Born in Nairobi, Kenya on 28 August, 1943, the second son of a poor railway worker, Mo was soon faced with racism, an inevitable product of colonialism. He never forgot those underdog years and fought against prejudice the rest of his life.
From the time he acquired his first camera, a second-hand Box Brownie, Mo’s future was determined. Quickly he learned photographic and darkroom skills and was already applying them to commercial use when he went to secondary school in the then Tanganyika. Before he was 20 he was a recognized force as a freelancer in Dar es Salaam and his work appeared in all the Fleet Street national newspapers.
In a career spanning more that 30 years, ‘Mo’ was our eyes on the frontline in every situation and his honest unwavering approach to photojournalism earned him the unconditional respect of both friends and enemies alike. Mo covered every major event in Africa and beyond, braving 28 days of torture, surviving bombs and bullets, even the loss of his left arm in an ammunition dump explosion, to emerge as the most decorated news cameraman of all time.
Mo’s remarkable life was cut tragically short in November 1996 when hijackers took over an Ethiopian airliner forcing it to crash land in the Indian Ocean killing 123 passengers and crew. Mo died on his feet still negotiating with the terrorists.
By any standards, Mo’s life was truly extraordinary; action-packed, full of pain and passion and inseparable from the troubled chronicle of emergent Africa.
The turmoil of Africa’s emergence into the 20th century has long been the focus of the critical eye of the Western World. From exploration to exploitation; from fear and famine to fame and fortune; from war-torn horror to wildlife wonder; it has all been exposed to the relentless gaze of the international press.
No one has caught its pain and passion more incisively than Mohamed Amin, photographer and frontline cameraman extraordinaire. He was the most famous photo-journalist in the world, making the news as often as he covered it. ‘Mo’ trained his unwavering lens on every aspect of African life, never shying from the tragedy, never failing to exult in the success.
He was born into an Africa at the high noon of colonial decline, and by his early teens was already documenting events which were soon to dominate world news. He witnessed and recorded the alternating currents of his beloved continent and beyond, projecting those images across the world, sometimes shocking, sometimes delighting millions of television viewers and newspaper readers. Through the gaze of his camera lens, he showed the world what some were afraid to see and what most people wished they could ignore.
His coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine proved so compelling that it inspired a collective global conscience and became the catalyst for the greatest-ever act of giving. Unquestionably, it also saved the lives of millions of men, women and children. He served as both the inspiration and as a catalyst for Band Aid, USA for Africa and Live Aid.