Ahmed Najm lost a brother to the war with ISIS – but carries on his legacy in the photographic world.
What do you aim for when you have already achieved international acclaim in your field? You reach higher, go farther, and accomplish the impossible… and that’s just what Ahmed Najm has done by taking over Metrography from his brother Kamaran, the company founder.
However, life wasn’t always successful for this self-made man. Much of Ahmed’s success can be attributed to his older brother Kumaran, to whom he owes his early interest in photography.
Ahmed started his career as a young man, inspired by his brother Kamaran Najm. In a radio interview in 2019, Ahmed documented the story of how they, two brothers out of 6, became photojournalists during the early days of the war.
Photography was Different in Iraq in the early 2000’s
After Saddam Hussein’s regime fell in the early 2000’s, photojournalism in Iraq became a full-blown career overnight. Within a few hours, journalists worldwide turned their attention to the war on the dictator, with express desires to see the boldest, bloodiest, goriest photography.
“Photographers were competing with each other over who got the bloodier photos.”
This phrase (given by Ahmed himself) seems to sum up the world that he and his brothers found themselves in. Reporting agencies such as the BBC, CNN, and Fox were interested in the blood and guts. They wanted to know about the human cost – often without thinking about what that may be.
“Understanding photography at the time was tough because we had no academy,” said Najm, who didn’t go to school to study the photojournalist artform. He explained that his brother was once turned down for a photo simply because a death toll in another town had been higher that day.
In early 2000’s Iraq, the rules of photography were almost back to that of the norm. It was who could shoot violence the best, who could capture the conflict… and had very little to do with any real skill. Those on the ground already living in Iraq were better placed to give the inside scoop on an international forum than those western photographers and journalists dropped into protected parts of the country to stay in lavish hotels.
Taking Photography to the Next Level
Kamaran and his younger brother, along with friends with similar interests whom they had met along the way, decided to form the first-ever Iraq photographer’s agency. They did this to put that human face on the war. They wanted to show that the people that died in the most recent bombings had names, faces, families, and homes.
Metrography was born due to the success the group shared upon getting their side of the story into a CNN report. Only two short years later, in June 2014, Kamaran went missing. Ahmed dropped his brother off at Kirkuk some three days after Mosul was taken. He was on the way to cover a story when he was reportedly injured.
Kamaran Najm has never been seen since that day. He hugged his brother, told him he would see him that evening, and never returned. It is unknown what happened to him. ISIS captured him, and that is all we – and his family – know.
In honor of his brother, Ahmed decided to pour his time and attention into Metrography – the photography agency started to put a human face on Iraq’s injured. The first photography agency of its kind in the country… that still survives to this day.