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Barry Paton
I have seen many horrible things in the World as a news cameraman in my time.

Divorce. Losing my home. Becoming forty. All my worldly possessions lost in a fire. The cat ran away. Depressed? Yes, that was me some years ago.

I thought that the world had collapsed about me in my 40th birthday year.

Some six months later I was given Bob Geldof's home phone number by a friend who was working for Save The Children in Sudan and Ethiopia and after a couple of pints I decided to phone Bob. I was very keen to go and help. This was during the time of Band Aid. However, I was an experienced news cameraman that had been through the mill in many uncomfortable situations in the world, so I thought that I could help further his cause.

Bob Geldof asked me if I would come to London and see him, so I did. I offered him first choice of pictures (as I did with Save the Children) and within 5 days I was in Khartoum in Sudan en route to The Ethiopian border to a refugee camp. This refugee camp housed 90,000 people, of which about 600 a week were dying of malnutrition.

This was the reason that I mentioned Ethiopia and Sudan in the 80's. It is so easy to become complacent with one's everyday problems. What does one say when such huge human tragedies happen? In Ethiopia, as in all the other problem areas that I have filmed in, I have always had the belief that what I was doing was helping people understand. Helping people stop this death and destruction. A faint hope, I know, but I reckon that most of my news colleagues possibly have the same conviction. They possibly will not admit to that but I think that it is true. Somehow, you can change mankind, humanity by reporting the news truthfully? Can you?

I spent six months going between Ethiopia and Sudan, visiting refugee camp after refugee camp.

I saw death and destruction on a scale that I had never seen in Beirut, Afghanistan, Palestine or Iran. I have seen many horrible things in the World as a news cameraman in my time. Some things that I don't even want to think about, and I don't even speak about now. Well did that put all my problems in perspective? By God it did.

Over the last few weeks, I have had problems here in The Salignac Foundation (which is located in rural France) where we take students for video courses. I had a student from Hell recently and I had a computer virus which lost me a lot of addresses and e-mails. All these are essential to our business here. The anger and frustration which I had of sorting out the problems was time consuming, and almost destructive to me. Then I had an e-mail from The Editor of Hackwriters saying that the news from the USA was terrible....


Photo:© Barry Paton

I was so wrapped up in my own little problems that I didn't know what he was talking about. I also had to go out to dinner that night, we had a new student arriving that day that needed picking up from the station, I had to get to the bank and put petrol in the car. All the mundane things that one has to do in everyday life. Being a newsman most of my life, something struck me about what Sam had said in his mail. It stuck in my mind, somehow I thought "I'd better check the news" . Midnight came, I am home and semi-relaxed. I put the television on for some light relief.........and WOW!
New York, The Pentagon....................Who could have thought it?

Some days later it still has not sunk in. So many people have lost their lives and I was worried about a virus on Mr Gates big grey paperweight? I was worried about whether a cheque cleared in the bank? I was worried if the car was clean? To see those images live on TV puts things into real perspective. This is not a computer game! This is for real!

What the hell is going on? What are going to be the repercussions? Well, perspective is a funny thing. One day one thing and next day something else. Life goes on. But not for some. During my career around the World, I have been shot at 5 times and have been in a plane that was hit by a surface to air missile. Obviously, none of these attempts or misadventures were successful, otherwise I would not be writing this on my 57th birthday but I have seen the world through a lense, with all its tragedy and suffering. I am still alive, I have two children, I have a lovely wife, I have a grandchild. That is more than many people around the world can say. Is it not?

© Barry Paton 2001

(Happy Birthday Barry - proof to us all that life goes on - Sam)

BARRY PATON runs the SALIGNAC FOUNDATION and you can go there to learn about filmmaking.

Previous Barry Pieces
2: More from France
3: Adventure in Filmaking
4: Misadventures in Filmmaking

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