Andrew Treleaven didn't come to Libya to photograph the uprising against Muammar al-Qaddafi, he came to lend a hand. "I wanted to return to the Middle East after witnessing Cairo during its revolution, and I decided to travel to Libya to try to find a relief worker job," he explains. Yet when he arrived in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi a few weeks ago, he found that the relief agencies weren't hiring. So he picked up his camera. "Luckily," he says, "my Texas driver's license was enough to get me a press pass from the Transitional Council's media center."
The newly credentialed photojournalist has been capturing images of life in Benghazi, a city that's been on both sides of the conflict's shifting frontlines. Treleaven has followed the ragtag anti-Qaddafi rebels as they prepare to head into battle, shooting their makeshift training sessions, jury-rigged pickup trucks, and prayers for victory against a foe that's remained resolute in the face of NATO bombardment. "It takes a steely resolve to hop into a '85 Toyota with a Soviet-era machine gun welded to the cross bars and engage a tank division," he observes. "Every rebel commander I've spoken to believes without a doubt that they can win a rifle-on-rifle war against the Qaddafi loyalists and extraordinarily well-paid foreign mercenaries."
Treleaven's self-assigned role is a risky one. In the past two-and-a-half months, four journalists have been killed there, and dozens more have been injured, assaulted, or detained, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Last week, veteran photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed and their colleagues Guy Martin and Michael Brown were wounded in an attack by Qaddafi's forces. Manu Brabo, a Spanish photographer who shot these images of Libyan refugees, is currently being held in a military prison in Tripoli.
Despite the dangers and his concens about how the stalemated war will play out, Treleaven has gotten a sense of the exhilaration felt by many in Benghazi. He recalls a recent walk along the waterfront shortly after the rebel leadership had rejected a proposed ceasefire: "I took a picture of an adorable little girl holding a Libyan flag. Her father motioned me closer, and as I knelt down she toddled over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. A cool breeze blew across the waterfront, the warm, golden Mediterranean sun faded into the horizon, and for a moment I caught the Libyans' contagious belief that good times are just around the corner."