Just one week of last month, for example, saw Richard flying off to the picturesque but troubled nation of East Timor in south east Asia and then onto Malawi in south east Africa. In the middle was a brief stopover to catch up with his wife in Perth, Australia. So, why the constant travel? Because as a highly respected photojournalist and videographer, Richard is in great demand to highlight humanitarian issues in underdeveloped, war-ravaged and desperately poor nations. And this job can take him almost anywhere, often at short notice.
Being exposed as a journalist in a volatile environment is a risk in itself and Richard has been subjected to numerous attacks and muggings over the years, yet still considers himself as “lucky”. Those less fortunate have been kidnapped, and worse…
“Working on a story about girls’ education in rural Eastern Afghanistan earlier this year was probably one of the more stressful assignments I’ve been on for some time,” he confesses. “Driving around in a beaten-up old Toyota Corolla, trying not to get seen; only being able to stay in one place for 15 minutes – due to the high risk of kidnapping – was hard work, but it was an amazing story opportunity!”
However, the long-term psychological side-effects from witnessing truly harrowing sights can never be underestimated. Then there are the various tropical diseases he has picked up along the way, which Richard gamely describes as “interesting”. This career is clearly not for everyone.
Yet none of this is daunting to the 40-year-old reporter when compared to the stories he feels compelled to write. “Any risks you may be taking are nothing in comparison to the people you are reporting on – which puts everything into perspective,” he emphasises. “These people want their story told and you need to deliver. They are incredibly generous with their time and openness – and the most important thing for me is my responsibility to the people.”
At the forefront of his professional and personal goals are humanitarian issues. Early on in his 15-year career, Richard realised that exposure to mass media meant he was in a powerful position to impact the plight of underprivileged people in a positive way, and was drawn to work closely with international aid agencies.
Consequently, his stories are extremely valuable for fundraising and advocacy campaigns and today he is justifiably proud of instigating various actions around the globe. These include action on climate change in Bangladesh, rights for local gold miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, gaining indigenous rights as well as other tangible successes.
Over the past decade, Richard’s skills have also been recognised by some of the top international press and photographic associations and he been nominated and selected as a finalist for major awards on several occasions. In addition, his thought-provoking photos from Uganda, Afghanistan, Congo, Palestine, Mongolia, India and Bangladesh have been displayed in exhibitions from London to Sydney. And, here, too, in the Channel Islands.
Richard’s career actually started off in Jersey’s finance industry. His salary funded some of his early backpacking journeys, no doubt providinghim with valuable experiences. After graduating in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales College, Newport, his trade was honed during an eight-year period with the Jersey Evening Post, a stint he thoroughly enjoyed. Then, in 2009, he accepted voluntary redundancy from the Newspaper. The timing was ideal for Richard and his wife, Terese – an experienced cardiac nurse – to relocate to her family’s base in Western Australia and this proved a positive move.
There, Richard was free to explore some new opportunities. One of these entailed a three-month intensive study course in Bangkok, namely the Rotary Peace and Conflict Resolution Program. This course had been recommended by Jersey Rotarian and former Durrell vet, Tony Allchurch, during a trip to India with Richard in 2008 to report on a polio immunisation day.
So Richard signed up and found it “an amazing experience. It enabled me to academically underpin what I’ve been reporting on over the years,” he says. “My great passions are human rights and development and overcoming these issues form the foundation for the art of Peace and Conflict Resolution.”
While Richard remains modest about his accomplishments, he is renowned as an inspirational storyteller and has been invited to return to Jersey as one of the keynote speakers at the Rotary Club’s Peace Forum on Saturday 21 September to coincide with United Nations World Peace Day. There is also a seminar for 300 students at Jersey College for Girls the day before.
“Any risks you may be taking are nothing in comparison to the people you are reporting on – which puts everything into perspective”
Among other high profile speakers, Richard will recount stories of his recent projects and demonstrate why education and community-led development are vital components in creating a more peaceful society at large.
“The Forum in Jersey is an opportunity to discuss the concept of peace and how it is achieved,” he explains. “I’d encourage people to come along to hear how individuals can make a difference in the world.”
“I think being a photojournalist is one of the most privileged positions around,” he adds. “You get to meet some of the most inspiring people, from the famous – such as Aung San Suu Kyi – to the most vulnerable people in society … who let you into their lives and always have a message and story of hope over adversity.”
While he’s constantly bouncing around the globe, Richard keeps in touch with friends and family through Skype. He’s an avid follower of his former colleague, Matt Hotton’s twitter account as well as the Jersey news online.
And even though he’s travelled to some beautiful countries most of us can only dream of visiting, he still concedes: “The combination of Jersey on a warm summer’s evening, boogie boarding at St Ouen’s, having BBQs and ice-creams, then moving onto town for a good night out with mates … is hard to beat. Jersey at its best!”
Everyone is warmly invited to attend the Rotary Peace Forum at the Pomme d’Or Hotel on Saturday 21 September. Registration is free and online at www.rotary.org.je where you can find detailed information about the event.