Artist: Sir Mohinder Dhillon
Mohinder Dhillon is one of the most prolific and highly regarded photojournalists of his generation. His long career began in the autumnal years of the British Empire, and came to a close some fifty years later, as digital media were supplanting the world of film and videotape in which he so greatly excelled.
His huge body of work comprises coverage of world-shaping events, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, for the major broadcasters of the day. Some of his films have had a powerful effect on public consciousness around the world, not least his coverage of the Ethiopian famine in the mid-1980s, which was instrumental in raising many millions of dollars in famine relief.
Mohinder’s work was always about much more than capturing the image. Never a man to be seduced by the high life of some of his subjects, his sequences were characterised by an instinctive compassion for the underdog. He was – and remains – a passionate environmentalist, and this, together with the constant demand for his services, brought him into close contact with many of the ‘celebrity’ activists of the day: Wangari Maathai, Mother Theresa and Harry Belafonte among them.
One assignment that took him away from Africa was Vietnam: ‘AFTER THE FIRE’ , a damning indictment of the use by American forces of chemical defoliants during the Vietnam War. Deployed in an attempt to ‘flush out’ Viet Cong guerrillas from the jungle, Agent Orange and other toxins would remain in the food chain for dozens of years, giving rise to birth defects and deformities in humans and animals alike. The film was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 1989 BANFF International Film Festival in Canada, and named ‘Best Film Made for Television’ at 1990’s International Documentary Festival of New York.
In recent years, he has concentrated his efforts in writing his autobiography, which is as much a portrait of the times in which he lived as a history of his own life. Its publication in 2016 sparked international interest in his work, bringing to a new generation the story of an extraordinary man, who has lived through extraordinary times.