Ask Me Anything: War Photographer Bill Foley

The Marian University prof on terrorists, war zones, and photo tips.
Bill Foley, a Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist and Marian University assistant professor, spent more than 34 years working in Middle East conflict areas, such as Anwar Sadat’s Egypt. Through July 19, Art Meets News at the Indiana State Museum zooms in on Foley’s vast body of work.

You’ve been to a lot of dicey places. Were you ever injured?
I had nerve damage in my wrists, from when I was tied up with wire by Syrian soldiers in Lebanon. That was in 1983. [The damage] is better now. I also had a number of experiences when I was beaten up, had a gun to my head, and was told I was going to die.

What has changed?
There were rules in those days. People didn’t just cut off other people’s heads. A little voice told them they shouldn’t do that.

Any tips for amateur photographers?
Get on the same level as your subject. If you take a photo of a kid, don’t point the camera down at him. Also, get close. As Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Ever use your camera phone?
All the time. My phone probably takes better pictures than my first digital camera did.

Digital cameras are everywhere. Is that good or bad?
I don’t know. People had to sort of know what they were doing 20 years ago. Now there’s an amazing amount of photography out there, but the level of acceptance has gotten much lower. People look at something and say, “Wow, that’s amazing,” and it’s not.