Anja Niedringhaus faced down some of the world's greatest dangers and had one of the world's loudest laughs. She photographed dying and death, and embraced humanity and life. She gave herself to the subjects of her lens, and gave her talents to the world, with images of wars' unwitting victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and beyond.
Shot to death by an Afghan policeman Friday, Niedringhaus leaves behind a body of work that won awards and broke hearts. She trained her camera on children caught between the front lines, yet who still find a place to play. She singled out soldiers from their armies as they were confronted by death, injuries and enemies' attacks.
Two days before her death, she made potatoes and sausage in Kabul for correspondent Kathy Gannon, who was wounded in the attack that killed Niedringhaus, and photographer Muhammed Muheisen.
“I was so concerned about her safety. And she was like, ‘Momo, this is what I'm meant to do. I'm happy to go,’” Muheisen recalled. And then they talked, and argued, and mostly they laughed.
Niedringhaus began working as a photographer while still at university for various newspapers and magazines. Her coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall led to a staff position with the European Press Photo Agency in 1990. Based in Frankfurt, Sarajevo and Moscow, she spent much of her time covering the brutal conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
She joined The Associated Press in 2002, and while based in Geneva worked throughout the Middle East as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was part of the AP team that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of Iraq. She also covered nine Olympic Games and other sports events around the world.
“I don't believe conflicts have changed since 9/11 other than to become more frequent and protracted,” she told The New York Times in a 2011 email exchange. “But the essence of the conflict is the same - two sides fighting for territory, for power, for ideologies. And in the middle is the population who is suffering.”
At an exhibit of her work in Berlin in 2012, she said: “Sometimes I feel bad because I can always leave the conflict, go back home to my family where there's no war.”
She leaves behind leaves behind her mother and an extended family in Germany and Switzerland.
Niedringhaus, 48, is the 32nd AP staffer to give their life in pursuit of the news since AP was founded in 1846. (AP)