Student Ian Flett went to unusual lengths recently for his school photography assignment. He took a plane to Albania, and came back with about 21 rolls of film documenting the extraordinary refugee disaster going on in the Balkans.
A full page of his photos was published in Monday's Gazette, and he has been interviewed by CBC, CJAD and CFCF television, among others.
At 23, Flett is already a seasoned photo-journalist. He started working at 17, spending three years on the Winnipeg Sun in his home town, and also shot photos for the Canadian Press wire service.
Since then, he has covered a major native protest in Gustafson Lake, B.C., and terrorism in Northern Ireland, catching a rubber bullet himself. In Ireland, he began to question what he was doing, chasing the latest rumour of who was throwing the next bomb. "I was shooting to sell, not to tell a story," he said.
Flett decided he needed more depth about the stories he was covering, and enrolled in a Political Science program at Concordia, with a minor in Fine Arts. After three years of study, he has decided he wants to write about, as well as photograph, events.
The Balkans were a frightening prospect, Flett said, but when he got there, his previous experience with hot spots told him "things were under control." He was taken in hand by a group of Swiss journalists, who had an interpreter.
"The Albanians were very media-savvy," he said. "When you turned a camera on them, they'd go into their crying thing, so I didn't take those pictures."
The camp was unmistakably grim, however, with large numbers of refugees mysteriously disappearing and being replaced by new refugees overnight. "And there were no men my age," Flett added. - BB