John D McHugh is an Irish photojournalist and filmmaker, and is based in London, England. McHugh has worked extensively in Afghanistan since the start of 2006. He has been embedded with US, Canadian, and British troops.
He was one of the first journalists to cover the Canadian deployment in Kandahar, and he photographed one of their very first operations; a raid on a bomb-making facility. The Canadians captured 10 Taliban suspects, and McHugh’s photographs caused a controversy in Canada.
He was the first journalist to spend time with British forces when they took command of the southern Afghan province of Helmand in May 2006.
In 2007, McHugh embarked on a nine month embed with US troops in Afghanistan. Just five weeks into his trip, the unit he was with was caught in an ambush in Nuristan. 18 soldiers were killed and 11 wounded. McHugh was also wounded, shot through the chest.
Upon recovery, six months later, he returned to Afghanistan for another 2 months. Around this time he began combining audio and video with his photography. He also began writing about his experiences.
In 2008 The Guardian commissioned McHugh to produce a multimedia series, “John D McHugh in Afghanistan”, which included photography, audio slideshows, short documentary films, and blogs. The project involved spending months living with the soldiers under fire along the border with Pakistan.
In 2010, Channel 4 News commissioned McHugh to make a short film and supporting multimedia about the Afghan National Army training process.
In early 2011, McHugh travelled to Bahrain during the “Arab Spring” protests, and shot his first half hour documentary for Al Jazeera English.
Then, in April and May he travelled first to Kandahar City, and subsequently to the Arghandab River Valley, to shoot and produce another half hour documentary for Al Jazeera English. He was with US troops the morning that news came in over the radio that Osama bin Laden had been killed. He was commissioned by Newsweek/The Daily Beast to document the troops reactions to this momentous event.
In July 2011, McHugh travelled over the border from South Sudan to the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, Sudan. There he documented the bombing of civilians by government forces as they took control of the state capital, Kaduqli. His images were presented to the US Congress as evidence of the ongoing atrocities in the region.
McHugh was awarded a Special Award for Hard News by The Picture Editors Guild in 2005. In 2007 he won the Frontline Club Award, which focuses on “journalistic integrity, courage and the independence of spirit” for his work in Afghanistan. 2009 saw McHugh’s film Combat Outpost nominated for The Rory Peck Award for News.
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