Joey L Covers the Oil Disaster in Qayyara, Iraq

Joey L Covers the Oil Disaster in Qayyara, Iraq

2016 has been a year that has seen Joey L plunged in to unusual situations. His name is usually associated with is masterful lighting and portrait style of A-List celebrities. Then, in October this year Joey reached out to me about his work for the legendary Lavazza calendar which a more travel orientated series of portraiture. Now, Joey has gone one step further and taken his beautiful image style and applied it to a crisis in Qayyara in Iraq.

There is something very interesting about seeing what a photographer produces out of their comfort zone and there are few places further from a New York studio than an Iraq town engulfed in flames. Not only were these apocalyptic flames devastating this town in an already tumultuous province, they were the result of The Islamic State (ISIS) who had torched in excess of 15 oil wells. While aid and citizens battled the inferno, the artful eye of Joey L was employed to capture the event which would usually be a strictly photojournalistic recording of events.

Image used the with permission of Joey L.

It seems almost immoral to comment on the beauty of images depicting such tragedy but the word "striking" doesn't do them justice. The oil fires consuming the town whole can be seen for many miles and blot out the sun, earning the series the name The Day the Sun Never Rose as well as international recognition. This caliber of environmental disaster is hazardous to both the environment and the immediate health of the surrounding communities in the extreme. Nothing short of poison is being inhaled by locals of all ages and the gravitas of the situation is driven home by Joey's captures.

Image used with the permission of Joey L.

It is not just the scorched ground among oil wells, the exchange of daylight for firelight, and the clouds of poison hanging above this community that cover the impact of the disaster. Families are forced to flee their homes or live among the charred remains as seen in the image below. Furthermore, ISIS have scattered IEDs around the area to encroach on the efforts of firefighters and aid workers. These fires have been burning for months and continue to do so with limited resources available to combat a blaze of this magnitude. Joey's beautiful images only serve to further highlight the horror and destruction of an event that will have largely gone otherwise unnoticed in the Western world.

Image used with the permission of Joey L.

To see more of Joey's images and read an in depth account of his experiences and the situation in Qayyara, you can read his blog post by clicking here.

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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This guy has been my biggest inspiration and my favourite artist since i first saw his "varanasi" film. He's truly genius and inspirational ! Deep down i always think how much i could learn from this "kid" if i ever had the chance to work for him!
And once again, tremendous work !

I saw his photos in the Sunday Times magazine. I thought them also to be very beautiful and well crafted. I'm not sure of his objective was. As a record they are excellent. If they are a call to action it's not clear what the photos are telling us. What can even be done. The US have left. The country is a wreck. The ordinary people suffer. Their suffering makes for great photographs. It's all a little despairing. Those kids will be living for years with the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

on A another planet, the picx are sooo true!! Joey L is in a another dimension