Anja Niedringhaus faced down some of the world’s greatest dangers and had one of the world’s most infectious laughs. She photographed dying and death, and embraced humanity and life. She gave herself to the subjects of her lens, and gave her talents to the world, with images of wars’ unwitting victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and beyond.
Shot to death by an Afghan policeman Friday, Niedringhaus leaves behind a body of work that won awards and broke hearts. She trained her camera on children caught between the front lines, yet who still find a place to play. She singled out soldiers amid their armies as they confronted death, injuries and attacks.
Two days before her death, she made potatoes and sausage in Kabul for veteran AP correspondent Kathy Gannon, who was wounded in the attack that killed Niedringhaus, and photographer Muhammed Muheisen.
“I was so concerned about her safety. And she was like, ‘Momo, this is what I’m meant to do. I’m happy to go,’” Muheisen recalled. And then they talked, and argued. Mostly, they laughed.
Niedringhaus, 48, began working as a photographer while still at university for various newspapers and magazines. Her coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall led to a staff position with the European Pressphoto Agency in 1990. Based in Frankfurt, Sarajevo and Moscow, she spent much of her time covering the brutal conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
She joined The Associated Press in 2002, and while based in Geneva worked throughout the Middle East as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was part of the AP team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of Iraq.
“What the world knows about Iraq, they largely know because of her pictures and the pictures by the photographers she raised and beat into shape,” said AP photographer David Guttenfelder. “I know they always ask themselves, ‘What would Anja do?’ when they go out with their cameras. I think we all do.”