Veronique de Viguerie was on her way to the Somali coast when the thought flashed through her head: What am I doing? It wasn’t the first time the young French photographer had sought out a risky assignment, but this was perhaps the riskiest yet.
De Viguerie had sent a message to the group, who called themselves the Central Regional Coast Guard—even though what they did was hijack ships and kidnap their crews for ransom.
She wanted to photograph them. And now the pirates were waiting.
As in the past, de Viguerie’s gender proved to be an asset. The pirates expected the photographer to be a man, and were surprised—and amused—to meet this small, blond woman. Over the next several days, draped in a traditional Somali hijab, she snapped a remarkable series of photographs of the Muslim pirates patrolling the shores, rocket-propelled grenades in hand. Her unthreatening demeanor, she believes, was part of what allowed her access to their rarely documented world. And despite early jitters, she felt only “a kind of apprehension, but not real fear,” she told The Daily Beast.
Based in Paris, de Viguerie is a rising star in a profession still dominated by men. At 32, she has already earned a slew of honors, including Canon’s prestigious Female Photojournalist of the Year Award in 2006. Her work regularly appears in Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Marie-Claire, and The Guardian.