In the LINE OF FIRE

Agence France-Presse war photographer Romeo Gacad wearing biochemical suit and flak jacket with US troops arrival in Karbala Pass 01 April 2003 as the 3rd Infantry Division prepares for an offensive. AFP PHOTO
Agence France-Presse war photographer Romeo Gacad wearing biochemical suit and flak jacket with US troops arrival in Karbala Pass 01 April 2003 as the 3rd Infantry Division prepares for an offensive. AFP PHOTO

For somebody who has looked Death in the eye and seen world history unfold up close, Romy walks and talks without a chip on his shoulder.

US Army soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division ttakes a defensive position at the captured airfield in in southern Iraq during a powerful sandstorm 25 March 2003. The unit detected movement of forces but later turned out to be friendly forces AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

US Army soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division ttakes a defensive position at the captured airfield in in southern Iraq during a powerful sandstorm 25 March 2003. The unit detected movement of forces but later turned out to be friendly forces AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Two US Army soldiers stand beside a body of an Iraqi fighter at the captured airfield in southern Iraq 24 March 2003 . The dead and three Iraqi wounded prisoner of war were airlifted by US Marines helicopter to the medical station at the forward base of 3rd Infantry Division 24 March 2003. US military officials said the Iraqi casualties were airlifted following a battle in Nasariyah. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Two US Army soldiers stand beside a body of an Iraqi fighter at the captured airfield in southern Iraq 24 March 2003 . The dead and three Iraqi wounded prisoner of war were airlifted by US Marines helicopter to the medical station at the forward base of 3rd Infantry Division 24 March 2003. US military officials said the Iraqi casualties were airlifted following a battle in Nasariyah. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

(ATTN PIX ED: PLS BLOCK OUT THE NAME PATCH ON THE RIGHT CHEST OR ANY TATTOO OF THE WOUNDED SOLDIER. DO NOT SHOW HIS NAME) A wounded US Army combat soldier is attended by army medics at the Baghdad International Airport 05 April 2003 after US Army troops from the 3rd Infantry Division battled Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards. US military forces have taken over the airport in the Iraqi capital. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

A wounded US Army combat soldier is attended by army medics at the Baghdad International Airport 05 April 2003 after US Army troops from the 3rd Infantry Division battled Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards. US military forces have taken over the airport in the Iraqi capital. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

The US Army M1AI Abrams tank sits in the frontline while an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter flies in front of the sunsetin central Iraq area 01 April 2003 as the 3rd Infantry Division prepares for an offensive. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

The US Army M1AI Abrams tank sits in the frontline while an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter flies in front of the sunsetin central Iraq area 01 April 2003 as the 3rd Infantry Division prepares for an offensive. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Every photographer should be like Romy Gacad. Not so much Pulitzer nominees, but modest and self-effacing. For somebody who has looked Death in the eye and seen world history unfold up close, Romy walks and talks without a chip on his shoulder.

Romy has covered savage wars, seen dead bodies carpeting the landscape after a disaster, photographed the world’s superhuman athletes, walked with great statesmen, and his photographs have been covers for Time and Newsweek. And yet his most prized work is a documentary-exhibit of life in a peasant farm community in his hometown of San Miguel, Bulacan—a self-assignment he wishes to return to when he retires.

Romeo Gacad crossed the threshold into his future career at the age of 16, when he borrowed his brother’s Minolta Rangefinder High- Matic. He joined his high school paper as photographer, and was editor and photographer the following year.

That the stormy ’70s found him in the University of the Philippines was more providential than accidental, for this was when Romy learned to bridge social responsibility and photography. It was a task balancing student activism with neutral detachment as a photographer for the school paper.

Through the late ’70s until the end of the Marcos regime in the mid-’80s, Romy’s exposure in covering events that shaped Philippine history led to his success as a photojournalist— becoming a stringer for France-based Sygma Picture Agency and Associated Press, and eventually joining Agence France Presse (AFP), one of the leading global news wire services today.

Working for AFP brought him to the forefront of the most unforgettable world events of the 20th century. From his first foreign assignment of covering the Asian Games in Korea

In 1986, to the Los Angeles Olympics of 1988, the wars in the Middle East, and the more recent Tsunami tragedy in Thailand, Romy has photographed the best and the worst mankind and Nature have to offer.

