Home News NPR journalist and Free Press photographer, David Gilkey dies in Afghanistan

NPR journalist and Free Press photographer, David Gilkey dies in Afghanistan


David P. , a former Detroit Free Press photographer and video editor who built a career out of finding the human side in dire conflicts, was killed while on assignment for NPR in Afghanistan on Sunday, NPR news is reporting.

was traveling with an Afghan army unit when the convoy came under fire and his vehicle was struck, NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara said in a statement. An Afghan translator, Zabihullah Tamanna, was also killed. Two otherNPR journalists traveling with them were unharmed.

“I cannot think of a better person to face danger with than ,” said former Free Press reporter Joe Swickard, who traveled to Fallujah, Iraq with in 2006. “He was at home on a battlefield under fire, in military situations. He kept his cool, and never lost his artist’s eye.”

During his 11 years at the Free Press, became the “driving force” behind a video series that won the newspaper its first Emmy: “Michigan Marines: Band of Brothers,” Swickard said. As a key part of that series and Swickard followed the largest unit of Marines from Michigan and chronicled their daily lives in Fallujah.

The project covered the soldiers’ daily routines, their cooking, living conditions, their patrols and combat and their funerals. stood out for his ability to bond with his subjects.

“He thrived in that environment,” Swickard said. “He understood them, respected them, wanted to tell their stories, and told them without exaggeration.”

That assignment was not without its own intense perils. While following the Marines on patrol, Swickard remembers sitting one humvee behind when a rocket lifted ‘s humvee into the air, as it burst into flames.

Yet emerged, “cleared his head and started shooting video,” Swickard said. “His dedication to getting the story was extraordinary.”

In his work for NPR, traveled to conflicts across the world, including numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. His work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the prestigious George Polk Award. The White House Photographers Association named Still Photographer of the Year in 2011.

“He was one of the most thoughtful photographers I have ever known,” said Nancy Andrews, a former Free Press managing editor for digital media in time at the paper. “On the exterior you had this war photographer who was willing to put himself at great risk to tell stories, and on the other hand you have this really gentle, teddy bear.” She laughed: “I don’t think he’d want to be known as a teddy bear.”

Andrews also said: “No matter who you were when he photographed you, you got the best of David. … You got the David that was 110% there. He wasn’t just on with big stories — he was on with everyone. That to me is the mark of a great photographer.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Daniel Bethencourt: 313-223-4531 or dbethencourt@freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @_dbethencourt.


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