Kash Gabriele Torsello

Kash Gabriele Torsello A very strange day yesterday. I spent it at the Frieze art fair in London. The whole place stank of money, but I had a pleasant time. But then, the minute I was leaving after 5 hours of art overload, I got a phone call from a foreign number. It was from Associated Press in Rome.”I believe you have taken a photo of the journalist Kash Gabrielle Torsello?””Yes””And you have that photo on your website?””Yes”

(I’m thinking “weird, has Kash spotted it, and perhaps wants it taken down?”)

“We’re getting reports that Kash has been kidnapped in Afghanistan. It seems that you have the only photograph of him online. I got your telephone number by going to your website and viewing your CV. Could we use your photo to put out a press release about his kidnap”.

Very strange. I sent him the photo – which involved some serious improvisation, as it had “fallen off the end” of my free Flickr account and I had a train to catch from London back to Sheffield. By the time I reached Sheffield, it would have been too late for Italian press deadlines. I managed to find an Internet café, login to Flickr, pay the $24 to upgrade my account to Pro, recover the photo, mail it off, and catch my train, just.

I only met Kash once, when I took this photo: it was at an art gallery in London nine months ago. We chatted for quite a long time: I was just getting together the courage to try some street photography, in fact it was the day before I wrote this blog entry.

I was somewhat overawed at his courage as a photojournalist in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He told me “in Afghanistan, you never lift your camera quickly. There have been several assassinations by people disguised as journalists.” He told me about his work out there, about some of the incredible and heart-rending things he had seen. I was quite moved by it all.

I emailed him afterwards, then we dropped out of touch. A month ago, I discovered his profile on Lightstalkers and mailed him again. We chatted briefly by email. I saw that he was back in Helmand province. My last words to him were “Stay safe!”

More on the kidnapping:
BBC news
Observer/ Guardian newspaper
Editorial Photographers UK

I’m feeling very strange about this. It’s not as if I know the guy, but that makes this feeling even more peculiar. I just hope he makes it through this OK.

Update: Kash’s kidnappers have been in touch with the Italian authorities. In exchange for Kash’s return they have asked that Abdul Rahman, the Afghani who was sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy (abandoning Islam and converting to Christianity), be returned to Afghanistan. They have set a deadline of the end of Ramadan (which is next Tuesday, 24th October). I hope above hope that the kidnappers have a change of heart, although I am not very optimistic. I certainly can’t see the Italian government returning Rahman to Afghanistan to be executed.

The NUJ have set up a page for the latest news updates on Kash’s situation, where you can also leave messages for Kash.