(Umang Kochhar/Boney Bindra) What could be more courageous than a person reporting from the most dangerous war zone of 21st century, Afghanistan?
Answer to above-written question is none, not a darn thing. And what if a person starts a new religion in this war-torn, extremist country, impossible?
Presenting the grey side of the story, is like skating on the thin ice, balancing the remaining few beats of the heart under one foot and the passion for your job under other.
This is the story of Jacob Simkin, a journalist who worked in the extreme of the extreme conditions, Afghanistan war zone and still manages to spread peace by starting his neo-religion.
Let’s meet this guy and get to know him better.
Why You Did What You Did?
“I am motivated by desire to see a better world. I believe in dreams and I believe children should have dreams and aspirations. I too wanted to be there, in the midst of chaos, in this particular world of conflicts.”
This is Jacob Simkin reporting from a war zone!
Aussie From Heart, Aussie From Work
Born in an Air Force family from Australia, audacity is the trait which he has inherited from his family.
Australian aborigines have this thing called the “Walkabout”.
Walkabout, is when a young man reaches of an age; he goes travelling out from his tribe and learns to fend for himself.
“In a way, all Australians like to go on a World tour once in their lives, I am still on mine though,” a globetrotter shares his story with Global Punjab – English.
Being an enthusiast of the world events and happenings, Jacob has always been fascinated by across the globe news.
The job of a war correspondent is always fraught with danger, but this is what makes it more challenging.
Not Religion But A Way of Living
“I could not say that my whole work has been a photographer or a documentarian. I believe in helping people. In Afghanistan I helped to found an organisation called Skateistan, helping to teach children education through Skateboarding as a tool. Beside that I am also working on music projects in Somalia. At the moment I am dedicated to the Syrian crisis and I am looking to help children in Syria and working on various humanitarian projects.”
Skateistan, helped the kids to get distracted for at least some split seconds, from what is going on in their countries.
The pain and fear of sleeping at night without knowing whether you are going to wake up the next morning or not, is incomprehensible.
Nonetheless, this new sport was like a tonic for the warzone kids and teens. “It won’t take away the pain but, eight, nine or ten is no age for taking death head on”, explained Simkin.
Jacob Simkin or better known as Jake in the field was born in Malaysia and brought up in Melbourne, Australia.
Hailing from the kangaroo land Jake started his career in photography at the age of 16.
“I used to film Battle of the Bands rock concerts and got a photography job for the street magazines”, said the war journo.
One of the first jobs he got as a camera man was working for the Shoah Visual Foundation interviewing Holocaust victims.
That proved as a stepping stone to work on the music documentaries and art projects.
Later he got involved in the art community centre where he lived and worked on projects with the Refugees.
Self Made, Man & Artist
Jake who is 37 at the moment and a graduate in cinematography from Australia, believes that he is a self taught person and brags this statement with an experience of assisting great cinematographers across the globe.
“I wanted to make a difference and my passion was photography and film making. I worked in commercials and film making until the Tsunami in Banda Aceh happened and so I bought a ticket to get there as soon as possible”, states the freelancer.
Sharing experience of his first encounter as a war journalist happened to be in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia.
“I didn’t realise there had been an ongoing civil war against the government till I arrived on my first day and saw Indonesian military chasing down the rebel group known as GAM to the place where I was staying. It was the third phase of the Banda Aceh civil war”, adds Jake.
After witnessing the harsh realities of life in Banda Aceh the meaning of life was changed for him.
“When I returned from there, life was different for me so I found another documentary called Finding Bibi which was related to Women’s Rights. Most of it was in Pakistan and India where at the end of the documentary I decided to stay in India and find my own way. I bought a motorbike and rode through India and Pakistan working for different NGOs shooting the humanitarian conditions” Jake told us.
They Came Callin’
His professional life took a turning point when he got an opportunity to work with the National Geographic’s television series.
It was extreme tourist Afghanistan, a travel series on Afghanistan which was presented by an Australian journalist Sabour Bradley.
In India this series was broadcasted on Fox traveller (now Fox life). Pertinently, this series was screened over 130 countries across the world.
“The moment I got an opportunity to work for a documentary called the Extreme Tourist Afghanistan for which I was glad to go to Afghanistan. It became my home base for six years and I would travel to other war zones to work on photography or humanitarian projects”, exclaims Simkin.
Jacob who is an avid traveler himself, a bike lover & an admirer of new destinations expresses his love for biking in the region.
“I love riding motorbikes. Just riding and travelling. I rode all through India and Pakistan, all through Afghanistan. I got a bike in Syria and rode that around recently. But Royal Enfield Bullet has a special place in my heart, I had one which I bought in India and rode in Pakistan.”
The Threats From ISIS
Working in a war zone is like risking life and limbs. “I have been lucky. I got threatened by ISIS fan boys over the internet. However I had close encounters with Al Shabaab and the Taliban where I have come close to being kidnapped”, said Jake with a forced smile.
After spending a decade of his life a Photographer, Cinematographer, Radio presenter, Graphic Designer and a Teacher Jake Simkin narrates the grief of working as freelance journalist in the war torn countries.
“Freelance journalism is dying; it is getting tougher every day to sell images of war because editors and companies do not want to be liable of any harm that may come across to them.”
When life is tough remember you get tougher “I have a terrible family life. All this travelling and danger, it often shuns away the loved and closed ones. I have a baby daughter named Mia who is 7, she is the love of my life and I hope to be alive enough to see her more often”
It is not for a person to jeopardize his own life over his passion, especially in the world were one or another journalist is being beheaded by the terrorists all the time.
But, one great thing about fear is that it makes you crystal clear about what you are and what your priorities are, Jake Simkin’s is Photography, what is yours?