Giles Clarke

Giles Clarke

Clarke captures a firefighter during a canyon fire just outside Guatemala City in January, 2014. Here the firefighter screams out for more water as the fire takes hold in the burning trash-filled ravine surrounding him. In Guatemala City, the water has to be driven to the scene of the fire by huge trucks as there are very few hydrants in these poor areas of the city.

What’s in your camera bag?
Sony NEX-7 with Touit 12mm, Sony A7-R with Zeiss 35mm, GoPro camera, Cohiba cigarettes, VICE Magazine Press ID, 500 mg Methocarbamol (muscle relaxants), microfiber cloth, 3 SD cards (x2 32 GB, x1 64 GB), battery charger, Tascam digital recorder, Iphone 5S.

What’s the most unusual item in your camera bag? Cohiba Cigarettes from Chiapas, Mexico, when I was covering a story on daily life in a Zapatista village. I bought a carton of 200 Cohiba cigarettes and smoked one or two a day in the field.

What’s in your bag that is specific to the type of work you shoot? The Sony A7-R. It’s a perfect pocket camera, unobtrusive and it turns out beautiful tonality. I never zoom into a subject, I walk towards what I’m photographing—this camera allows me to have that intimacy and be much more mobile and low-key. In the case of Guatemala, it was very high-octane work—running fast, trudging through canyon fires or being thrown around in the back of speeding ambulances.

Most of the areas and situations we responded to were in gang areas—communities full of guns and high-velocity weapons. Much of the time the area had not been secured by police and so everyone was still a target, especially if the victim(s) were only injured—finishing business happens all the time. The volunteer doctor that I was riding with for 10 days had his hand broken last week in exactly that situation; he was responding to a shooting but was attacked by gang members while trying to help the victim. I often traveled with just my A7-R and NEX-7 around my neck and no bag visible—it’s best to travel light in those places!

What is your “workhorse” item? The Sony A-7R. I’ve tried the Leica M, the Nikon D800E, and continue to use the NEX-7. However, the A-7R seems to be the best of all of those worlds.

What can’t you live without? My phone. The iPhone has always been a really integral part of my process. I’ve got to be in constant contact/text communication with anyone from fixers to my own family, especially when I’m traveling in high-risk areas. It’s my connection to the outside world. Most of my research notes are kept on there, and I shoot a lot of interviews on the video function as well.

What is the one thing you would advise a photographer to carry with them at all times? Always carry your wits about you!

Any tricks for packing light, space-saving techniques? Unfortunately no, since I’m always traveling light. A lot of this gear is what I carry to and keep at the hotel, but in the field I often take less. A spare camera body, the digital voice recorder for interviews, and a GoPro for real-time recording.