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By Jim Bartlett
Editor in Chief
Odd Andersen was born near Oslo in 1969. Today, at 27, he has had a remarkable career as a young news photographer and shows all the promise of rising to the top of his profession. He has a keen eye and refined sense of composition.
He started young, selling his first picture to a local Norwegian paper at age twelve and has never looked back. "I sold my first picture for ten dollars and I said, 'This is great, I'm never going to work!' I was delivering flowers at the time." Little did he know at the time just how much work he was going to do.
At age fifteen he became a lab boy at his local paper and began his photography career. Time passed and by age eighteen he was a substitute shooter for staffers who were on holiday which kept him quite busy. In that year he was granted a slot at the prestigious "News Photography School" at the Norwegian Institute of Journalism.
By 1988 he held a full staff position at "Dagbladet", Norway's second largest daily. That is when his career began to lift off. "I was lucky, I was young, I wanted to work, a lot of the older photographers were settling down with families and my editor liked me. I started getting assignments." And assignments he got.
He spent his first year as a staffer working domestic stories. "I shot A LOT of sports. That's the best training you can get." In 1989 he got his first "Foreign" assignment, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Soon after he was braving the fire swept streets of Bucharest, Romania, during the demise of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Since then, his assignment record reads like a conflict history of the late 20th Century.
In 1990, Moldova, Former USSR. The refugee exodus from Albania. The killer earthquake in Iran. The Persian Gulf War and an odessy of a lifetime when he was captured by Iraqi Revolutionary Guards covering the Shiite uprising in Saufuan. "The war was winding down and we were in Northern Kuwait when word came down that the Shiites had risen up against Hussein.
I was with Dave Kaplan and we said 'that's the story' and headed north. Next thing we knew, here came the Revolutionary Guards and we were taken prisoner. They got into a very hot debate over whether or not to kill us on the spot. Finally, an officer figured we were worth more alive and took us away. They were almost fighting with each other over us. It was VERY dodgey. We were taken to a military base and locked up. There was incoming all night."
"The next day another 30 press people were brought in. When I saw Chris Morris I knew we would be OK. They wouldn't kill that many of us. They locked us in a small room with no toilet facilities which was unpleasant, but after a week, they took us to Baghdad and turned us over to the Red Cross who got us out. The worst part of it was that I lost 25 rolls of exposed film! I had hidden it in the spare tire of our car but they wound up taking the whole car! Oh well."
After being in Norway for only two weeks he was back in Iraq, this time in the North to cover the slaughter of Iraq's Kurdish minority. A short stop in Beirut was more like a holiday.
In 1991, he began his odessy in the Former Yugoslavia by covering the opening of hostilities in Slovenia. Then it was on to Croatia to cover their war of Secession, with "holidays" in Israel covering the Intafada.
In 1992, he went to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope. Covered both Olympics and the European Cup, and returned to Yugoslavia for the opening of hostilities in Bosnia. All told, he made seventeen trips to Yugoslavia between '91 and '93.
In 1994, he covered Rwanda, Lillehammer, and the elections in South Africa. In the summer of 1995 he was posted to Bosnia as his permanent station. That September, he was a contracted freelancer for EPA/AFP and has been in the region ever since except for a short hop to Vietnam to cover the 20th anniversary of the American pullout from Saigon, and a three month stint in America.
His philosophy centers around a saying he is fond of. "On the go, never low." He has sound advice for young photographers. "You don't have to be in Bosnia to take good pictures. If you have the eye, get out there and do it. I was lucky early on because my picture editor liked me and I was keen for this kind of work, but there are good pictures to be taken anywhere."
When not working he likes to "go someplace warm and do absolutely nothing, or go to Israel and get into trouble. I love the Middle East. The light is great, there's enough conflict to keep busy, and the phones work. My last holiday to Israel was timed perfectly, they invaded southern Lebanon so I got to work as well. I'd like to have a permanent posting there someday."
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