Fishing for news in the Yemen

Fishing for news in the Yemen

Joe Sheffer has been shot at, interrogated and deported, but remains committed to his chosen career as a freelance photo journalist and cameraman based in Yemen, widely known as one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Joe (OE 2000-2007) specialises in covering news in the Gulf and East Africa, and his news features have appeared in The Times, the Guardian, Private Eye and Global Post. He also works regularly for Channel 4 News.

On finishing at QE Joe fulfilled a passion for travelling and spent seven months touring on his motorbike, called Bianca. His travels took him through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, China and the Himalayas. During that time he kept a blog, illustrated with his own photography.

After a year back in the UK, at Manchester University – which he describes as “depressing, like being in a prison cell” – Joe took off again, this time for the Pamir Highway, known as the Rooftop of the World, with a plan to cycle the old silk roads. During this trip he pushed himself to the limits – cycling at high altitude in inhospitable, if not hostile, terrain. “The pass to the Tajik border station is over 4,300m, for the first time the air got noticeably thinner and I had to keep going. I felt like vomiting up my breakfast and it took several hours to cycle the 13km to the top of the pass.”  But once again the trip produced a wealth of photography and blogs.

“I realised that there was an opportunity for me to carve out a career as a photo journalist and freelance cameraman, particularly if I was able to tough it out in difficult or unsettled areas,” said Joe. With that in mind, he settled in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, widely acknowledged as one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world.

Having completed his Politics and International Relations degree at Manchester, he has spent much of this year covering the war with al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, mostly for Channel 4 News.

“I also covered the protests around the recent Grand Prix in Bahrain,” said Joe. “I was shot in the leg with a rubber bullet and deported from Bahrain – not business-class needless to say!” He spent a few days back in the UK but promptly headed back to the gulf and his pursuit of news.

An original thinker, Joe demonstrated both an interest in current affairs and a strong degree of self-reliance and enterprise while in the Sixth Form at QE. He spoke regularly in Sixth Form debates, performing with great conviction and merit, and was well respected as the sergeant in the CCF and as a Prefect. Alongside his studies for A-levels in Politics, Business Studies and History, he made time for a wide range of activities outside School, including attending local party political meetings, climbing, kayaking, organising work in a press agency, learning Arabic and planning travels in the Middle East.