Home and away
a risk to photograph an off-limits oil installation he
already had good pictures of from a previous trip. For
two days, Kashi expressed his annoyance and frustration over his detention at a military outpost, and his
impatience to get back to work. When he and Courson
were suddenly loaded into a military helicopter on the
afternoon of June 18 and taken to a regional office of
the State Security Services (SSS), Kashi’s mood changed
quickly. We pick up his account after he and Courson
had been handed over to the SSS.
© ED KASHI/VII PHOTO
Julie Winokur: “From the time the children were very
young, i made little of their father’s comings and goings.
i never wanted them to feel the loss of his presence ...”
ideal, conveniently positioned to unlock his greater existentialism while I exhausted every ounce of energy
I had keeping the ‘shared’ part of our lives on track.
To be the one who stays home … Frustration becomes a permanent state, a feeling so familiar that my
face is creased with its persistence …
Then I think of how much he has missed. The birthdays and Valentine’s Days and Halloweens. The first
bike ride, the lost tooth, the revelation of the first kiss. These are the monumental events that I have had
the privilege to share …
I never wanted to ask Ed to stop traveling. I wanted him to come to the conclusion himself—because
he missed being present for the kids or he recognized that home was where he belonged or the allure
of foreign countries paled next to the depth of what he and I share … Ed’s identity, his entire being, is
wrapped up in being a photojournalist. Truth be known, I didn’t want to suffer the miserable soul who
would be around the house if he ever abandoned his dreams.
The saving grace is that Ed is 200 percent present when he is home. He gives an inordinate amount of
his energy and enthusiasm to family life, and he carries a huge load of the responsibility of day-to-day life
… It’s not surprising when he texts from Syria to ask if the chimney cleaners have come to the house yet,
or he e-mails from Nigeria to remind me of our daughter’s dentist appointment that day. His proclivity for
detail is epic … It helps him feel grounded when the ground is constantly shifting beneath his feet.
From the time the children were very young, I made little of their father’s coming and goings. I never
wanted them to feel the loss of his presence … or worse yet, a sense of abandonment … Even though my
husband was in Pakistan or Syria or some shithole I couldn’t locate on a map, a couple of weeks of single
parenting seemed perfectly normal. But week three would arrive, and the inevitable meltdown hit. The
exhaustion and the feeling of suffocation took over … The toughest stretches were during Ed’s visits to
Iraq, and his detainment in Nigeria … I don’t allow myself to imagine terrible outcomes for Ed. Neither of
us could live this life if fear were part of the equation. I send him out the door with a kiss and a hug, but
rarely a goodbye. I’m superstitious that way. Occasionally, the possibility that Ed has played the odds one
too many times and might not come home is palpable.
The life we’ve chosen would not appeal to most people. As time goes on, Ed is home less and less …
Most photojournalists are either single, or without children. The rest are in varying stages of divorce …
Now our children are growing up, and, in a few years, they’ll leave home. Together we fantasize about
a second honeymoon, a life where we can travel together again and collaborate more fully, like we did
in our early years together. Ed has brought me the world through his journals. I look for ward to bringing
our parallel lives together so we can share the experiences rather than the reflections.
What was so hard throughout this ordeal was the not
knowing. The way we were still being held. The fear
of no due process, no logic translated into very dark
thoughts. Until now, I was anxious and angry. Fear
had taken over now, and I was shaken and feeling
The next morning, as people shuffled into the
building, we were told to move immediately. But before
that happened, a guard from the night came in and said,
“Let us pray now for you.” I couldn’t believe what was
happening. Were these our last rites???
They gathered all our belongings. Panic returned,
as we were crammed into the back of a dusty station
wagon with three goons. My chest grew tight, and
my breath became harder to draw. The heat of the
day became stifling. I was looking for any hopeful
signs. I asked the man in front of me to, please sir,
open the window a bit. When he complied, I took
that as a hopeful sign. Then Elias drew near to me
and whispered, “This is death.” I was beyond my wits,
formulating in my mind all the possible scenarios
and worrying I would never see you or the kids again.
When he asked where we were being taken, they just
looked off in the distance and nodded their heads with
disdain. I clutched my water bottle, having not eaten
for the past 24 hours. I was not hungry anyway. After
two hours of agony and deep breathing, we arrived in
Port Harcourt, the capital and the headquarters of the
SSS. Fear permeated the air, and, in the waiting area
they stuck us in, I finally broke down in tears. I pleaded
gently with the man to explain what was going on and
what was going to happen. That I just wanted to see my
family and go home. I just wanted to be free and would
leave Nigeria immediately. I also said that I feared being
sick and that my heart was beginning to hurt me. This
was all true, but I played it up hoping to appeal to some
aspect of their humanity.
We were finally brought up to an office, where our
possessions were meticulously logged in, and, once
all was settled, the goons from Yenagoa were allowed
to leave. Now we were in the hands of a new group
of men, but this was the headquarters. I broke down
again when a gentle mannered man in a green suit
Above, left: The morning commute in Saigon, Vietnam, 1994.
Opposite, top: Ogu, a poor community in the Niger Delta;
while oil operations yield billions in wealth nearby,
communities like this one have no running water, sewage
or electricity. Bottom: A fuel tanker in an American military
convoy hit by an RPG attack by Iraqi militants burns on the
highway in Abu Ghraib, Iraq.