“The situation was very tense – people were drunk and aggressive. I was with two other photographers most of the time, but at this moment I went back to the road alone. I saw three soldiers smoking, playing with their guns, and felt safe – I don’t know why. Then I saw a man with a knife in his mouth, coming out of the bush – he was holding up a hand like a trophy. The soldiers started laughing and firing in the air. I didn’t think about it and began shooting. He walked directly at me. People surrounded us, celebrating. I thought, “Don’t do anything crazy, just act like you’re part of this crazy party.”
When I got to the hotel, I showed the other photographers. They said, “Do you realise you could have been killed?” Only then did it hit me how dangerous it had been. Years after I took this picture, every time I see it I feel scared again.
I really hate this shot. It’s the worst face of humankind. I always ask myself, “Why do I do this job?’ And the answer is: I want to show the best and worst face of humankind. Every time you go to a conflict, you see the worst. We need to see what we do to be able to show future generations the mistakes we make. The guy with the knife in his mouth is a human being like the rest of us. What’s important is that we show what human beings are capable of.”
-Alvaro Ybarra Zavala, Congo, November 2008