for power, for ideologies. And in the middle is the population who is suffering.”

— From news services

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