When Tom Hopkinson (my father) rescued a man being lynched in South Africa (The bystanders, Weekend, 28 July), he was no longer “editor of Picture Post” but of Drum magazine, on which he was the only white staffer. Rescuing black photographers and journalists – in as beaten a state as the man in the story, but almost always thanks to the forces of apartheid – came with the job, as he relayed in his autobiography Under the Tropic.
Ian Berry, however, is too modest in claiming “It never occurred to me to do anything” in like situations. While he may not have directly intervened in this instance, he was there at Sharpeville in 1960, acting with considerable courage in warning as well as photographing victims during the massacre. Berry’s impressive body of work played its own part in documenting and thereby strengthening the campaign to end the apartheid regime.
As Berry’s fellow Magnum photographer, Abbas, told me when I interviewed him and put the familiar question regarding the “humanitarian” responsibilities of a photojournalist in a conflict zone: “If I wanted to be there to save lives, I’d join Médecins sans Frontières. As it is, I am a photographer, and my first responsibility is to show what is actually happening to the rest of the world.”
Professor Amanda Hopkinson
City University, London