Romeo Gacad at work at a forward base of the 4th Aviation Brigade, 3ID outside Baghdad 05 April 2003 after US Army troops from the 3rd Infantry Division battled Saddam Hussein's Republican Guards. US military forces have taken over the airport in the Iraqi capital. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Romeo Gacad at work at a forward base of the 4th Aviation Brigade, 3ID outside Baghdad 05 April 2003 after US Army troops from the 3rd Infantry Division battled Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guards. US military forces have taken over the airport in the Iraqi capital. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

First camera:

While at UP, a Nikon FM that I was able to buy with the help of my father. Later on, I was able to buy 2mm and 105mm lenses.

First subjects:

My family and my pet dog.

Favorite camera:

All my Nikons—in the Los Angeles Olympics and during the Gulf War, I was using a Nikon F; in the Atlanta Olympics, a Nikon F5.

First work-related brush with the authorities: In 1977 during a rally connected with the International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB) Conference. Chaos broke out during the rally and students were rounded up. I re-wound the

Film in my camera and passed it on a colleague. When I was brought in for questioning, I managed to tear up my UP ID in the comfort room and alibied that I was from another school and was there with my date. Later on, we were able to have an exhibit of the photos we took.

Jamaican-born Canadian Ben Johnson (c) crosses the finish line to win the Olympic 100m final in a world record 9.79 seconds 24 September 1988 at Seoul Olympic Stadium. Carl Lewis from USA (l) took second place. Johnson, nicknamed as "Human Bullet" for having become the fastest man in 1987 Rome's World Championships, after he had clocked a world record time of 9. 84 sec. He was banned for two years in Seoul after testing positive for the steroid stanolozol shortly after winning the 100m. Johnson made a comeback in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics, only to test positive again a year later, this time for testosterone, incurring a life-time ban. In July 1997 the disgraced sprinter told the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion: "I know I am the fastest man in the world and no-one can deny it. My only mistake was to run too fast. Drugs cannot make you break a world record, they only improve you by 25 percent."

Jamaican-born Canadian Ben Johnson (c) crosses the finish line to win the Olympic 100m final in a world record 9.79 seconds 24 September 1988 at Seoul Olympic Stadium. Carl Lewis from USA (l) took second place. Johnson, nicknamed as “Human Bullet” for having become the fastest man in 1987 Rome’s World Championships, after he had clocked a world record time of 9. 84 sec. He was banned for two years in Seoul after testing positive for the steroid stanolozol shortly after winning the 100m. Johnson made a comeback in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics, only to test positive again a year later, this time for testosterone, incurring a life-time ban. In July 1997 the disgraced sprinter told the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion: “I know I am the fastest man in the world and no-one can deny it. My only mistake was to run too fast. Drugs cannot make you break a world record, they only improve you by 25 percent.”

First war assignment:

MNLF-NDF tension in Mindanao

First photo exhibit:

A documentary of the peasant folks in San Miguel, Bulacan, exhibited at the Hiraya Gallery during the early ’80s.

Roman Catholic priest Jun Nacorda surveys the damages on the Saint Peter's Cathedral in Lamitan town in southern Basilan island following the heavy gun battle between the Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas and government security forces 03 June 2001. The rebels holding three American and eight Filipinos hostages, broke through a military cordon after occupying the church and the town hospital. Nine Filipino hostages were rescued during the assault while 12 soldiers killed and 32 soldiers wounded. Meanwhile local police reported two Filipino hostages were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf as the fate of the three Americans were unknown. AFP PHOTO/Romeo GACAD

Roman Catholic priest Jun Nacorda surveys the damages on the Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Lamitan town in southern Basilan island following the heavy gun battle between the Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas and government security forces 03 June 2001. The rebels holding three American and eight Filipinos hostages, broke through a military cordon after occupying the church and the town hospital. Nine Filipino hostages were rescued during the assault while 12 soldiers killed and 32 soldiers wounded. Meanwhile local police reported two Filipino hostages were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf as the fate of the three Americans were unknown. AFP PHOTO/Romeo GACAD

It was a pure labor of love. The subjects were my relatives and the town people. I knew them, and that made it easy to capture the story in photos.

Photographers you most admire: Eugene Smith, Robert Capa, and James Nachtwey.

