David Thorpe Photography

Professional Pix

Pictures for Money

This pic is from the first Gulf war. I'd been in Jordan, photographing the refugees from Saddam flooding out and then came back to London. Shortly after, the war started and I was sent to Israel to cover it from Tel Aviv .

This pic shows a Patriot missile winging its way over the city and the last blip is where it contacted the incoming Scud missile from Iraq. The explosion occurred just out of frame on the top right. Standing on the balcony, I heard an enormous rumbling explosion, a dull protracted thud and then felt a wash of very, very hot air. I wanted to send this picture back to the office but the Israeli censor wouldn't let me. on the grounds that it would reveal the location of the Patriot missile sites. I could have pointed out for $10 any Israeli cabbie would take anyone on a tour of the sites. But I didn't, because censors tend to leave their sense of humour at home when they are working.

What the Israelis did to make sure you toed the line was clever. I worked for News International, in particular the News of the World. If I had sent this picture, the Israeli would not only have had me deported but all the other News International people there. This included The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and various other American sections of the organisation. You would get scant thanks from them for your actions. So the censorship worked.

I had a camera set up on a tripod permanently on the balcony of my hotel room in Tel Aviv. Every time the air raid siren went off, I would go out onto the balcony and stand beside the camera ready to open the shutter. I t was, I suppose, risky but I'd done a back of the envelope calculation, taking the blast area of an exploding Scud and the area of Tel Aviv. I reckoned that it would take 700 missiles hitting the city to destroy it so the likelihood of getting killed by one was 1 in 700. Unless it was biological, of course but in that case all bets were off anyway.

One strange effect was caused by the air raid siren. Every time it went off and I went out onto the balcony, I got a feeling in my stomach, a sort of dull ache and a feeling of tension. When I got back to London, I was walking into town to get a paper and waiting at a pedestrian crossing when a Yamaha four cylinder motorcycle stopped, He revved hard away from the crossing and the engine gave a characteristic 'howl'.......and my stomach felt achy and I felt uneasy, shiftless.

The engine noise was a ringer for the Tel Aviv air raid siren. It took a year or so for the effect to recede fully.