First cover photo: A photograph of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos at the Luneta, which became a cover of Newsweek Asia Edition in 198.

How will you describe your photos: Simple, lasting, can be easily understood, and will draw emotions.

Best photograph:

The finish line shot of Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis during the 1988 Los Angeles Olympics 100m dash athletics event. This photo was judged one of the best photos of the year, and was my first nomination to the prestigious Pulitzer Prize Awards.

Two soldiers from the US Army 3rd Infantry Division lgurading a captured airfield inn southern Iraq ie on the ground during a powerful sandstorm 25 March 2003. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Two soldiers from the US Army 3rd Infantry Division lgurading a captured airfield inn southern Iraq ie on the ground during a powerful sandstorm 25 March 2003. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Most memorable photo: The silhouette of an Afghan soldier, which landed on the cover of the December 2, 2001, issue of Time Magazine. This was my second Pulitzer Prize nomination.

Photos you will take out of passion: Documentary type of pictures that will uplift social-awareness, such as the plight of AIDS patients in the country.

Emotions while shooting death or tragedy: Mix of fear and sadness. I know it can happen to me. But of course, fear has to be controlled because I have a job to do—I have a story to tell.

Equipment used during crucial assignments: Two Nikon D200 bodies, a 12–2mm (workhorse lens), 35–80mm, 80– 200mm and 18–35mm lenses. During war assignments, I bring a 1.–2× teleconverter. Subjects are often taken from a convoy, like a drive-by shoot, so there’s no time to switch lenses.

A mujahideen looks over bomb explosion in Tora Bora following US warplanes bombing of Al Qaeda position 13 December 2001. The US conducted intense air strike overnight over Al Qaeda position. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

A mujahideen looks over bomb explosion in Tora Bora following US warplanes bombing of Al Qaeda position 13 December 2001. The US conducted intense air strike overnight over Al Qaeda position. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Camera setting during war shoots:

Shutter-priority is my default setting when I am covering intense events, like the war in Iraq.

Advice for those who would like to get into photojournalism: You have to be very versatile. With news wire agencies, assignments will be given based on urgency. You cannot choose your subjects. Develop your “eye” though practice, discipline, and commitment. Most important, always respect your subject.

(NOTE PIX ED: SUGGEST THIS PHOTO NOT TO BE CROPPED) US combat soldier from the 101st Airborne Division removes his helmet in front of a destroyed building inside the captured compound of Republican Guards following an overnight battle 08 April 2003 in the area near the Baghdad airport south of the capital. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

US combat soldier from the 101st Airborne Division removes his helmet in front of a destroyed building inside the captured compound of Republican Guards following an overnight battle 08 April 2003 in the area near the Baghdad airport south of the capital. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

Advice for shooting in war-torn areas: Familiarize yourself with the area. Do research and know the background of the story—you must know who’s fighting whom. And at all times, remain alert and think fast. This will save you.

How you would like to be remembered: That my photographs told stories that changed lives.

A captured member of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda (C-bandages) is escorted by Afghan mujahedin before journalists and villagers in Tora Bora, 17 December 2001. Some ten foreigners, mostly Arabs, and nine Afghan members of al-Qaeda are now being kept prisoner by opposition Afghan mujahedin. AFP PHOTO/ROMEO GACAD AFP ROMEO GACAD

A captured member of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda (C-bandages) is escorted by Afghan mujahedin before journalists and villagers in Tora Bora, 17 December 2001. Some ten foreigners, mostly Arabs, and nine Afghan members of al-Qaeda are now being kept prisoner by opposition Afghan mujahedin. AFP PHOTO/ROMEO GACAD AFP ROMEO GACAD

An Afghan anti-Taliban commander observes the impact location following the shelling of Al Qaeda position in Tora Bora mountain 10 December 2001. US bombers launched the latest in a succession of punishing bombing raids on the mountain ranges of eastern Afghanistan, in the hope of finally dislodging terror suspect Osama bin Laden from his mountain fortress. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

An Afghan anti-Taliban commander observes the impact location following the shelling of Al Qaeda position in Tora Bora mountain 10 December 2001. US bombers launched the latest in a succession of punishing bombing raids on the mountain ranges of eastern Afghanistan, in the hope of finally dislodging terror suspect Osama bin Laden from his mountain fortress. AFP PHOTO ROMEO GACAD

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